A portrait that I have always found intriguing is this photo of a Turkish mousetrap salesman, taken by August Sander during the 1920’s in a post WW1 Germany.
Seated in a formal posture with a direct stare into the camera, the sitter has a serene, yet puzzled expression on his face, and I find myself attempting to empathise and understand him. Knowing his profession and noting his physical condition in the photo, I can’t help also being repulsed, imagining his day to day activities and hygienic complications.
August Sander spent much of his life documenting the people of Germany, choosing subjects from all levels of society, and giving them equal representation in his portraits.
I try to remember this in my own work.
When I make a portrait, of course it is vital to recognise who the sitter is and what it is that they do, however more importantly, I try to connect with them on a human level to share a human experience so that future viewers of the portrait might connect with them, empathise, and try to relate.