If You're A Portrait Photographer You Need To Watch This

If you are a portrait photographer, beginner or professional, the documentary "Darkness and Light" about Richard Avedon should be on the top of your watch list.  In this one and a half hour masterpiece, produced as part of the 1996 "American Masters Series." we are immersed in the world of legendary portrait photographer, Richard Avedon. We get front row seats into his photo shoots and we're able to see the brilliant way he connected with his subjects capturing raw and striking emotions, making it look like the camera wasn't even there. Additionally, we are introduced to his inspirations, his darkest moments, and what it took to take some of the greatest portraits we know to this day.  

Seeing this film at the beginning of my photography career played a fundamental role in my success as a portrait photographer. Many of the things I institute into my portraits today, come from Avedon's techniques introduced in this video. I learned to study and learn from the greats that come before me. 

I've now watched this film about a dozen times. Each time I watch it, I walk away with something new. If you haven't seen it yet, and want to get your daily dose of inspiration, I recommend it adding it to your watch list. Sit down with your notepad, a cup of coffee, and get ready to be inspired.

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25 Comments

Jet Keng's picture

Thanks for sharing

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Of course!! Glad you enjoyed it!

Studio 403's picture

That is so rich in depth and style. Before I started photography, I remember seeing that TV special. Back then, some was grabbing me as I recall that special. Today, here I am, content, happy and at the same time so discontent with my mediocrity toward the wonderful art of photograhy. Thanks FS for the inspiration.

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

It truly is. Mind-blowing stuff. I can look at his pictures for days. SO much life in them. Glad you found inspiration with this post! Stay tuned for more inspiration evert week :)

I don't particularly like his work so, no thanks.

The author writes, "If You're A Portrait Photographer You Need To Watch This". That's his opinion and that's fine. How is it inappropriate for me to reply, "no thanks" and for a very valid reason which is neither judgmental or derogatory? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

At least I didn't reply, "Lord, why?" or use language better suited to high school students.

michael buehrle's picture

did i miss where someone called your response inappropriate ? i just see isaac's and i don't think a one word answer could do that.

Voting someone down can indicate disagreement or an inappropriate comment. If I had written that the guy's photography isn't any good, everyone can, and should, disagree if they feel that way. You can't disagree that I don't care for it.

You can learn from successful people, even if you don't like their final products. That might by why people down-voted your comment, which could possibly have been read as being a bit "holier-than-thou".

I'm not interested in success, as measured by popularity. Not that there's anything wrong with that...
I fail to see how not liking someone's work, as opposed to thinking their work is bad, can be seen as "holier-than-thou".

I wasn't referring to you not liking his work, but the delivery of the comment. It's a fair enough statement in my mind, but you can see how people could dislike that, no?

I'm interested in what you would define as success in photography?
To me at least, Avedon managed to tick most of the boxes for what I would count as successful in the photographic world.

My delivery was based on having someone tell me what I "need" to do.

Not trying to be dismissive but I seriously doubt you would care for my idea of success. Not only am I eccentric, I can't even see the circle. :-/

michael buehrle's picture

if you say so. you might wanna cut back on the meds though.

Wow! Did you cut/paste that from somewhere? How old are you? smh

Oh Michael. What does that even mean? You write "cut back on the meds" and follow up with, "oh sam."
smh

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Oh guys! Sorry to see so much beef here on my post. Lets all just take a breather, yeah? Sam, your opinions are always noted.

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Glad to hear your opinion again! :D

Thanks for sharing!

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Sure thing! Glad you got something out of it!

William Howell's picture

My takeaway from his fathers portraits were not of death, but that his Dad was finally giving in. His father was a good retailer and tough. But the “piss and vinegar” had finally left.
Photography’s something, aint it?

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Wow. Beautiful analysis of some of his most provocative photos of his.

Jon Miller's picture

I've seen this more times than I can count and each time i enjoy it more and more. Like his books its a great insight into his way of seeing and thinking and as a result the way he shoots his subjects.

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Its simply breathtaking. Watching him work and speak with his subjects. So much raw character. He dosen't hold back anything and thats amazing.