When Alicia came for a portrait photo session, she was in the transition of leaving Shanghai after many years living in the city. I met her in a restaurant, having dinner with a group of people, showing a certain strength in her expressions and behavior, which attracted me as a photographer. During the session preparation we agreed on trying to get portraits, which would show this state of strength and melancholy.

I always almost constantly talk to my clients during the shooting, while I am watching, what this would trigger in them. In my experience this is the best way to get the desired result and grab a glance of an authentc expression. But you need to be subtle. It does not work, just saying ‘please smile’ or ‘please look sad’. Clients typically are not actors, who can create a convincing expression by just being told to do so. The best way is trying to make them remember or think about a situation in which they would have had the same feelings, which you would like to show in the photo. With Alicia this worked well.

After seeing the results, she was very pleased and a bit surprised about me seeing aspects in her personality, which she was not aware of.

Compared to previous photo sessions, she told me, this was a totally different and rich experience.