Thursday, May 22, 2008

OK, don't say cheese!

My father was a great photographer. Scattered among the collections of my sibs are stacks of fabulous black and white portraits (and candid shots) he took of us as children. As cute as the pics are, as I remember it, I didn't like having my picture taken even then. Certainly since the end of my childhood I've resisted, whenever possible, that awkward moment standing in front of a camera, "smiling at a piece of film going by," as my sister Hannah used to describe it. Now of course it's about smiling while being digitized, reduced to pixels. I don't like it.

All that said, I'll admit that I'm completely entranced by photo portraits of other people. One of my favorite rainy day activities is spending time with a book of Edward Curtis portraits. He took the most incredible photos of American Indians right around the turn of the last century. They're so real. You can look right into their souls.

Annie Leibowitz is also one of my heroes. Though she goes way over the top when she's working for Vanity Fair, she's still able to capture something of the person she's photographing. Her portraits of Susan Sontag before and during Susan's bout with cancer are wrenchingly beautiful and real.

Maybe because of my own resistance, I have a terrible time capturing humans on camera. Whenever I happen to get a human portrait that's even mildly interesting, it's always by accident and I'm always surprised, as I was yesterday when I caught this shot of suits at DC Coast. The restaurant is on K Street. These aren't just suits, they're power suits, hunkered down over their power lunches, thinking hard, strategizing. Look at their backs - wow. Says it all. These guys are way too important to turn around or even to notice the odd woman taking their pic. Oh yeah!


Steve said...

They all look sort of lonely, don't they? All sitting together, hunkered down and not interacting. Great photo!

deborah said...


Thank You
Much Love

Reya Mellicker said...

Thank you! It's funny because the feeling in the restaurant was less revealing than the resulting image.

Each of them was sitting in his own solid clear, block-shaped energy field. When I looked at them, they seemed Very Important. But they look a little more human in the pic. So maybe this is a true portrait. Cool.

I love the suit jackets draped down over the bar stools. They look like curtains.

IntangibleArts said...

I've had the most luck shooting candids of humans. Posing people for portraits just feels artificial and self-conscious on both sides of the camera; Not everyone can be Annie L., I suppose.

But even candid shots of family/loved ones turn out better. Get 'em before that shield comes crashing down.

Lynne said...

Those men in their power suits look boring. Great photo. They each look like an island to themselves, neither looking left or right, like the person beside them doesn't exit. A word comes to mind: conformity. Not my bag!

The top photo is awesome. No matter that you don't like having your photo "taken," you don't seem to mind seeing yourself reflected instead. Does this say something about you? Love it!!!

lacochran said...

I love that these are clearly business men sitting at a bar. "I'll do the job but not without a good stiff drink at lunch."

I like, too, that the men on the outsides of the row form bookends.

Nicely done.

Lynne said...

oops, I meant doesn't exist; not exit. Although it could go either way .... :)

rhea jill said...

Such a revealing commentary on modern culture. I love your photos ! And we have the same name--however, mine is spelled Rhea. Not sure how I stumbled on your site, but glad I did!

Hammer said...

My God, it's a DC version of this picture...

Reya Mellicker said...

Hammer, you always make me lol.

Greetings Rhea Jill!

Lacochran, none of these guys was drinking. They all seemed to be "fueling up" for their afternoon meetings and strategy sessions. They were like guys playing chess: focused. Really weird.

phd girl said...

ten little monkeys sitting on a rail
ten little monkeys ordering some ale

reminds me of the randy newman song

Hate NYC, it's cold and it's damp
and all the people dress like Monkeys.

Dumdad said...

Great photo. Is the guy in the fawnish suit a risk-taker or has he lost the plot?! And is that a woman in a suit at the end of the bar? And then the different hairstyles. Fascinating.