Shelby Lee Adams, fts Salt & Truth
When having someone sit or stand in front of a 4x5 camera, it requires a more conscious commitment. Your subject has to stay relatively still and not move. I often engage people in conversation before we make photographs, making sure that they are comfortable and relaxed within themselves, and we talk about no specific topic. I ask people to tell me their stories and they do. What the viewer does not see is the test Polaroids first made to check exposure, focus and technical issues. I’ll make approximately three Polaroids and develop them, sharing them with my subjects. This usually takes several minutes. If one is particularly good, I ask my subject if they would like for me to make a Polaroid just for them to keep. Usually, people want more than one. We study the backgrounds, compositions, eyes, lighting, etc. and discuss the direction to look, almost always right into the center of the lens. After making a couple of images, people settle and become more serious, even children. I tell people to be natural, look for their own reflection within the lens and hold steady. I rarely say, don’t do this or that, only when someone is acting stiff or too rigid, I might say, take a deep breath and relax.
By the time I’m ready to expose film my subjects have overcome their own artificial, smiley personas and want themselves a more serious photograph.