portraits: people as lyrics to a song

there are so many ways to take a portrait: fill the frame, or face on center, and they can all be the best way to photograph the sitter. yes, photography should not have a formula, and just have a sense of the sitter and a language that each composition provides. Richard Avedon worked with a few approaches to this, in addition to lens distortions. a preferred method, for me and what I appreciate in others, is for the sitter to be off-center. in this way, I must admit, the sitter is the last selection for the photograph, and the scene (to conform to a desired geometry at play) comes first. an equivalence I like to convey is to a song: the instrumental part is composed first, and it must work as an instrumental, and then one adds the lyrics to suit the instrumental version. in movies, this approach was exceedingly good, and done very often, in Ida. (as best as I can discern, the opposite approach would have been most frame compositions in Yasujirō Ozu‘s movies, and Richard Avedon (again) with his white background. in this “off-center + the sitter comes in last” composition, there is a bit of danger: who is the protagonist? the background or the person? what has been done to the portrait by (most likely) cropping parts of the person out?

link: some of my experiments can be viewed at liminaleye‘s selection of the Incidental Interiors series.

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by cinematographer Lukasz Zal
(actress Agata Trzebuchowska)
from the movie «Ida»