The Rhinoceros & the Hidden Painter

Last week, I traveled to Minnesota and Wisconsin on a shoot for Life Floor. The trip was very successful, and I'll be writing a post dedicated to the work I did for them and tell more of their story. First, I wanted to go ahead and share some photos that I didn't go there to take, photos that just happened in the brief time between shoots. While talking with Life Floor's creative director at their headquarters, I leaned some of the history of the building in which they work. Life Floor's suite was once the photography studio in which the famous Betty Crocker Cookbook images were taken. The building is an industrial space and has a very interesting layout, a bit like a maze, with some original features left intact. I had some extra time before we headed out for Wisconsin so I took a walk through the building. As I passed an open door, I saw the shot. These are the moments we hope for, the reason we have a camera on our phones, with us wherever we go. I saw a painter in his studio, relaxing, taking a break from his work. It's not the perfect lighting or the obvious framing that define this image--it's the fact that when you look at this picture, you see this man.

There is a difference between looking at a picture and seeing the subject in the image. Frankly, this subject was almost too easy. He's a painter surrounded by his paintings which are themselves portraits of their maker. His character is reflected through them. We see him, the painter, in each of these paintings, in a way that simply looking at his person cannot reveal. This is the root of true portrait photography: to find the subject's soul, their essence, and package it so that a look, no matter how long, can draw the character of the subject to the surface of the mind.

After taking the above shot with my phone I instantly went back for my "real" camera and introduced myself to the painter. He is Rick Fournier. He is retired, and because of this, doesn't need to sell his artwork. He paints whatever he likes without the pressures of a client's desires. Rick allowed me to take a few more shots of him working, and while they are good and I enjoyed making them, they lack the pop and the authenticity of the first image with its unscripted nature.

This is the root of true portrait photography: to find the subject’s soul, their essence, and package it so that a look, no matter how long, can draw the character of the subject to the surface of the mind.

Rick seems like a man that knows the world and his place in it. He is soft spoken and content. I really wish I could have had more time to talk with Rick, but I needed to get back to Life Floor and check in. However, once I got back and told them what I had been doing, they asked if I wanted to see the glass blowers in the basement..... um yeah. 

Minnesota Glass Arts is in a completely different environmental mood then the painter's studio. Loud music pervades, punctuated by blasts of fire. I loved it. 

Out of all this chaos of fire and pressure come objects of incredible grace and beauty like this rhino balloon. The creature would float away if it wasn't for the weight holding it down--impossible, but convincing. They produce stunning work, and I hate that I hardly scratched the surface. I must go back.