"There is an intrinsic and basic problem in my life and career. It is a natural consequence of what I do, of who I am, and what I feel. You see, to be a photographer requires an openness and an ability to look deep into someone’s eyes, to regard them with care and affection, and to ultimately fall madly in love with them. There is some discrimination to this, but as I usually choose my subjects, for the most part, it is uncontrollable.
It begins with attraction, and ends with an intimate knowledge of their soul. It involves letting them speak to me, watching carefully, and finding their specialness.
With men, this seems not to be a problem. They quickly become like good friends and confidants. We are able to laugh together, and enjoy each other’s company, but for women (for me), this is a different matter.
I find myself pulled in, looking ever more closely, finding their strength, their delicacy, and their beauty. If they are willing to return the gaze, the game is afoot. In order to succeed, I must slowly disrobe my emotions. I must slowly unveil my feelings, and for the portrait to be successful, she must be willing to do the same. There is a far greater intimacy exposed, although not necessarily in the touch. There is a connection, an openness, an ability to reveal both of ourselves completely, with all our strengths and vulnerabilities. This is a very difficult thing to do, both for me, and for her. It is what distinguishes greatness from mediocrity. How far you are willing to emotionally travel is as important as your talent.
To succeed, we must fall in love, take the pictures, and then slowly take deep breaths, realizing who we are, and walk slowly away from the edge."
All images © Rodney Smith