I feel like portrait-based photography has such a bad rep for being overly simplistic and basic, and it’s almost a necessity to do conceptual work with tons of crazy Photoshop edits.
Personally, I think that there’s SO much provided with just a person and the setting we’re shooting in (including the background,the lighting, the props/elements in the setting, etc.) that you can draw from all that and have so much to work with. People tend to go so overboard with editing things in and manipulating the raw image that they often become way too heavy with substance and there’s that overall sense of “too much”. More times than not, I feel like this absolutely -stifles- creativity beyond all else. People focus so much on the idea of the photo and the editing they do that they lose a lot of uniqueness shot-to-shot. SO many people, once going into a more “conceptual” style, lose all variety when it comes to angles especially, all shots seem to become straight-on pictures with the subject to the side and weird edits around them. Obviously it’s possible to excel at this kind of photography/editing combination and photographers like Rob Woodcox and especially Alex Stoddard for example just create phenomenal images doing this, but I don’t like the mentality that that is theonlytype of good photography.
Right now I definitely see myself in a place where I need to continue striving to better understand and utilize all the naturalistic elements that are right in front of my face (the subject, the lighting, the setting) before creating all these things that go into the photo. I have an immense amount of respect for photographers like Anna Szczekutowicz and Jordan Blanchard and (the non-conceptual work of) Karrah Kobus and all of their work that I love so much is, above all else, absolutely beautiful. They capture moments, environments, and people in a way that is so wonderfully stripped down and raw without being remotely simple or basic.
Now, I definitely plan to branch out into more conceptual shoots beyond more typical portraiture, no doubt about that, because the idea of telling a story or creating a character for an image is incredible exciting for me, but I don’t see the intrinsic relationship between conceptual photography and overt Photoshop manipulations. I really look to Rockie Nolan, arguably my favorite photographer at the moment, for this next step. She comes up with really creative and interesting concepts that are still understated and subtle enough to not completely overtake the picture. Her images are still about aesthetics first and foremost; she is taking breathtaking and stunning pictures with an undercurrent of story and substance while still being about the moment and the subject.