Portrait Session with Ryron Gracie

A key theme for me in portraiture is presence. I believe that presence is a core condition for excellence in any field, and the cultivation of presence opens the possibility for human development. It was a pleasure therefore to recently make the portrait of martial artist Ryron Gracie.

The difficulty with a term like 'presence' is that it's very hard to pin down. What is presence? How can we make a portrait that has presence?

There are three important lessons about presence I have taken from martial arts practice –

Presence is natural

Posture, particularly the spine, can greatly support presence

Presence can contain many seemingly contradictory qualities

This gives me guidance as a photographer both in photographic technique and in how I relate with the sitter.

Technically I wanted the lighting to be selective to draw the viewer's attention to what is essential – Ryron's hands, posture, and eyes. I didn't, however, want the lighting to be too dramatic, as creating balance across the portrait was key. 

For the background I chose a hand-painted canvas to give a feeling of depth, and again to keep attention on what was essential. This is also why we chose a dark t-shirt for Ryron to wear.

To include Ryron's hands in a natural way within the picture a small table was used. Making these technical decisions before the session allows me to focus my attention on meeting and being with my sitter on the day.

I consider myself very fortunate to work with people I can learn from and be inspired by. Being aware of the sitter's energy and responding to them is an excellent practice in both creating my best work and also being open to receiving what the sitter has to offer.

I hope you enjoy the portrait and more importantly can get a sense of the open and generous confidence demonstrated by someone exploring and teaching the depths of their art.  

To find out more about Gracie jiu-jitsu please visit http://gracieuniversity.com/