Modern portrait photography is as diverse as the number of professionals in the field, from the fantastical and ultra modern fashion photographs of Nick Knight to the stark and striking close-ups of Platon to the lavish movie-set production images of Annie Leibovitz. Creating a different kind of portrait look in this day can be a daunting task, but Dan Winters has managed to do that, and then some.
Dan Winters started his career in photography as a photojournalist, working first for a few newspapers and then for different magazines. He would later on make a conscious decision to focus more on portraiture as he felt there was more to be said in that field.
In a time when the style of commercially accepted photography was being dictated to the photographer, Winters sought to make his own style. His big break came in the early 1990s when he began to shoot in color for magazines when everyone else was still largely using black-and-white. His earlier attempts clearly were more of technical explorations, but as he mastered his touch, Winters developed a more personal approach with his subjects.
Winters has been hailed as a master of the lights, with his masterful use of strobes and shadows which somehow pay homage to the likes of the great Yousuf Karsh, while still being able to put a personal and instantly recognizable touch to his photographs.
The quality of his work tells a lot about the process; he goes about his work with a reverence for each assignment, treating them not just as photo shoots, but portrait sittings. This allows the subject to feel more at ease, knowing that Winters is there to guide them along the way. This also gives him to have more control over the quality of the lights and which areas of the subject and the background are highlighted or covered in darkness.
Some criticism to Winters' work are usually directed at the appearance of his subjects, especially that of celebrities who appear to be unemotional, stoic, or even confused. Winters explains that because there are hundred of pictures of celebrities out there today, he usually directs them to look away from the camera, allowing for a different angle. This gives viewers the impression that it's alright to look at the subjects directly without feeling overly analytical.
Newcomers to the world of photography will most often ask what kind of photographic setup and equipment Winters uses in his work. However, he is more interested in the "why" rather than the "how". According to him, "People aren't going to remember the things you do, they're going to remember how you made them feel." If his photographs are any indication of the kind of man that he is, then it's easy to say that future generations will be remembering his work for many years to come.
In finding a sense of authenticity to his photographs, Dan Winters has succeeded in creating a different kind of portrait style altogether. His website is here. These images plus many more can be found in his book Dan Winters: Periodical Photographs.