by Winifred Whitfield Published 01/06/2010
When women come into my studio, the first thing they most often say to me is, “I am not photogenic. I have never had a good portrait”. But she wants one. Most arrive at my studio nervous, if not frightened, wondering how this process works. This is where our work begins.
This portrait is to be their story, their portrayal. The single most significant aspect of my portrait creation is expression. I am looking to deliver high emotion content to my clients in addition to capturing and expressing their outer beauty. Not only do I want these images to be seen, but I want them to be felt – deeply. To that end, I always schedule a complimentary consultation with my clients which might last from 45 minutes to two hours – it just depends. The point is that we get to know each other and, on an emotional level, I start to experience this person’s story. Some people open to this easily, others are more guarded. To the extent I am open, genuinely caring and very present, the process works well. It is a time when the person sitting before me must have my undivided attention. This is no time for being hurried or thinking of something else. The client must fill my total mind space. I must be in the moment. I love sharing this level of discovery and intimacy with my clients. It is also the time when I commence my creative vision of the final portrait. I sense the mood, the colour, the pose and lighting appropriate for this person. This enables me to be set up and to move more quickly and confidently on the day of our shoot.
My portrait sessions are normally scheduled about one to two weeks after the consultation. My experience is that this time between the consultation and the shoot is very beneficial to the emotional calming of the client for the subsequent portrait session.
On the day of the portrait session, I am actually a bit distracted. Now, I must attend to the details of the set, the lighting, the drapes and folds of fabric. Yet clients so often point out how very comfortable I have made them feel. I have paused to think about this. Why are they feeling this level of comfort, as busy as am on that day? I have concluded that they feel this comfort because they feel clearly my connection to them and their interest. They feel the confidence I feel – that I will deliver the portrait we have envisioned. They know that I sincerely care and to do this work – one must.
I find this work so gratifying – wrong word – it is not work – I feel deep and profound joy when my clients come to the unveiling of their portraits and walk away with it as a treasure they and their loved ones will enjoy forever.
Winifred’s ability to not only hear what her clients are saying but to understand their desires, results in a collaborative piece of art that reveals her subject’s inner person. She creates a sense of sophisticated sanctity and trust that inevitably is reflected in the final work. Setting, atmosphere, lighting and emotion – Winifred designs a scene like a classic movie director. She treats each client as the carefully casted star of the story which is about to unfold. Like the artists of yesteryear, she escorts her clients on an adventure that is at once gentle and soul searching. Winifred is now dividing her time between New York and Washington State. She owns and operates Intimate Portraits for Women and Portraits in New York primarily providing wall portraits to her clients.
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