Last Friday, I went to the SUArt gallery and fell in love with this place. I felt like I went back to London and visited the National Portrait Gallery again. When I read the brief introduction about the portrait of Greg Heisler, I was impressed by a sentence, which is “It is the person behind the camera rather than the photographer controls lighting, location, composition, and numerous other factors.” Every time when we think the photographer did a great job capturing someone’s face with emotion, we always neglect the main character behind the lens.
Sometimes, the underlying information in the image is more important than the image itself. For instance, professor Heisler took a portrait for a survivor of Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment that was conducted in 1930 by the United States Health Service. I knew this experiment from a sociology class and the portrait gave me a deeper understanding of this infamous clinical study. In the portrait, Herman Shaw, the survivor, stood lonely in the middle of a small path to his cottage with a crutch in his right hand, which made me feel sympathetic about him and his life experience.
I also noticed that even if they were black and white portraits and people might stand in the dark outside, there was always a beam of light shinning straight on people’s faces. If it was a close shot, we could see every wrinkle and details on their faces. If it was a wide shot, we could only notice the big contrast between people’s face and body. Muhammad Ali stood in a broad snow ground and only a beam of light was shinning on his face, it seems that he is small compared to the power of nature.
I was also impressed by Sambech Preach Maha Ghosananda’s portrait because Greg Heisler took a very close shot of him, so that only Ghosananda’s head was clear but his body and the background were blur, which resulted in a big contrast in the portrait. Additionally, the light beam from his left hand side helps us to know his unique life experience as a spiritual leader of Cambodia. He ministered to thousands of refugees who fled Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge of terror.
In conclusion, each person behind the lens had so many historical stories to tell, which made the portrait more meaningful and colorful even if it was black and white.