BLOG #140   3/5/16


Jeff Goldblum, from Book #1, page 267,

Much has been discussed and written about what makes a portrait work. It is a subject with so many layers and facets that it’s always worth looking at again and again. There are a multitude of often complementary and sometimes conflicting factors that contribute to a strong, meaningful and resonating portrait.

One, particularly powerful factor is fame and the recognition it usually carries. We humans are attracted to celebrity; there’s a curious but undeniable gravity that pulls us to the faces that we see on movie and television screens, or on the stage. So, though making a portrait of one of these famous faces might seem easy – the false adage: “just keep things familiar and instantly recognizable” – for a photographer determined to make a portrait that is both new and true, the challenge is major.

This is an image of the well-known actor Jeff Goldblum, whom I made almost unrecognizable by adding clear plexiglas tubes to break up and reverse the image transmitted through them. An approach like this is another factor to consider in making portraiture: adding an unusual, even peculiar element that compels the viewer to study and wonder – to look again.

For me the goal is to make something that surprises me. Jeff moved and changed his pose behind the tubes, helping to achieve the desired effect —  surprise and delight. Another key factor, when using approaches like this is restraint; you are still making a portrait, and you want something more than novelty, something that makes sense for the subject. Since Goldblum is a character actor famous for a remarkable variety of roles, showing him “change” before our eyes was a visual metaphor that described his kaleidoscopic career.


I am teaching a 4-day workshop the Palm Springs Photo Festival this Spring (end of April). The workshop is called: “THE INSPIRED EYE: Experimentation, Exploration & Discovery: A Search for the Unexpected.”

To view more of my work, visit my website.