Blog #198 3/9/17
Sophie, from the “GROWING UP” project.
There are times, during the most serious, even intense, portrait sittings, or any kind of photoshoot for that matter, when the “sitter” spontaneously bursts out with laughter. When this happens I make pictures of these moments even though such images are not my main incentive for the photo session.
Rick Rubin, award-winning music producer.
Laughter is a significant, appealing and even peculiar human expression; I find the study of the photographs of laughter fascinating, enchanting and irresistible.
From the “NEWBORN” project. Amazing what a urinating baby can elicit.
When making portraits I search for veracity but I will never let the spontaneous “truth” of a laugh be squandered. To not snap the shutter at those moments would be wasteful, a terrible loss of a special moment.
During a pregnancy shoot.
In almost every photoshoot I’ve ever done there has been a sudden and unexpected, laugh. Over the years, I’ve put together an archive of more than 1300 photographs of people laughing, drawn from about as many sessions.
During a newborn shoot: Kristina and daughter, Wilhemina, both in a giggle.
Ashley and Cindy from the “MODELS AND THEIR MOTHERS” project.
Model Stephanie and mom, Rose, from the “MODELS AND THEIR MOTHERS” project.
Actor Don Cheadle from the “ACTORS ACTING” project.
Why do people laugh? Or, better yet, why do they laugh especially when a camera is directed AT them? I have my theories: for most people it is fun to have their photograph made—especially when the photographer is sincerely interested and provides a safe, warm and accepting atmosphere. It is a heady feeling, a complimentary tickle to receive focused attention. This phenomenon occurs even with those very experienced having their photograph made, such as even professional fashion models and actors.
Actor F. Murray Abraham
Also, there is frequently an element of awkward discomfort and even embarrassment: sometimes laughter is a sign of nerves.
The soccer pro, Brandi Chastain—nerves aplenty.
There is often “fun” in groups; the mood is lighter. It is much easier for each individual to freely feel comfortable and un-self-conscious or solely responsible.
Ethan Stiefel, Jose Manuel Carreño, Vladamir Malakhov, and Angel Corella, Principle dancers from American Ballet Theater, New York City.
From the “CLUBS” project. I suggested that they “ravish her.” This her instant response. So wonderful to get attention isn’t it.
From my wedding portrait work. My suggestion to them: “SEXY!”
Model Daniellea, from a “BEAUTY” shoot using body paint.
Being naked in front of a camera is often a sure route to ready laughter.
During an advertising shoot.
Then there is pure play for the sitter. Some simply enjoy being a little goofy during a shoot. The camera gives them an excuse to be silly. They are the center of attention and enjoy it. From time to time, no matter what my final purpose is, I encourage my subjects to enjoy the narcissistic experience.
Two photographers at my portrait shoot at The Eddie Adams Workshop.
Even famous and highly poised individuals can let go, even “lose it’ in front of a generous lens.
The late Oscar de la Renta during a portrait session.
From the project “AMERICAN KINK” (images from the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco). This project is my next book, to be published later this year.
Santa with a whip! Another from “AMERICAN KINK.”
When I am searching for spontaneity, I may offer, “surprise me, take chances.” Or even, “I plan to throw out all the photos except for one or two” and “there are no mistakes to be made.” Sometimes the most unlikely gestures and events work to make magical imagery. Such things often lead to laughter as well.
During a “Beauty” shoot
Brianna, from the “GROWING UP” project.
I photograph the kids from “Newborns” every year around the time of their birthday. Their laughs are always so pure.
Another kid from “Growing Up.”
The great and gleeful Williams sisters from an advertising shoot 10 years ago.
I asked my dear friend, Michael J. Krasny, PhD, the author of the recent bestseller, “Let There Be Laughter: A Treasury of Great Jewish Humor and What It All Means” 2016, to write a note about laughter:
“The great German playwright Bertolt Brecht wisely said, “The man who laughs has not yet been told the terrible news.” Yet as a kid I read in The Reader’s Digest how laughter is “the best medicine.” Both statements, up to a point, strike me as being true. So does the simple fact that laughter can temporarily lift our spirits, remove stress and pain and hasten joy.
Laugh! The whole world may not laugh with you and the terrible news will still prevail but you will doubtless feel better in the moment and may infect others with one of life’s delights.“
Michael is also a professor of English at San Francisco State University, and an American radio broadcaster, currently the host and senior editor of KQED-FM radio’s award-winning Forum.
Elizabeth Moss from the “ACTORS ACTING” project.
From a “BEAUTY” shoot, wet and whacky.
I encourage, compliment, entice, coax, urge and lead sitters to unfamiliar and unexpected places. Coming upon the bright side of serious? The results are almost always worth it. Who knows? One of these days I may collect them in a little book, “1000 LAUGHS.”
Glitterati Incorporated, the publisher of the Retrospective, Schatz Images: 25 Years is now offering the two- book boxed set at a discount from the original price. The set comes with an 11″x14” print of the buyer’s choice.