Is this a portrait?

No, probably not.

At least it’s not a conventional portrait. We generally think that a portrait should show the face of the subject, should tell us something about the subject, the subject’s mood or character. This photo doesn’t do much of that. Now this is a portrait:

The paddles (not oars!) in the background because this young lady is a canoeist, having led canoe trips on various rivers in Texas including the Rio Grande, and having canoed (and portaged) her way all around the Boundary Waters lakes in Minnesota. The natural light from the window (camera left) highlights the fact that this is a natural girl. Her hair and even the stripes in the shirt tell us that she’s active.

Anyway, can you tell that the two photos are of the same subject? Probably not.

The first photo doesn’t tell us much about her. The very wide angle lens (24mm-e) and the close shooting distance widen the side of her head somewhat. She doesn’t seem to have much of an expression. You can’t tell what she’s thinking or if she’s thinking anything at all.

But I like the photo anyway, in fact, I like it a lot, if I say so myself.

It’s almost an abstract photo. Look at the way lines and curves echo one another. The curve of the top of her ear is echoed in the curve of her raised eyebrow, indeed, the whole ear is echoed in the eyebrow and the curve of the cheek. The falling hair on the left is countered by the paneled wall on the right. The converging lines on the right are picked up by the descending hairline on her forehead.

And in the middle—in all that open space between the ear and the eye—is the center of the photo. What’s going on there? That’s what I saw that made me take the photo—that space between the ear and the eye. The apparent passivity of her expression suits the emphasis here on the receiving senses of hearing and sight. (The nose and the mouth could represent smell and taste, respectively, but to be honest, I think that would be pushing it.)

I don’t title my photos very often but I titled this one: Ear and Eye.

Anyway, I played with the crop a little, and decided that a tighter crop would be better. Might be better. Here it is.

The photo does not need the entire chair to be visible and is improved by the chair being only half there. The photo is now very much about the young lady and what’s going on in her head, rather than the outside world. Or maybe it’s just about some beautiful lines and textures.

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