Devesh Komaromi shows his portraits and talks about his way of finding ‘the presence.’
Could you say something about photographing people and what is special about it?
Because the process is an evolving one, and even though it seems like a particular way of working, it is very much ‘a work in progress’ and very much dependent on who is in front of the camera as well as who is behind it during a session. Curiously these days, and more and more, the portraits themselves seem to be a record: a by-product of the process of my sessions with people. In the sessions, the ‘main event’ is our connection, the space between us, and the energy that joins us. Then using the technology becomes the means to see what that looks like, almost in real time.
I call this work “Portraits of Presence” as that is what I am looking for when working with my subjects: the actual presence (however that might be) behind the facades, masks and especially the self judgements most of us carry most of the time. Photography is a means and a technique to look more closely at this somewhat abstract thing that is hard to describe, but is very tangible in the process.
Bringing it all back down to earth a little bit, virtually everyone that comes to me for a session says something like: “I don’t like seeing myself in pictures.” I know this experience myself – that feeling of the camera… and it was that experience that got me interested in this exploration. Aside from the “I hate my nose” or “my ears are too big” and the thousand variations I’ve heard on that self-image theme, there seems to be some sort of underlying discomfort most of us have with seeing ourselves as we are, as well as how we imagine others see us.
Technically the work isn’t very complicated. I am an experienced professional photographer and delight in using the simplest means to create beautiful images. Whenever possible I use natural window light in a quiet room. The backgrounds are invariably plain and I ask my subjects to wear simple clothes that they love, and without makeup.
What started out as a means to put my subjects at ease has become a big part of what makes this process work: with the advent of digital cameras I could show them how the pictures looked as we were shooting. I noticed how many appreciated this, and relaxed when they saw themselves through my eyes…
The next step was the computer, which became the magic mirror. During a session we go back and forth between camera and computer and the things that come up during the shooting are immediately clear to see. It is a kind of instant biofeedback that together with my observations and comments slowly get the subject to start seeing themselves differently than they usually had. As I see it, they start to see themselves more clearly, as they really are.
Invariably there is a moment it ‘clicks’ for the subject, when their focus shifts, and they become less concerned with the surface of their skin and more interested in Who is showing up behind the eyes. This is a magic moment when the fun begins. The process is invariably one for me as well, as I need to be as present and available as I am asking my subjects to be, otherwise there is no one to connect to! I also need to stay in tune with the other, feel them, see them, so that I can clearly share my vision with them.
When I started this work I had thought it only appropriate for people who were already looking at themselves, through groups, therapy, meditation, and the like. What I discovered was that it is delightfully similar for almost everyone I have worked with, experienced or not, young or old, satisfied with their lives or living with challenges… who is willing to sit in front of my camera with open eyes.
It’s not always an easy process, but can be a very touching one. Moving through the layers of self judgement and self image, past the pictures we hold of ourselves, in front of ourselves, beyond the fantasies we have of how we think others see us, we can come to place of recognition of something more real, we can come to a less distorted vision of ourselves. We can start to see ourselves more clearly and that is what my work is about, for my subjects, and for myself.
Devesh Komaromi came to Pune in the seventies and many of us might remember him as the man behind the video camera taking some of Osho’s first videos during discourse. He worked as an independent commercial photographer in Montreal for 20 years and is a graduate of the Photographic Arts program of Ryerson University in Toronto. He now works and lives in Essen and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can see more about his work at his website: www.devkom.eu