This is a post from the weareoca.com archive. Information contained within it may now be out of date.
Frieda from the series Captives by Eddy Lerpiniere
I had been asking myself this question when the above arrived in my inbox like a lightning bolt out of the blue.
Portraits are used for so many different things in life; for identification in passports, to make us look nicer than we really are, to present a professional persona. In an artistic context the purpose might be to identify with someone, to project our own ideals onto someone else, to raise awareness, to voyeur, to understand ourselves better. There are many reasons to take portraits but that doesn’t make them great.
Jörg Colberg, on his blog Conscientious, wondered what made a good portrait and as he couldn’t get a clear definition he asked a whole spectrum of artists, gallerists and critics to pick a portrait and answer the question ‘what makes a great portrait?’. Here are their answers.
I think the picture above is a great portrait. For me, the paradox of vulnerability and strength clashing in the same image is one route to greatness. That and the ability to raise more questions than it answers. Photography is
often always about contradictions and varying aspects of ‘truth’. Bringing these contradictions to the fore make for a complex and strangely satisfying reading. The less I can piece it together, the more it makes me probe, question and confuse myself, the more I enjoy the image. This image does all those things for me. It makes me want to know more. I wonder about what her life has been like. Is she angry? Lonely? She looks so vulnerable but the way she holds the cameras gaze makes me certainly not want to mess with her.
Another reason I love this portrait has to do with the journey of the photographer. Eddy has been on a self declared 180 degree mind shift since starting with OCA. I knew this journey would one day make it’s way into his images but it was difficult and has taken some time to come. Although all this is behind the scenes, the results of this soul searching have finally begun to make themselves visable. It’s a testimony to perseverance and to pushing yourself outside your comfort zones and it is a real pleasure to observe.
So would you like to take up the Jörg Colberg challenge? In the comments put a link to a portrait you think is great followed by a couple of sentences why.