Portrait Intensive Program
These words from famous art photographer Paul Caponigro, underscore the philosophy of the Portrait Intensive curriculum taught by David LaNeve at the California Center for The Digital Arts, (‘The Center’). “Portraits are a visual code that stands in for the reality of the portrait sitter,” says LaNeve. “Clients who come into a portrait studio today want to be seen and documented, and yet once they sit for the portrait they often demonstrate a deep sense of vulnerability. In reality, we sit for a portrait to deny time, to preserve today for the future irrespective of time passage.”
Intense Creative Training
The Center’s Portraiture Intensive provides 5 evenings of extensive hands on instruction covering the key issues of lights, posing, and camera work. While students must master these items, the course also emphasizes the need to look beyond the technical issues and to develop a proposition about an individual, which will deliver a psychological response from the viewer. LaNeve and his assistants teach that it is more important to present a sense of the individual’s identity, a sense of what the person is ‘like’. Says David, “A portrait has to provide an accurate physical likeness, but it must do so in conjunction with the person’s psycho/social values. Thus we need to understand the person(s) in order to make decisions about how they should be captured as a still image.”
LaNeve has completed thousands of portrait assignments as a career portrait artist. “It is critical to develop a personal relationship between photographer and the portrait subject,” he says. “This allows both parties to work collaboratively and thus the final product is not only aesthetically pleasing, it is also filled with character and depth.”
It’s About Character
Formulaic portraits, often the bread and butter of main street portrait photographers in the past, rarely present the subject as they see themselves in this age of social media and ‘phonegraphy’ selfies. Today’s clients look for images that provide the viewer with character, introspection, and a reflection of their values. For example, the simple head and shoulders business portrait client of times past, now look for the same styling and personality presentation as the more complex formal family portrait or perhaps one that encompasses a fashion edge. Pregnancy images once a clear-cut record of a great event in progress, now sing out with a fashion touch that celebrates the woman as well as the child to be. Family portraits may take on cinematic styling or shot in the home with deadpan cool. The artistically crafted boudoir shots empathize fashion, and sensual styling that provides personal character.
“There is this impression that portrait photography is a thing of the past because of the proliferation of phone cameras,” says LaNeve. “The truth is that the opportunities are greater then ever for the creative portrait artist. If you develop the skills and the sensitivity to deliver an image that is a portrait of who your subject is,” you can grow an excellent portrait arts studio. That’s what we do and what we teach.”