Thoughts on Portraits

I’m always amazed how everyone has eyes, ears, a nose, a mouth, and yet we are all unique. Portraits are facial landscapes and sometimes just a few leaves tell more of the story than the whole tree.

Sometimes I am an observer, and sometimes I am part of the picture, in as much as the subject is looking at, or at least aware of, me. But in any case I am part of the story, be it obvious or not. When I meet someone I try to get as close to them as I can. I want to feel what they feel, and see what they see.

With the portrait of the woman, a nurse, in Belet Huen, Somalia, where all social norms have broken down, I felt that she had seen too much. It showed in her eyes. I took two frames and in the one I like best only half of her face is in focus, but it doesn’t matter. It seems to add to her sadness, like something important was missing that I saw and, for a moment, shared with her.

The baby with eyes glaring was almost too overwhelming. The agony of suffering seemed so unexplained, unjust, and incomprehensible to this child. I didn’t understand it either. The photograph is only an approximation of the situation. The cries of dying and odors of death are not present, like the full extent of man’s ability to inflict pain. It is mostly just a fleeting glimpse, a superficial reminder, for me, about the horror here. My portraits, my pictures, are my diary, and I remember where and when I made each one.

 

 

 

 

Robert Semeniuk