May 4, 2010

May I Feel, Said He



(Let’s go, said he
and not too far said she
what’s too far, said he
where you are, said she)

May I move, said he
is it love, said she)
if you’re willing, said he
(but you’re killing, said she

-Excerpts, E.E. Cummings, May I Feel, Said He

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.

Next week, we will be in faraway adventures, and unfortunately, the jungle does not allow for insight. For all those faithful readers, we will be returning, fully suntanned and saturated, on Monday, May 17.







  1. [...] – an excerpt from Rodney Smith’s “May I Feel, Said He”. [...]

    Pingback by David Wright Photography | Blog » Blog Archive » May I Feel, Said He — May 4, 2010 @ 9:56 am

  2. It is a shame that you don’t update more often. Well, as long as you keep updating, I’m fine with that.

    What, as a photographer, do you think is the biggest challenge?

    Comment by Hedda Himberg — May 4, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

  3. Thank you so much for putting the feelings that arise when working on portraits into such clear and beautiful language!!!

    Comment by christian — May 4, 2010 @ 3:38 pm

  4. Beautiful, thank you.

    Comment by Adam Shand — May 4, 2010 @ 4:02 pm

  5. [...] — Rodney Smith [...]

    Pingback by Quote: Rodney Smith « Eric Setiawan Journal — May 4, 2010 @ 9:53 pm

  6. thank you for this, rodney. this is something that i keep having to tell myself, especially recently. letting my own walls down during a shoot. it’s hard when i’m not so confident of myself because it’s almost like i’m afraid of what *they’ll* see. i must keep this in mind though, i totally agree with you. thank you for the reminder too. :)

    Comment by susan yee — May 4, 2010 @ 10:22 pm

  7. This is a much deeper reflection on the art of photography than a discussion of the Zone System. More please.

    Comment by Mark Harmel — May 9, 2010 @ 7:01 am

  8. I’m finding myself doing some white seamless images lately a la Avedon…just want to strip it all down to the essence of the person. Face to face with nothing in between…intimacy, which you wrote about. I miss it.

    The women in your images do look rather smitten…the expressions you elicit are always great. They obviously feel safe with you, one of the best things ever for a portrait model.

    Safe travels~
    My best,
    Lara Blair

    Comment by Lara Blair — May 9, 2010 @ 10:31 pm

  9. what portraits! TY for Your easy, so hard. it’s more than faces, less than reality, more than truth.
    on being away..what to do, what to do? make photos, make photos.

    Comment by jason gold — May 10, 2010 @ 2:59 am

  10. Rodney -
    your work deserves a feel, especially since you said “may” -
    Geoffrey B. told me about your work.

    Comment by pve — May 11, 2010 @ 2:47 pm

  11. having withdrawal….hope you are having a great adventure but please write soon :)

    Comment by Jocelzn — May 12, 2010 @ 10:56 am

  12. so much insight in this article. no wonder my girlfriend doesnt want me to photograph women.

    Comment by Rudy — May 16, 2010 @ 10:38 pm

  13. I treasure your blog so much. I wish all of the photographers I knew and loved took your words as seriously as I. I fell in-love with a photographer awhile ago, and we have since drifted apart… I dearly wish I could dedicate this entry of yours to him.

    Thank you for always sharing your heart and soul with your photographs. You are a huge inspiration to me.

    Comment by Erica — May 18, 2010 @ 7:32 pm

  14. [...] read. Jake Chessum has a new blog – no words, just a picture every day. I love his work. “May I Feel, Said He” is a wonderful little post at Rodney Smith’s great photography blog, The End Starts [...]

    Pingback by Four Photographers on the Trek to the Top | LIGHTING ESSENTIALS For Photographers — June 25, 2010 @ 9:07 am

  15. First time here. But I will return for more of your beautiful words and photography.

    Comment by Alessandra Cave — June 30, 2010 @ 11:33 am

  16. I’ve noticed that the most insightful photographs OF women tend to be BY women, and your post may have put a finger on the reason why. Less emotional baggage, less need to BS the self.

    Comment by Ranger 9 — January 2, 2011 @ 6:49 pm

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