A portrait! What could be more simple and more complex, more obvious and more profound.
— Charles Baudelaire

The emergence of photography in the 19th century prompted a decisive shift in the long-standing tradition of portraiture, a transformation it continues to fuel today. Rineke Dijkstra’s stark and luminous large-scale portraits capture solitary subjects whose direct, unselfconscious gazes penetrate the picture plane, while Sally Mann employs early photographic processes to create delicately intimate portraits that often reveal imperfections characteristic of old cameras and printing techniques. Philip-Lorca di Corcia uses both digital and Polaroid cameras to generate a wide range of portraits, from staged scenes filled with psychological tension, to documentary portrayals of pedestrians on city streets. These myriad approaches reveal a desire to push the limitations of both the medium of photography and the genre of portraiture by re-appropriating outmoded practices and embracing new ones.

When I first started my studies as a portrait photographer, a my master Herb Ritts introduced me to a photo book by August Sander - Face of our Time (German: Antlitz der Zeit) was published in 1929. Sander has been described as "the most important German portrait photographer of the early twentieth century. This photographer created a book of portraits that inspired me to have very high standards for creating portraits that were true to my subjects and their life stories. 


I learned several lessons from this book and believe it to be an excellent addition to the library of those studying the art of the portrait.


1. Dive into your subject’s life

Study what they love. Look at their interest and believes. Looking for their stories...

2. Put yourself in their shoes

You may not have grown up the way they do. You may have different values. But for a moment, be subjective. Don’t allow yourself to be removed from their story.

3. Understand their perspective

Everyone has different viewpoints. Lay aside your preconceived ideas and do your best to really be true to your subject’s story. 

4. Take the emotion of their story and capture it

A truly successful portrait photographer can take someone who is quiet and demure and capture that – even if the photographer is bubbly and vivacious.

5. Go after energy

Use elements of movement and motion in your portraits – don’t be content with all your elements being still and static. 

6. Use your subjects in their natural environment

Their favorite room. Their backyard pool. Their treehouse. Their farm. Where your subject is most comfortable, they will be most natural as well.

7. Go for the unique

Don’t be afraid of ideas that haven’t been done before. Those are the portraits that stand out most. 

8. Establish strong connections

What experiences can cross over differences of age, culture, and upbringing ? Focus on these to make your portraits strong.

9. Respect their story

Your subject may make choices that you would not. Your subject may come from a world completely foreign to you. What matters most is that you give respect to them and their story. If you can show this, your subject will be comfortable letting you into his or her life. 

10. Create art

Above all, each person’s life is like a book with many chapters, many characters, and many unexpected twists. The beauty of creating a portrait is showing as many expect of the personalities of each individual, even the aspects more controversial and shadowed.


I’m grateful for these lessons Herb Ritts taught me being such a wonderful artist.


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InsPirational Video

You can download form here the pdf of the inspirational video show to You during the first introductory lesson. Click the button below to download this video as PDF presentation.

The subtle art of portrait photography: LUCA MONTI

by Joannes Ludlows


« δῆλον γὰρ ὡς ὐμεῖς μὲν ταῦτα (τί ποτε βούλεσθε σημαίνειν ὀπόταν ὄν φθέγγησθε) πάλαι γιγνώσκετε, ἡμεῖς δὲ πρὸ τοῦ μὲν ᾠόμεθα, νῦν δ' ἠπορήκαμεν »


Luca Monti is a French/Italian photographer known for his subtle and conceptual work. His clients, critics, galleries and museum curators say he is a “true talent” in portrait photography, an artist able to capture expressions like few others. 

We were drawn to Luca’s work because of the deep connection he has with his subjects, all of whom come to life with the vision he brings to his art. We also loved the verses that he adds in the descriptions of many of his photos from authors he admires, helping word and image meet in a new layer of narrative.

Luca was kind enough to join us here on Photofestival for an interview, which we think you will enjoy :

Please tell us more about your background: where do you live, when did you become interested in photography, how has that interest grown over time ?

I was born in a small town in Italy that was just an enormous factory and nothing else, grey and dull. My interest in photography comes from my needs to take visual notes I was used to express myself by other artistic means: music and acting, fundamentally. That interest remains because the learning curve in photography is steep; then, as in all arts, one must stay with it — you need work, dedication, and sacrifice.

How would you define your photographic style ? Most of your photographic books and exhibitions  are portraits of women. Do you work with professional models or are they strangers ?

I’ve never defined my photographic style, really, but people often say that intensity and drama, tension, true power are the distinguishing features of my work in front of the camera. It’s odd, because it’s not my intention to take such dramatic images, but it’s the only thing I can do  when I'm listening the stories fo my time. My models are occasionally professional, but not always, and I’ve found many of the people I photograph in the street.


Your photos have a particular style and cinematic look. What is your process when taking photo s? How do you get ready to shoot and what do you do with the result ?

I think that studio work is very important to a photographer, just as a musician invests hours in practicing at home. I see a lot of photography every day, whether intended or not. I take ideas, write them down in a notebook,  make sketches, and search for remote locations all by myself with the camera in the street. Sometimes it takes months to be able to execute them and almost always I come up with something different than what I had in mind, but I think it’s part of the process. Regarding processing, I admire cinematic photography: subdued colors, powerful contrasts and faint lighting. My editing is simple, the difficulty is to acquire a style and be consistent with it. From a technical point of view I work with the most simple tools I can, mostly one single continuos and flash light. Always on studio stand, since I prefer Ultra Large Format. But the shooting process is a small part, for me. of my artistic process I'm really into printing images. My photographs start to be only when they are printed. Negatives or files or just nothing to me.

What are some of the things that inspire you ? Do you have particular artist you admire  ?

I’m inspired by music and theatre and literature. Fifty per cent or more of my photography is inspired by novel I read that somehow I transformed into images. I’m a great fan of other artist works that I feel very close to mine, like a continuos thread of toughs, anon-interrupted stream of conscience. I like the work of Anselm Kiefer, the energy that put in the air Mozart or the incredible elegance and modernity of Bach… I could go on and on.


In addition to portraits, you have other interesting compositions. Can you tell us more about the image above?

First of all, I want to clarify that these are not photomontages, a horrible word that’s been occasionally used to describe these series of photographies and that doesn’t match the reality: everything I photograph in my most recent portfolio - the pictures showed in this page - I’ve imagined them with my own eyes. The image above was inspired by Methamorphosis of Ovidius.  When I read for the first time I get fascinated by the stories of mythsand didn’t stop until I was capable to tell my own and to put these in pictures.

Transverberazione, Baroquisme, diario, Jardines Lejanos… What meaning do photo titles have for you? And the verses in your descriptions, do you compose them yourself or are they by other authors ?

These are not photo titles are categories of my poetic ! I don't like to give title to a photo, it is an act that means nothing to me, so I came up with some classifications to cover everything: Transverberazione is a moment when a saint meet god and also a word that I use to refer to those portraits in which grace is the most important element;  L'Ouvre au noir is a book by Marguerite Yourcenar that I use as source of inspiration for those portraits

I add a small text to the photos that has some meaning to me, I felt that photographer are often easily printed by the joy of written words in their books.


What three portraits among your work would you highlight for our audience?

I have a special affection for these three. The first one (above), of Marian Redondo, because when she saw it she told me it was the first time that, as a model, she “recognized herself,” something beautiful to hear as a portrait photographer.

The second one because of the circumstances: we were in a rural house on the outskirts of Barcelona, at five or six Celsius degrees; the model, Judith Posada, was shivering — the goosebumps are real — but we all hung in there in a foolish and common effort to create something beautiful.

The last portrait is from my series of strangers. He is a Polish guy I found hitchhiking in the middle of nowhere. I was returning from a beautiful trip and the situation arose unexpectedly. Not only did he agree to be photographed without knowing anything about me, but he also waited while we found a red background, which is what I wanted.

Do you have any projects in mind for the future?

I’m finishing a series about the human body self transformation trough lights, fluid, plastics and veins that I’ll start publishing soon on my website. It’s something that has always fascinated me and that I’ve already started. And I’ve been working for more than a year on a project much more complex that is still raw in my mind, but I got a title : When an angel deserve to die.


Is there anything else we should know about you?

I just want to thank you for your attention and all collectors and curators for their support and feedback throughout the years. This sort of community has helped me a lot to grow as a photographer.



One of the more common types of photography, especially in the digital age of the "selfie" is portrait photography. Also known as portraiture, portrait photography is the art of taking a photo of a single person or group of people, capturing their most real mood and emotion.

Portrait photography is a constant challenge and requires the photographers creativity in order to really achieve beautiful portraits.

Some of the best portraits involve the most authentic capture of human emotion and expression. Learn more about photography from the best portrait photographers below.

Nan Goldin’s richly colored snapshots capture a world that is universally human yet highly personal. The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, a filmic slideshow, presents hundreds of intense, intimate moments from Goldin’s life in New York during the 1970s and ‘80s—the artist in bed with her lover, drag queens kissing in bars, a man suffering from HIV. While Goldin, now recognized as a pioneer of diaristic photography, documents with unflinching candor a society ravaged by AIDS, drug addiction, and abuse, it is the empathy reflected in these images that imbue them with a remarkable lyricism. Unlike the cool detachment of documentary photography, taking pictures for Goldin is “a way of touching someone—a form of tenderness.”

Annie Leibovitz is heralded as one of the greatest portrait photographers of her time, having captured images of some of the most influential figures of the past 40 years for commercial and editorial assignments. Trademarks of Leibovitz’s style are bold contrasts and dramatic poses, and she cites photographers Robert Frank and Richard Avedon as influences. Perhaps her most famous image is the raw, intimate portrait of a nude John Lennon clinging to wife Yoko Ono, taken for the cover of Rolling Stone only hours before Lennon was killed.

Peter Hujar, who died of AIDS in 1987, left behind a complex and profound body of photographs. He was a leading figure in the group of artists, musicians, writers, and performers at the forefront of the cultural scene in downtown New York in the 1970s and early '80s, and was enormously admired for his completely uncompromising attitude towards work and life. He was a consummate technician, and his portraits of people, animals, and landscapes, with their exquisite black-and-white tonalities, were extremely influential. Highly emotional yet stripped of excess, Hujar's photographs are always beautiful, although rarely in a conventional way. His extraordinary first book, Portraits in Life and Death, with an introduction by Susan Sontag, was published in 1976, but his "difficult" personality and refusal to pander to the marketplace ensured that it was his last publication during his lifetime.

Terry Richardson is a commercial photographer who takes playful and sexual images of celebrities in a style the New York Times has described as “glossed-up 1970s porn chic”. With his signature thick glasses, Richardson often poses with the models that he shoots, never shying away from offense, whether through his sexually graphic books, controversial public statements, or provocative celebrity portraits. For a 2011 photo book, he followed Lady Gaga for a year, documenting her life and performances in raw, behind-the-scenes photos.


The Negative / The Print / The Camera by Ansel Adams

For years, this trio of books was found on the shelves of scores of serious photographers. In the digital age, much of the information contained in these three books is outdated, but, if you are serious about the art, and/or you are passionate about film, you cannot beat these books from one of photography’s greatest masters


Work by Herb Ritts - This retrospective presents the full range of photographer Ritts' work, with 240 signature images, many published for the first time. There are portraits of Hollywood stars, (Pfeiffer, Cruise, Loren) notable artists, (Hockney, Haring, Martin) and world leaders, (Reagan, Mandela, Gorbachev), alongside fashion shots, erotic nudes and African scenery. Appreciations by contemporary art experts and chroniclers of fashion put the work in context.


Faces of our time by August Sander - In 1929 August Sander (1876 – 1964), a German portrait photographer, published his first book Antlizer der Zeit (Faces of Our Times) by Kurt Wolff Verlag, with an essay by the German writer Alfred Doblin. This famous book was re-issued by Schirmer Mosel Verlag in their Schirmer Art Books series, a great little photobook for this well-known photographer.

In this series, he was attempting to illustrate a cross-section ofGerman society, although he had intended to categorize them by certain social types. Stating that “[w]e know that people are formed by the light and air, by their inherited traits, and their actions. We can tell from appearance the work someone does or does not do; we can read in his face whether he is happy or troubled.”

The series is divided into seven sections: The Farmer, The Skilled Tradesman, The Woman, Classes and Professions, The Artists, The City, and The Last People.

In his naturalist style, he had captured ordinary people leading their ordinary lives. So although his concept and intent was flawed, he nevertheless captured some wonderful portraits of people.


Chambre close by Bettina Rheims - After having already enjoyed careers as a model, journalist and gallerist, Bettina Rheims began to explore photography in her late twenties, and has since become one of France’s most internationally acclaimed contemporary practitioners.  In her famous series Chambre Close, her first in color, she found a group of ordinary women to pose in unconventional poses; and these images were coupled with a fictional text by Serge Bramly for their publication in 1994, marking the first of what have been several important collaborations. 


Since 1992, Bill Holshevnikoff has taught his Power of Lighting Workshops to thousands of film, television and corporate video professionals across North America and around the globe. Bill has been lighting and shooting aadward-winning broadcast, corporate and documentary programming for over 30 years. From this experience Bill has distillates a small but encompassed book of wisdom and knowledge that helped generations


Around the beginning of the 17th century, a revolution in art, both in painting and sculpture, occurred. It was driven by two Italians, Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, a sculptor, and the aspiringly-named Michelangelo Merisi detto "Il Caravaggio", a painter of incredible and subtle skill.

What links these two talents, who ushered in, not the famous periodo rinascimentale of European art but its later Baroque (17th century) period? Novelty. While the Renaissance saw a rebirth of European art, belles-lettres, humanism and scientific achivement, these were mostly the result of looking-back to classical antiquity. The Renaissance was as much about "re-discovering" the formerly attained heights of civilization as it was about rebirth. While the 1500s had seen sculptors and painters attempting to copy models of Graeco-Roman sculpture and frescoes, the year 1605 was when European art achieved fruition.

In that year, both Caravaggio (Europe's greatest painter) and Bernini (its greatest sculptor) were living in Rome, which can be described unexaggeratedly as the center of the artistic world. Together, they produced a rupture in European art.



The Vitruvian Man (Italian: Le proporzioni del corpo umano secondo Vitruvio, which is translated to "The proportions of the human body according to Vitruvius"), or simply L'Uomo Vitruviano , is a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci around 1490.[1] It is accompanied by notes based on the work of the architect Vitruvius. The drawing, which is in pen and ink on paper, depicts a man in two superimposed positions with his arms and legs apart and inscribed in a circle and square. The drawing and text are sometimes called the Canon of Proportions or, less often, Proportions of Man. It is kept in the Gabinetto dei disegni e stampe of the Gallerie dell'Accademia, in Venice, Italy, under reference 228. Like most works on paper, it is displayed to the public only occasionally.

The drawing is based on the correlations of ideal human proportions with geometry described by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius in Book III of his treatise De architectura. Vitruvius described the human figure as being the principal source of proportion among the classical orders of architecture. Vitruvius determined that the ideal body should be eight heads high. Leonardo's drawing is traditionally named in honor of the architect.



Lesson 02 - Assignements

You will find your assignments here the day after the lesson.


You will find your assignments here the day after the lesson.


You will find your assignments here the day after the lesson.


You will find your assignments here the day after the lesson.


You will find your assignments here the day after the lesson.


You will find your assignments here the day after the lesson.