Tim Johnson, Painter

Tim Johnson, Painter

This is Tim.  I first met Tim about three years ago after I began teaching with his wife.  He is an amazingly talented artist with a humble demeanor (a wonderful combination).  He has a delightful, sarcastic wit and a genuinely kind personality.

As I continue exploring the world of portraiture I’ve been trying to be more bold about asking people if I can work with them to make a portrait, which doesn’t come easy for this introvert.  Not only do I struggle with social interaction, but I hate getting in front of the camera myself so I feel like a bit of an hypocrite asking others to do the same for me.  Despite these things, I do know some wonderful people who are kind enough to trust me enough to step in front of my camera.

I thought I’d share a little bit today about my philosophy as a photographer, specifically as it applies to portrait work.  When I approach someone about making a portrait, it has nothing to do with typical conventions of beauty; it is completely personal and subjective to me.  I’m not trying to make a picture that others will like, I’m trying to capture what I see in a person.  When I notice a person that I think I’d like to photograph it is because, on some level or another, they have fascinated me.  This could be as simple as a physical trait that I find unique and special or it could be something more abstract such as their demeanor, how they speak, or some other unexplainable spiritual connection I sense when I’m around them.

The characteristics that I set out to capture in people may not even be a true representation of their self-perception, or how those who know them intimately perceive them.  I’m okay with that.  I hear a lot of criticism in the photography world revolving around whether a portrait accurately captures a person’s personality or not.  I think people forget that that is only one facet of portrait photography.  I’m not working for JC Penney portrait studio here, so I don’t feel confined to creating works of non-fiction.

Photography is art (or at least it can be).  The photographer, as an artist, should be free to craft his own story or alternate reality just the same as a surrealist painter or abstract sculptor.  If I make an image that is pure fiction,  that’s okay.  If I make an image that I feel accurately expresses my perception of reality but doesn’t match yours then that’s okay, too.  If my image happens to align with your perception of reality then that’s okay, too.  Neither of those three scenarios are right or wrong, and I feel free as an artist to slip in and out or in-between them.

To quote one of my photography heroes, Richard Avedon: “There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”

5D Mk III with Macro 100mm f/2.8L IS USM lens. ISO 100, f/11, 1/200 sec.  
Lighting: 2 Canon 600EX-RT speedlights bounced off of 43″ umbrellas
Processed  in Adobe Lightroom 4.4 and Adobe Photoshop CS3