Alexander Laurent: Comparing Good Portraiture to a Waltz

All images and words by Alexander Laurent. Used with permission.

My name is Alexander Laurent, I’m an artist with my studio located in Downtown Los Angeles. I work in a number of different mediums, but lately it’s been black and white film photography. I prefer working in black and white. It forces the viewer to let the image take the lead. Color invokes subconscious emotions before you even register what it is you’re looking at. Red summons up anger. Yellow gives comfort and familiarity. Blue is soothing. An endless number of color combinations pre-register emotions in your brain. They dictate how you see the image before it’s even been processed. With black and white photos, there is no register. The image communicates only as much as you let it.

Like a waltz, each step of the viewer needs to be smooth, accurate and done with intent. Move too quickly, you’re left with a fleeting feeling and little to take away with you. Move with it, you begin to sense the emotion, see every detail, find every flaw. These beautiful and profound moments only occur when you are fully attentive and present. It’s why I love black and white photos. I want people to have an emotional response when they see my work. I don’t really care if you like the image, so long as you feel something when you see it. There’s a connection that’s created between myself and the sitter when taking a portrait. If I do my job right, I can convey that emotional connection to the viewer and let them in to a little piece of what I got to experience with that person. So much of that is lost in other facets of our lives. We live in an image-based society now. At every corner there’s a photo of someone trying to sell you something.

Everyone has a camera and is contributing to the giant diary of the human experience that is social media. It becomes hard to focus on imagery when we’re inundated with it on a regular basis. I hope people slow down when they see a black and white image, because they have to, or they’ll mis it. Nothing will jump out at you, you have to sit still and let it guide you. I hope that’s what people experience when looking at my images.