“My hands are small, I know, but they’re not yours they are my own” -Jewel
Hands that work. Hands that play. Hands that pray. Tiny hands from babies, filled with potential, looking at the world for the first time, squinting, barely able to see past their teeny fingers. Large, comforting, smothering hands from grown men-men who’ve forged steel buildings, worked jackhammers, and built ships. Hands that scare us-Freddy Krueger hands-that come after us, time and again, in the horror movies of our lives. Hands that wave, like the white-gloved queen out for a Sunday parade. Clenched fists. Hands that end open arms.
People often ask me to look at their pictures. Sometimes, they take pictures of other people, and they show them to me, asking me to evaluate-tell them if their pictures are “good enough.” This is something photographers just do, time and again.
But, I almost always end up telling them the same thing, “I don’t specialize in portraits but I can give you my advice…” And, my advice is almost always the same.
When I look at a portrait, I look at the expression on one’s face. This tells me what look the subject is trying to convey. This tells me how the subject wants to look at the world, and how he or she wants the world to see them in return. But, that’s the look he or she wants you to see. To see how we really feel-look at posture, look at hands.
That look you see on our faces, in pictures, that’s the “oh, you’re taking my picture-I’d better smile” look we stick on our faces, mere seconds before that shutter clicks. It’s there-it’s always there-yes, but, that’s how we want to look, that’s not how we really look. That’s not who we are or what we do, that’s who we want ourselves to be. To really get “down to business” with a portrait, and see ourselves as the people we really are, look at our hands.
These are the hands that lift boxes at factories, that steer scooters in the park, that rock our infants to sleep in our arms, that cook our meals. These are the hands that type our memos, that write our books, that play our pianos, that dig our ditches, and nurse our sick back to health.
And, yes, my friends, these are the hands that take our pictures too.
What have your hands done today?
Until next time…