The Process - Inspiration by Jeff Konczal

Photographer Jeff Konczal

Photographer Jeff Konczal

My friend, photographer Jeff Konczal shares what is behind one of his recent photographs. One of Jeff's jobs is making portraits of leaders in the community - CEOs, public figures, etc. - and recently he photographed Chrissie Brodigan.

Here's Jeff:

I wanted to write about where I find inspiration for portraits. 

Once I know the name of the person I am scheduled to photograph, I begin with a Google search to find out a bit about who they are and what they do.  I can usually find some detail from that simple Google search that I can begin building a loose idea of what I might try to achieve from a portrait.  

For the portrait of Chrissie Brodigan, a researcher who has worked with Github, Mozilla, and Meetup, I looked around her blog and quickly realized she works with data. My initial thought was to try to convey something about how she works with data in a visual way. For the portrait, I used a sparkly foam board and set my flashes to bounce off it. The results were different. Random colors of light shot back at her face or onto the wall, and other times it was just white light reflected back. During the portrait session, Chrissie mentioned that the sparkle board I was using had the same sparkle pattern as a sticker she had on her laptop, and that she loved sparkles (I don't know if she said she loved sparkles, but she seemed pretty excited). It was a little bit of luck that the same pattern I was using to reflect my light was also a sticker she has on her laptop, but that made me feel that I had found some thread of who she is, outside of the whole (different points of light = data) thing.

This is where I found my inspiration for this portrait. Other times, it can come from a completely different direction, but I still always start with a bit of Google research.

Chrissie Brodigan (©Jeff Konczal)

Chrissie Brodigan (©Jeff Konczal)

Chrissie Brodigan (©Jeff Konczal)

Chrissie Brodigan (©Jeff Konczal)

The Process - Inspiration

Often, I get asked what inspires me or how I made an image, or why I made it a certain way. So I thought I’d talk about the creative process, and I broke it down to three parts - Inspiration, The Making of an Image, After Creating. I have also asked a couple of friends to share with me in the future posts how they create, and what inspires them.

Inspiration for me is not that hard to find in almost anything my surroundings. I get inspired by new things, and by old things long unseen. I find inspiration in listening to songs, reading a book, or a magazine or a newspaper. I'm preparing a project inspired by a book written by professor and gerontologist Karl Pillemer about the lessons of life the elderly have learned throughout their many years. And as everything in the world has already been photographed, I also draw inspiration from other photographers and their work.

I did a series of portraits inspired by Richard Avedon’s In The American West. Currently, I'm working on an ongoing project inspired by portrait photographer Howard Schatz, and I'm getting ready to start working on another series of portraits inspired by another photographer.

Once I have an idea that I know I’m going to be working on, I begin to create in my mind the image - they say that if you can imagine it, you can create it. It is at this point that I am pre-visualizing the image - tone and contrast (this is where lighting - the amount, positioning, etc. - comes in), composition, cropping, I am considering the lens I will use, where I will stand, where the subject will be to bring into reality the picture I see in my mind.

The image below of my nephew Mitch was inspired by a portrait of a lion I ran across on Facebook. It was a black-and-white image, and I loved the contrast in the photo, the lion's intense gaze, his full, thick mane. I just needed to find the right person to photograph, since I didn't know any lions. When we visited family for New Years, I knew I wanted to use Mitch for this image once I saw that he had grown his hair, and its thickness and length reminded me of the lion's mane. And just as a lion enjoys affectionate fellowship with the members of his pride, Mitch values the closeness of his family.