Monday, January 3, 2011

A Portrait of Having a Portrait Taken: Rosanne Olson

Rosanne Olson

“To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surface and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live in all things.” ––Ansel Adams

In 2010, which already seems so long ago, I was lucky enough to have my portrait taken by Rosanne Olson. Rosanne is a talented photographer from Seattle, Washington, whose work is often stunning and always impressive. She has worked as a journalist, a teacher, and a worldwide photographer.  For more information on Rosanne, you can check out her website and her "Knowing Portraits" gallery.

What I want to focus on is the experience of having a professional photograph created --- and it is a creation. In an age where every cell phone is a camera, it has to be said that a professional photograph resembles an iPhone photo the way a pair of blue jeans resembles a silk skirt. Both cover one's body, but that's where the comparison ends.

Rosanne asked me to bring a half dozen of my favorite shirts or sweaters to her studio so that we could choose a style together. She taught me that it's best to wear a color that is darker than your skin tone so that the viewer's eyes stays on your face, not your shirt. She helped me with my make-up, adjusting for what the camera would accentuate.

Like many people I know, I am terrified of having my picture taken. I'm convinced that my features are not compatible with the camera lens. Really. The camera is not my friend. Rosanne listened to my chatter, but assured me that she didn't see a problem. She allowed me to feel that we were making the photograph together. And in fact, the way my chin rests against my chin here is something I often do when thinking.  In another photograph, Rosanne gave me a pen and told me to play around with it. And "play" was the operative word -- we had an afternoon of play --- so that by the time the two hours were over,  the meeting had transformed into entertainment rather than the excruciating event I'd expected.

this is me

When I see the portraits that Rosanne has photographed of friends, I see that there's something of the actual person, something below the surface that she has captured. There's a reason that Rosanne calls these "Knowing Portraits." In the time we spent together, especially the last 20 minutes or so, my nervousness lifted and I could look directly in the camera without fear. I finally relaxed enough to let Rosanne do her work. I felt seen. I felt, dare I say, at peace --- and I think that shows here.

Jeff Crandall, poet 

Rosanne is also developing a project of photographing poets and creating an interactive program that would allow students -- and anyone else interested -- to see the poet and link to their work and perhaps even their voice. If you are interested in a poet portrait -- or even an artful portrait of you and your child (or your bird),  I can't recommend highly enough checking out Rosanne's studio.

To read an interview I did with Rosanne this past December, click here!


  1. What a great prospective project.

    As I think I said before, I think the new photo of you is terrific.

  2. Thanks so much, Maureen! Happy New Year to you!

  3. I don't think I've ever appreciated how fascinating the process of portraiture must be.