The term “portrait en creux,” meaning “hollow portrait” in French, is a term used to describe an image that conveys essential insights about a specific person, just as a portrait would be expected to but without showing the person at all. In this style of photography, the “portrayal,” or the communication of significance about the subject is most often accomplished by either finding or creating a still life arrangement and photographing it with sensitivity to light and shadow, camera vantage point, depth of field control, and composition resulting from purposeful arrangement of design elements.
The subject represents a fusion of past and present/future. Years ago I was in the military and served overseas in combat. The memories of those experiences were very once vivid and strong but now have begun to fade with time, almost seeming to have happened in some dream long ago. My new life often feels like a regrowth after a period of stagnation, finding joy in life after experiencing that period of anger and grief. I chose an object from the old “me”, my helmet (which protects the head, where memories and emotions lie). Armor is stiff, rigid, and unyielding– protective, but also constraining. It represents being rooted in one worldview. The helmet is now discarded, upturned and acting like a bowl that is holding bright red roses. The roses represent life, passion, and emotion, but also roses are also used to represent death and are laid at memorials. The past is moving on, half-forgotten like a dream while the new blossoms and flourishes. Armor exchanged for a green, growing garden.
The second photo is my “runner up”. The theme is identical to the first photo, however instead of the helmet, I chose a pair of old boots. These were actually my basic training boots, and show wear from humping miles of hills on roadmarches around Ft. Knox. In this case the metaphor relies on boots carrying us toward a destination. Here the boots are both symbolic of moving forward, while the memorial and dead flowers adorning them indicate that their purpose is finished. It means that I may be moving forward, but not for the same purpose as I was when these boots carried me.