Friday, December 02, 2011
The dictionary says that the word graceful means: "displaying grace in form or action; pleasing or attractive in line, proportion, or movement."
That's almost like asking what milk tastes like. Grace is one of those things (kind of like pornography in a way) where you see it when you know it and you know it when you see it. Some people are so very graceful while others, eh, not so much. But there's also a state of being graceful, of sort of acting gracefully or with a bit of grace. Being courteous, being kind, having a smile, cheering up a friend. Those things are all graceful too, although they don't always please us "in line, proportion or movement" like the dictionary says.
As a photographer, when I look for subjects as models, one of the first things I look for is a sense of grace. I don't usually demand certain physical characteristics, no. I don't look for models only a certain height or hair color or eye color or bone structure, although certainly some of that helps (and it almost never hurts.) It's more like though, when I'm out looking for a subject, I look for a certain amount of grace. Can you carry yourself well? Do you have a strong carriage? You you walk, move, and position yourself with style and ease or are you more of the clumsy sort? These things make for great photos. Sometimes too, yes, even those "more of the clumsy sort" make for interesting images, although quite different from the graceful ones (like you see here.) I think grace is really tied with gesture. Those people who are graceful in "real life" like, say, when you see them walking around in the mall or spot them from across the way in a restaurant, you know, you just know as a photographer that they are going to give you good gestures. And good gestures? They make for some of the best images around, really they do.
I love gesture because it's a hint, it's a suggestion, it an allegory not a statement of fact. And I love images that hint at things, that suggest things, that present the allegory not the full story or the whole truth. I like to leave something behind, like a "keepsake" if you will. To hold back just a little. It provides that sort of unexplained tension that can really make an image dynamic, really make an image POP if you will. It works for artists, it works for photographers, it even works in acting and lots of other art forms. Some of the best actors have trained themselves to not "over-act" as it were but they hid behind a cloak of subtlety. Those hints, those suggestions, that subtle "tell" that's sometimes where your money shot lies. Seek it, find it, hunt it down, dig it out and bring it to us full force. I'm not suggesting you do it every time, no, but maybe try this out and see it if fits for you, for your style of shooting.
So, next time you're shooting people, try the blatantly obvious poses, yes, but try on too some hints, some suggestions, some subtle gestures to see what you get. Catch somebody in mid movement, don't let them formalize a pose. Maybe even sneak up behind them or shoot them when they aren't looking or are a bit more relaxed. Try to hold something back or ask your model to hold something back. Find a "keepsake" in a pile of in your face smiling cookie cutter poses. You never know, it just might work for you.
Until next time...