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Museum ticket seller, Shiraz, Iran
Fujifilm X-T3, XF8-16mmF2.8 R LM WR at 12mm, f5.6 @ 1/10 second, ISO 160

Quiet, reflective photos can sometimes struggle in the world of social media and blog posts. So, I am going to request you sit for a few seconds more and look at the portrait: what does it say to you?

Having read the caption, you know the location and what the subject is doing. Does this affect the story as you understand it, or does the look of resignation (or perhaps boredom) make the subject's surroundings less important? Perhaps the look is not resignation, but interruption, a desire to get back to reading his book rather than dealing with a balding foreigner and a black camera?

However we choose to read this photo, we're unlikely to see it as uplifting or happy, but is this fair? Is the desaturated colour palette with cool browns and blues have an impact? Are we really able to understand the subject's story, just by viewing a snapshot in time? And does it matter?

Photographers and critics over the decades have talked about the camera's ability to capture the soul of the subject, if only the photographer knows how. I think this is crap. I think we're confusing someone's 'soul' with a good story and our own, personal interpretation of what we see. And what the photographer sees can be completely different to what the viewer sees - we all have different types of baggage that impact how we react and relate to photography.

I think this is what makes portrait photography so appealing to me. Yes, I know I am advertising the International Portrait Photographer of the Year somewhere on this page as well (the competition closes at the end of the month), but I have always had a love of portraiture. I credit my understanding of light in the landscape to the lessons learnt in a portrait studio and my favourite photographer is probably Irving Penn (but I reserve the right to change my mind about that). And just as we can photograph landscapes in many different ways (lighting, weather, season), so we can photograph people in a myriad of situations.

Just imagine this bloke sitting there in a pin-stripe suit, back straight, directly facing the camera. Now how to you interpret the story?

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