Blaise Hayward believes that we are at our most authentic when we have nothing to hide behind. From presenting an always-rosy life picture on social media to a reliance on props and distractions, Blaise felt the art of the portrait was on the verge of trying too hard. This trend inspired Blaise to embark on a personal project where less is more titled The Honest Portrait.
When Blaise held his first Honest Portrait session in a makeshift studio in his apartment, it was March 2017. In Blaise’s mind, it was the 1940s, he was channeling Irving Penn, and taking black and white portraits that were pure, and of course, honest.
Blaise set some rules to keep him tethered to his goal of achieving honest portraits. First, was inserting minimalism wherever he could. The shoots were to be intimate, with very few crew and stylists. He asks people to wear something that makes them feel confident, happy and says something about them. Further, in keeping with what Helmut Newton said, “there is only one sun,” each session uses one light only. A crucial element that appears in every shot is the backdrop that Blaise uses, “The backdrop is the supporting character in every picture. It helps to define each subject and takes on a life of its own.”
Blaise tells us this backdrop was instrumental in bringing The Honest Portrait to life. “The backdrop is manipulated by dodging, burning, and bleaching, much of what I have done when working in a darkroom.” While the Honest Portraits are done digitally with minor retouching, Blaise thought the backdrop was symbolizing the darkroom; the perfect juxtaposition of capturing real images against an engineered backdrop.
The Honest Portrait project is ongoing, and the minimalist aesthetic continues when choosing his subjects. Blaise has met people on the subway and the streets of New York where his approach is easygoing and informal. He studies people’s faces and looks for individuals who are genuine, comfortable in their skin, and not trying to be something they are not. In Blaise’s words, “if they can tell a story with their eyes and faces, I want them to be a part of the Honest Portrait.”
Blaise has photographed more than 60 people for The Honest Portrait; a fitting personification of the beliefs he holds in high regard: sincerity and truth. Follow Blaise on Instagram for more images that elicit truth and candor.