You Are Who You Photograph?

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

In Andreas Feininger’s 1973 landmark book, Photographic Seeing, in a section called “The Different Forms of Seeing” he discusses how four different and well-known shooters would photograph an identical female subject. He then posits a theory that their “differences in ‘seeing’ would, of course, reflect in their work” Then he goes on to eviscerate each of their hypothetical images as “sterile,” “dull,” “unimaginative,” “stereotypical and rather cold.” Yikes!

My friend Rick Sammon has a similar theory and puts it this way: “The camera looks both ways” and “that in picturing the subject, you are also picturing a part of yourself.” After reading that particular section of Feininger’s book, Rick’s concept came to mind as I lie in bed last night (instead of sleeping) thinking about what my portraits of woman say about me. I don’t want to bother you with all of the neo-Freudian ideas that ran through my brain but that concept was fresh in my mind in the morning. Hence this post.

Here’s another theory: Richard Avedon once said,“ My portraits are more about me than they are about the people I photograph.” What I think he means is that he likes to control as much of the environment and maybe the subject too creating a portrait of his subject reflecting his image of them, not how the subject sees themselves. And in maybe this same way, some of that may apply to my studio work as well. Or perhaps it’s just a form of OCD and maybe all/some/many photographers have this affliction because they want to reorder the world into how they imagine it to be.

The image illustrating today’s post is of Pamela Simpson and for the past month or so, I’ve run a series of portraits of Pam on my blog, Saving the World, One Pixel @ a Time, featuring photographs of this talented model that I made of her during the past five years. What does this image, which was made during our very first shoot together, say about me? I dunno?

Do you think you are who you photograph? Or do you think this is just a cockamamie idea to start with.

PS. There’s an old expression in the automotive world that “You are what you drive” and I think that for some people, such as enthusiasts to whom a car is more than a transportation module, this is true. I extrapolated that into a post for my car photography website/blog called “You are what you shoot” and I think there’s some truth in that as well.


For another approach to creative inspiration, pick up a copy my friend Rick Sammon’s book Creative Visualization for Photographers, which is available from Amazon and all of the usual suspects.