When it comes to portraiture, the best artists for the genre would be the ones who deeply in touch with their humanity. Known French portraitist Cecile Deer a.k.a. lafilledeer has already been making a name for herself in and out of Lomography for years, and is one of the members continuously pushing the Lomographic movement forward through her iconic, naturally soft-lit portraiture. And then we have our promising, budding Lomographer Yusuf Güzel a.k.a. yusufgzel who is quickly learning the ropes and making an imprint of his own through stark and colorful shots of his friends. Through the work of these two amazing photographers, we find out what constitutes their artistry in portraiture.
The Face is a Story
Stylish newcomer Yusuf is keen on telling stories of people through the portrait. He sees the portrait as a format that helps people get to know and understand personal stories and their experience:
"We feel unconsciously in the portrait photos because we almost come to the bottom with the face of a person and wonder what the person in the photo feels and what life he is living. You feel as if the person in the photo gives you a message with the effect of wrinkles, eye and hair color on us. However, a good portrait can awaken these feelings to us."
Meanwhile, veteran Lomographer and portraitist Cecile believes that the portrait is also a political gesture. Because of how media predominantly represents people and voices, there's a prevailing singularity of the story that media is telling everyone -- and Cecile wants to change that:
"For example, in Europe, the vast majority of representations (people shown in photography, advertising, TV, the arts, etc.) are young, thin, white, able-bodied, heterosexual and cisgender people. So, the message that is sent back to people is that this is the way to be and that nothing else exists. If you're a black, fat and transgender teenager, how do you build yourself if you don't have any role models to identify with? If there's nothing in the media and the arts to show you that there are other people like you? How can you feel normal? So, I think it's important when you're a photographer and you're doing portraiture, to think about those norms of representation, about the people you want to photograph and show, and to be able to show something else."
Looking for the Natural Yet Compelling Expression
Both Cecile and Yusuf believe that the most important thing for portraitists to learn is how to establish comfortable, genuine relationships with their subjects. As such, Cecile often would take photographs of the queer community due to underrepresentation. Being a part of the community also helps her subjects be comfortable with her. She also loves taking photographs of people who don't fit into society's norms, as well as her loved ones.
"The expression and the body language are very important. If the model looks queasy, you can't take a good photograph. And I always love a good bokeh.
She also prioritizes good lighting and bokeh in her compositions – both of which make her image very "Cecile".
For a portrait to be good, Yusuf would remove all first impressions of a person and get to know the person he's taking an image of. As he'd usually take shots of friends, there's already a certain level of comfort and candidness between photographer and subject, which naturally incites honest expressions, moods, and feelings. Yusuf's personal portraiture style is also distinguished by double exposures, believing that the technique enhances the storytelling of the portrait.
"I do not want them to act for photography, but to reflect their true feelings on the camera and show their world."
How Film Pushes the Art of Portraiture Forward
Something both Cecile and Yusuf also agree on is how film is the perfect medium for portraits. Cecile particularly loves the unique aspects and aesthetic that analogue provides.
Yusuf elaborates this further by mentioning the natural and more 'quality' feel of the film medium compared to digital, believing there's a stark stylistic difference with a digital and film portrait.
"I believe films really have a serious impact on portraits. Because in today's digitalized world, everything has turned into software and electricity. Therefore, because the films are completely intertwined with reality, the fact that a photograph taken is filmed in a concrete way and that we see the picture we took after a few long processes cause the film photographs to be valued more."
Having noticed a decent amount of 'digital portraits' in the Lomography Community Gallery itself -- which he admits he is saddened of -- he hopes that more will re-evaluate this habit and increase the quality of their art through film. For Cecile, this can be achieved by practicing as much as we can.
Lately, Yusuf's continuously learning about double-exposure and how it will enhance his work further. Cecile's working on her independent feminist art and film photography magazine, Polysème Magazine, and will continue to represent more walks of life in her portraiture.