Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

Michael (Provincetown)

Nov 09, 2019 - Bryson Rand

While I have frequently photographed people close to me, I have not always considered the resulting photographs to be portraits as much as they are pictures with people in them. I often approach picture making with an idea for a picture in my head, be it a mood, a gesture, an interaction, and I direct the situation with that specific idea in mind. While I always allow for chance and the uniqueness of the person or people I photograph to inform the pictures I make, I began to realize photographs made in this way did not reveal something specific and unique about the lives, presence, or experiences of the people in my pictures. I began thinking about what it means to make a portrait, and more specifically what it means to make an emotionally and photographically compelling one. What is it about work by Diane Arbus, Peter Hujar, Dawoud Bey, Nan Goldin, and David Armstrong that made their portraits so compelling to look at and so full of life and familiarity?


While on vacation in Provincetown with my husband and a group of friends, I made this photograph of Michael while at a party on a houseboat. While the picture was casually made (I saw Michael in diagonal beams of light and called his name so he would look at me), it felt like a breakthrough in my understanding of how to make a portrait. Just as the artists I turned to for inspiration and guidance, this image has an aura of familiarity while maintaining a sense of mystery. I realized that the intention of a portrait was not to capture the fullness of the person being photographed, but to make an undeniable claim of the person’s existence, or to summarize Nan Goldin, to make a record of a life that couldn’t be revised.