I can’t do good portraits. As yet, if I may add, to be thinking positive and all that.
There is something very easy about landscapes and still life that does not belong with faces. With people. Faces are very dynamic. They reflect the change in the mind; they change as fast. Portraiture also requires a certain attitude. A thought process — and an evolved one at that. Then, there is also the matter of skill. Taking photos of people requires you to have a different relationship with your camera. I believe, even the way you hold a camera, changes — when you capture a face; a human on the (digital) film.
I recently saw a BBC documentary on War Photographers and have been further intrigued about portraits since. The third photographer featured in the documentary, Paul Seawright, has done landscapes of war, so to speak, hardly any human presence in his work. Yet his work is very thought-provoking. In those landscapes there is always the nagging presence of humans — almost — where are all the humans?
Contrast his work with the first photographer, Philip Jones-Griffiths (you can see more of his work here, and I feel sad, I had not known of his work before). There is a stark contrast in the content of their work, yet they are the same stories.
The third photographer, Anastasia Taylor-Lind, is a very different photographer. She is in-situ; almost a participant in the act, rather than an observer. Her statements are very personal. Her work captures the subtlety of being in the war; it is experiential.
For both, Philip Jones-Griffiths and Anastasia Taylor-Lind, I have a different kind of respect. Their ability to capture a story, through a face, beyond just the expression or the emotion, hangs heavy.
Nothing replaces formal education. And I am often tempted to go back to school and learn photography. Technical skill is important and required for any art form. But in the end it is your own ability to be able to stand with a (usually) black optical object covering your face from your subject and seeing in their eyes, something that you want to show.
Photographs, can only show, what you can see.