“Imagery has the power to motivate change,” says Pam Grossman, director of visual trends at Getty Images.
This is what Pam studies, visual trends. It’s about how the world changes the way it sees itself, but more than that, how the world wants to change by altering how it chooses to see itself.
On the grassroots level, this is what we do. The women we photograph are looking for their own reflection of change. They become their own poster girls of how they see themselves. They also get to control how the world sees them when they share those images.
I find it fascinating.
The role of the portrait photograph has undergone radical change in its purpose, its use, and its impact. It still remains a record of likeness. We still use it as a visual connection to people we love. But it is now resonating within us more than ever.
So many of our clients see getting a bolder image done as a right of passage. The image itself becomes a reminder of the event. An anchor to all that was happening at that time – a sort of time capsule trigger, I suppose.
But the impact and use of the personal portrait is moving deep into a new landscape. Jessica Bennett, contributing editor at Leanin.org, refers to photographs as “changing the visual landscape” in a way that is “inspirational and aspirational.” Our clients are embracing this. Their purposes for coming in to have a personal portrait – be it in lingerie as a boudoir image, or a nude from sensual to artistic to just a beauty image – is more complex. They want images that will serve many purposes, and inspirational is just one of them.
Can an image really have all that power? Can it change us to become something we aspire to?
I believe it can. I believe it has always done so. We just never put much thought into doing that.
One of the ways I have noticed that, is how women are comfortable in front of the camera. Some are relaxed and just seem to know what to give the camera that it needs for a good image, what angles work. Others see the camera and the resulting images as enemies. In talking with them, what seems to have come most often is their experiences when they were kids. Some learned that by “workin’ it” for the camera they found rewards. Parents and relatives behind the camera were encouraging, positive. Kids are quick and learn that more of this gets more of that stroking.
Kids who never got that developed a get-it-done face, and saw each moment in front of the camera as a negative experience to be gotten through.
It’s fun to watch a woman who suspects she takes horrid photographs be puzzled how her images look so good.
We have women coming in to just create their own inspirational images. Years ago we had a client who had worked hard to get her body to a peak level. She had installed a home gym and wanted me to create anonymous nude images of her for the gym walls. They were to be constant reminders that this was what she wanted to maintain, and it worked amazingly well for her.
Recently we had a client looking for images that showed a softer side to her. She was an A-type personality in an industry that demanded aggressive focus. She wanted the images to be a reminder that at home she could relax and be feminine. The large wall images became triggers for her. Her husband was delighted with the quicker transition.
I think Pam has it right, imagery does motivate change. I see it happen in every session.