Be Our Guest: That Face

In Guest, Inspiration, Portraiture

This month we welcome Be Our Guest blogger Eileen Powers. I met Eileen on Instagram and was drawn to her powerful portraits of people who often don’t get documented.

Like me, she is a photographer based on Cape Cod. I was fortunate to attend an exhibit at the Brewster Ladies Library in Brewster, MA, and see her photographs in person. She is an MFA student at Lesley University, and has studied with photographers Greg Miller, Amy Arbus, and Constantine Manos, and will be attending a workshop this winter with her hero Bruce Gilden. Eileen has never met a camper, beach chair or a parade she didn’t like.

I see a face and I fall in love with it…or I don’t. Snap! … it’s just like that. I either take the picture or I move on. That’s not to say every face isn’t worth photographing or every person isn’t worthy of being the subject of a photograph. But as a photographer and an artist I have a particular vision, and the game to me is working within the parameters I set for myself. There are faces that appeal to me on a visceral level and those are ones I pull over to side of the road and chase after. And yes, I’ve done that.

I’m an artist that thrives on constraints. As a graphic designer for over twenty years, I’ve become used to working within a narrow scope with limited variables. It’s become an intuitive way of working on a project for me. I like to work within a box of ideas and see where that takes me. For instance, I might decide to go out early in the morning and photograph strangers, or I might decide to work with a word, like decay, and see what I can come up with to visually express that idea. Or I might go out and photograph nothing but camper vans, or make only double exposures. Sometimes I shoot only white plastic chairs. These limits push me to in many directions and force me to be resourceful and creative in my work.

For me, portrait subjects are the most challenging. People are wildcards, that can upset the box, flip the box over or blow it up completely. For the the last four years I’ve focused mostly on portraiture. I experiment with my comfort zone and have moved away from photographing landscapes, family, and friends, in favor of working with complete strangers or a select group of people who I enjoy photographing over time.

Last winter I met Regina, and she quickly became a favorite subject of mine. Her face is like a map and her body a carousel of change. I try to meet with Regina on a regular basis to document her changes, her adornments, her affect. I call her a “Gilden Girl” after my hero Magnum photographer Bruce Gilden, known for his tightly composed flash portraits of the unconventionally beautiful. I think portraits often tell us more about the photographer than the subject. It’s the act of selecting a model, editing and composing that reveals as much about the artist and as their process.

Then there’s also Kate and Suzi and Terry and Summer. All honest and forthright, but not exactly models. I often say what I look for is someone who loves to be photographed, or a person who thinks they’re a model, but isn’t actually one. Near the end of the last year I began using props with my models and I expect to continue in that vein this year. I love blending beach culture with my portraits and started to use inflatable floats and sometimes string lights in my work.

In the past two years I’ve worked almost exclusively with digital medium format and a 75mm lens. This year I’m reverting back to my roots and plan to shoot 120 film with Holga and Diana toy cameras. I’m looking forward to seeing how beach chairs look to the Holga…I’ve also ordered a large inflatable cloud with rainbow. I can’t wait to start working with that!

Do you want to Be Our Guest?  Leave us a comment below with a link to your blog, Instagram account, or other place you post your images.  You can also add a hashtag to your IG images: #viewfindersio_beourguest.

See you soon.

xo lucy


10 Comments

  1. What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing your words and photos with us.

  2. I loved reading about your creative process. Your photos tell such a story, something I really need to work on more. Thank you so much for joining us.

    • Thank you Cathy…I’ve been working on streamlining my process and thinking more about picture and composition. So I shoot less, and think and sketch more!

  3. Eileen, these images are stunning! I love how real they are and how you’re also playing with new ideas to stretch your portraits further. Thank you so much for sharing your work with us!

    • Thank you, Holly! I have more plans using string lights and inflatables…I have a giant rainbow and cloud I’ve been waiting to use when the weather gets warmer! 🙂

  4. Oh my goodness, each one of these images is stunning. I keep coming back to look at them again and again. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  5. I just noticed your comment. Thank you Kirstin, I’m working on some other projects now. Maybe Lucy will invite me to post again.

Submit a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.