Good Portraits & Your Legacy

Good Portraits & Your Legacy

Legacy; does your portrait make the statement you want to be remembered by?

I learned a lesson; that good portraits are still important, so important that they may be your legacy.

Something happened this past week that reassured me that the need for “good” classical portraiture still exists and is appreciated. Unfortunately it all began with a death notice in the paper. My wife asked me if I had photographed Mr. Lambert, the principal of Southwood Secondary School. I admitted I thought I had and inquired why. She said “he died suddenly.”

Mr. Lambert
A Legacy Portrait hanging in the gallery of Southwood School Principals

Later that morning I checked my files confirming I had photographed him a few months earlier. Retrieving the image I optimized it for the internet and posted it with a short comment on my Facebook fan page.

Now you have to understand that when I post an image on my fan page the response will depend on a couple of things:

  • The nature of the image (subject matter)
  • Who it is of
  • Why I’m posting it
  • The popularity of the people in the portrait.

For me a good response is a reach of 1000 people and a dozen likes and a few comments. Occasionally I’ve posts with hits that reach several thousand people and have a number of shares.

Mr. Lambert was a currently serving principal over a large student body. Although I know the younger generation is more social media active than I am, what happened over the next few days surprised me and taught me a lesson.

It grew. It got shared. It got likes. Why?

Well first, because Mr. Lambert was a very popular teacher and principal. Second, a lot of people knew him. But what really made the difference was the fact that it was a portrait of Mr. Lambert. It wasn’t at a particular event or at a particular time, thus making it timeless. Everybody had their own memories and stories of their time with Mr. Lambert and the portrait simply reminded everyone of “their” time with Mr. Lambert.

It taught me about the power of a simple portrait. When we look at pictures from a time in our life or an event we attended or participated in the photograph is going to bring back memories of that occasion or time. When the image is of the person it opens the floodgates to a variety of memories from various times. There were comments on the post of people that remembered him at the door saying “good morning” as they arrived at school to past students revisiting the school and the pleasure they received because he remembered their name. There was no limit on the memories that a simple image could bring back.


Over 7,400 people reached, 176 likes, and 39 shares, because it was a portrait of the man, and not an event or occasion.

I am just thankful that I had the opportunity to create this portrait. So often I get the call to do a principal’s portrait because they are retiring, or taking a post at a different school. It would have been a shame if we didn’t have this portrait to add to the gallery of previous principals in the the schools history.

Does this mean that all portraits should be done in a studio or on a plain background? Of course not. After-all, a portrait is an image of a person and the more character and personality you can bring into the image the better it is going to be.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to photograph Carmen Moggach, a violist with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra.  Carmen is from Canada and was home visiting family. For one of the images we ventured into the bottom of the Elora Gorge and I had Carmen sit on a chair, on a rock, in the middle of the stream. As I was finalizing the set-up she was playing her viola. The music resonated off the walls of the gorge, drowned out the song of the rushing water, and was absolutely heavenly to hear. Music is Carmen, but only a part of her – a large part – but she also has a love of the outdoors and nature. To me this image represents who Carmen is.

Carmen Moggach
Her music resonated from the walls of the gorge.

Portraits are important. They make a statement of the person you are. However, every piece of art has a proper size which cannot be achieved on your phone or tablet. Digital images change, depending on the devise they are viewed on, which is why each of my portraits is hand printed by me to insure the proper colour, density, and brillance. Art belongs on your wall not on your phone. Portrait art is your legacy. What does yours say about you?  Do we need to talk? Start the conversation by clicking here


331_Aug-22-2014-1-1With intense talent and deep passion, John Mitchell has spent a career mastering the art and science of photography creating portraits of true beauty and lasting value. John’s artistry has been recognized by the Professional Photographers of Canada, stunningly earning both the Craftsman and Master of Photographic Arts awards, plus two master bars.
Whatever moment, relationship, or passion you want to capture, a portrait by John Mitchell Photography is the surest to ensure you’ll own a classic. As a specialist in general portraiture, family portraiture, candid wedding photography, and legal photography, John’s work has been hailed as that of a master craftsman.
Don’t settle for less than your best image. Let John Mitchell create a treasured icon of style and beauty you’ll be proud to own and pass down to future generations.


This Post Has One Comment

  1. John,

    Great post and so true.


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