Keep it simple, yet significant
For those that follow me on facebook, you’ve seen the MadMen quote, “Keep it simple, yet significant.” Don Draper's comment exemplifies what portraiture should be about.
Too often beautiful images are full of dynamic elements that capture the eye, and distract from the humanity of the subject. It could be a bold location, creative lighting, striking wardrobe, brilliant makeup, etc. …all beautiful elements, but they risk fogging over a deeper glimpse into who the subject actually is. This isn't about shades of right and wrong... it's about different aesthetic choices. As an Arizona contemporary portrait photographer, I'm spoiled with great locations; shooting in the studio with such a simple aesthetic is a needed change of pace.
It is easy to approach simplicity with a negative connotation. To many, it implies a “dumbing-down.” However, I think the MadMen quote captures the potential of simplicity. Done right, simplicity can be elegant with an essence of honesty.
My good friend and alternative model Cassy is developing a great portfolio of images that have all these dynamic elements; I realized her simple selfies taken while driving to work were amazingly captivating. After working with her in a dynamic location (Black Canyon City), I wanted to strip away the distracting elements and capture the qualities she found in her own selfies. With this in mind, I invited her to the studio with a single concept in mind: SIMPLICITY.
I asked Cassy to keep her wardrobe, hair, and makeup as minimal as possible. We decided on two looks: 1) a simple black sweater with her hair in a braid, and 2) a simple black bra, robe, with her hair let down.
When it came to posing, we tried to avoid the extreme postures seen in fashion and concept portraiture. The pose needed to feel relaxed and simple as much as it needed to look relaxed and simple.
The set was simple: a stool in front of a grey seamless backdrop.
The lighting was also simplified: all the images were lit with a single strobe in a softbox or beauty dish.