Photojournalist Francis Reiss has captured photographic portraits of intriguing luminaries throughout his long and productive career.
Often gaining exclusive access to high achievers in art, law, religion and politics in Australia, he has also photographed the fascinating faces of unknown people on his travels across the globe.
People I Have Met celebrates a life behind the lens.
Image: Francis Reiss, Inge King (detail) 1996 © The artist
Why and how I take portraits
Interview with Francis Reiss 2017
When asked why and how Reiss takes portraits, the photojournalist answered, "Very simple, really: I like people! I find my fellow creatures most interesting … quite fascinating."
Reiss goes on to explain, “It is not just their faces, but everything about them. It’s a matter of pride that, before going out on a shoot, I have done my home-work for example I’ve ‘Googled’ them! If they have written a book, I read a copy from the library. If they are architects, I have a look at their buildings. Of course, if they are politicians, I will have read some of their speeches and know how they voted etc. After arriving at the agreed meeting place I will be able to make intelligent conversation and be prepared.
“Sometimes”, he says, “I even go to the extent of being dressed, as near as I can, in a style compatible with their own. There is nothing more embarrassing than arriving at a senior statesman's residence tieless with dirty shoes or fingernails. All this makes it possible for the subject to be at ease, and for me to work with them in an appropriate setting. Before meeting I will have formed some idea of what sort of picture it will be.
“Close up or long shot” he considers, and explains that he also deliberates on “the background.” He contends “busy people don’t like to have their time wasted, and there may be time for only one shot. If they are prepared to give you some of their time, then it is important to cover yourself by taking both a close up and an environmental shot.
Additionally, he says “it is vital that, besides knowing your subject, you are relaxed with the handling of the camera. A tripod and long cable release (I have a marvellous old one about 3m long) allows me to concentrate 100% on the subject. Getting too close is usually a ‘no no’. It’s an invasion of their personal space, and in extreme cases can lead to distortion of perspective. The tripod and long cable release allows me to walk around and talk with them and take a picture without them being aware.”