Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography Pt. 2


In the Netflix documentary, The B-SIDE: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography, Dorfman describes her photography style being influenced by “Allen Ginsberg’s poetry in the acceptance of detail and everydayness.” She explains that, “What you’re wearing is okay, and who you are is okay, and you don’t have to be cosmeticized.”

That really resonated with me.

Some people are rarely satisfied with pictures taken of them. Their friends’ enthusiasm to take a casual portrait would end with a feeling that their photographic skills never seem enough. Eventually, I realized that when it comes to seeing portraits of others, we tend to have a larger window of what we accept as a good picture. However, when it comes to viewing portraits of ourselves, that window of acceptance—what we believe we should look like—suddenly shrinks. Isn’t that frustrating for both ourselves and our friends who just wants to take a picture of us?

I used to do this a lot.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t have personal standards, but we should remain open to possibilities of our appearance at any given time. This is what makes Dorfman’s work charming. We have the opportunity to peruse her 20x24 Polaroid print of Ginsberg’s everydayness. He was a bearded gentleman with a receding hairline, shiny nose, and a genuine grin. Knowing that he wrote a controversial poem makes his ordinary appearance even more intriguing.

There’s a wonderful freedom that comes with being yourself, whether posed or candid, while letting the photographer capture you as they see fit. The resulting images can be rewarding, and it really makes me want to be in front of the camera more often. Here’s a picture of me not being overly critical of myself, viewing art at the Menil Collection while being photographed by the talented artist and my friend, Allyson.

Until next time,