|Mati and daughters|
A few years ago Lorenzo photographed a mother and two daughters for his “generations” series. Even if the daughters were in the summit of their beauty, it was the mother, who was in her mid seventies, who stood out. She had this star quality that reminded everyone of the actress Geraldine Chaplin. However, when she saw herself in the portrait, she hated it and she said she didn’t know she looked so old. His daughter, who had commissioned the portrait, displayed it in her apartment, nonetheless. It was not until dozens of people had praised the photo that she started to appreciate it.
This is not news for Lorenzo; we have learned to accept that people feel uncomfortable when seeing their portraits for the first time. We also know that they will eventually grow to love them.
|Mati modelling for Lorenzo in Dior|
I recently listened to a radio interview with the legendary photographer David Bailey, who is currently showing a retrospective of his work at the National Portrait Gallery, and it gave me food for thought. It did not surprise me to learn that the same happens to him. He said that he loves it when someone who poses for him hates the portrait and then, twenty years later, his wife phones saying: “Do you remember that photo you took of my husband? It’s the best portrait he’s ever had. Could we have a copy now?”
|Michael Caine's famous portrait opens David Bailey's Exhibition in London|
Bailey tells us an anecdote about Picasso and Gertrude Stein. When she saw her portrait, she said: “ I don’t look like that!” and Picasso retorted: “You will”. A good portrait shows your real self, the one that naturally emerges throughout the years.
In 1999 Bailey was photographing the singer Marianne Faithful. She was in her underwear in the process of changing clothes when he said: “Don’t move. This is the picture.” She was 53 and she looked 53, which is one of the things I love about her. He told her that he wanted to show the world that she was “Marianne Faithful” and didn’t give a monkey’s about what people thought. He took two pictures. In one of them she was serious; in the other one she was laughing. She hated the second one. It was not the fact that the photo showed her mature body; in this sense both photos were identical. It was the grin, with a hint of madness, which upset her. The second photo somehow announced the decadence of the mind, something that terrifies all of us.
It’s easy to please a model: a little bit of photo editing and you are as good as new. It requires boldness to show the poser’s inner self. It also demands the gift to connect with the person that hides behind the mask. Bailey said that doing a portrait is a mode of communication. I cannot agree more. Lorenzo does exactly the same: he talks to the model and clicks, and that’s the picture. He doesn’t need to think about what he’s going to do, it just happens. He says it’s as if it was the unconscious that took the picture.
It’s funny to think that men normally accept this sort of exposure more than women. I wonder why. I am a bit like Marianne Faithful. I have no problems with him photographing my body, but it takes me a while to see my face as it is reflected by the camera. I always look too anxious. Again, this is a reflection of my character: I worry too much. On the other hand, when I look at the first portraits he took of me, I really like what I see, and I have come to accept that this is what will happen to the current ones, eventually.
In a world where digital cameras and photo editing software have made photography accessible to everybody, where it’s so easy to show who you would like to be, not who you are, we really need artists who have the bravery and the talent to reveal people’s inner selves.
You can visit David Bailey’s Stardust at the National Portrait Gallery until 1st June 2014.
You can listen to Tim Marlow interviewing David Bailey for BBC radio at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03phd4f/Getting_the_Picture_The_Camera_Has_Attitudes/
To see Picasso’s portrait of Gertrude Stein click here
To see David Bailey’s portrait of Marianne Faithful, click here
Photography: Lorenzohernandez www.photolorenzohernandez.com