I've been preparing for the photography workshop in Genova, thinking about all the things I know ... and finding stuff I didn't realise I knew.
When I make notes on portraiture, I include words like Trust and Respect. Empathy. Patience. Engagement. Authenticity.
And it's not about acting or demanding or insisting.
People, when they're being photographed, are often fragile. They feel broken open, exposed, vulnerable.
You're asking them to show a little of their souls, to give you themselves in a relaxed state of being.
People often tell me they photograph badly but no, I think no one 'photographs badly'. I have this theory that it is a failure on the part of the photographer, to relax their client. To engage. To earn their trust.
When I work on a portrait shoot, I am almost skinless. I don't want to be the boss, to be in control, to demand this expression, that pose, this place.
I want to go someplace my client loves. A space where they can relax and feel comfortable. I want to talk, and maybe walk a little. I want to know who they are and how they want to be perceived. I want to discover and capture their best selves. The self they know and recognise.
Sometimes, if it's a family portrait, I have asked the mum for a follow-up shoot alone because when you're a mum and a wife on a family shoot, you can miss out on being you. Your own private individual you ... before you took on all those roles.
And it works. I have photographed some beautiful strong confident women when they're off-duty as everything else.
Kids are something else again. You need to engage, it needs to be fun, you need to be real. They will know. Bubbles have saved many a shoot when a child has grown bored or tired.
Portraiture is all about a lot of things ... and then relaxing and enjoying that time spent together. It's about gifting someone the beautiful things in them, and everyone has something.