If you’re going to switch focus in your career, the Louvre might be the world’s best eureka spot. Walking around the iconic art museum in Paris, photographer Audrey Goforth recalls, “I noticed that so many of the paintings were portraits. Most of them are portraits of royalty, because they’re the only ones who got their portraits done back then. When I came back home, I started doing these vintagy photo portraits. I print them on stretched canvas and frame them in big, old-fashioned frames to suit each image.”
Goforth has worked in her genre for 25 years, and she’s especially well known for her wedding and magazine work. But recently, she combined her camera skills with her penchant for painting to create what she calls “formal fantasy” portraits.
She also began building a collection of period clothing and props to include in the photos. “I love costume drama,” says Goforth. “Sometimes I build props. I set the stage. I use symbolism and beautiful lighting on the face. I might put a dog in there, or a cross, or a rosary. I put halos on some people. I did a portrait of my stepdaughter with a book and an apple, and made it look candlelit. The compositions are very painterly-like.”
In antique portraits, hands were always a focus. “I try to make hands look graceful and beautiful,” she says.
Many of the wardrobe items Goforth uses come from costume shops or community theaters, and she also works with clothing designers. She maintains a large archive of digital images of indoor and outdoor backgrounds, too, for every season of the year. “I take photos of those when I travel,” she says, “and I also keep a mental inventory of locations.”
She utilizes Photoshop and different degrees of digital photographic painting effects. But she says she gets the intimate, elegant look she wants primarily from lighting and composition.
“I get the stuff all figured out ahead of time. So when people come and sit for a portrait, it only takes 15 or 20 minutes. I don’t mess around there; I’m always pretty fast. They put their costume on and I take between 20 and 50 pictures. It’s really easy for them, which is nice. They love it.”
Goforth’s stepson wanted to be photographed as Jon Snow from Game of Thrones. Her husband, who usually never wants his picture taken, even had an idea for his own costumed portrait.
“I think everyone has an idea of their fantasy look,” says Goforth. My husband’s a doctor, and wants a wizard’s hat and a robe and a staff with a snake on it. I guess it would be good to use a toy rubber snake for that.”
But she also recently made a portrait appointment with a lady who has a petting zoo, complete with potential live props including a peacock, a duck with curly feathers, and a white raccoon. The fantasy element tends to strip away inhibitions. Goforth wants to do a portrait inspired by Lady Godiva, the English countess known to ride naked on horseback.
So she posted her idea on a Facebook equestrian page, and reports: “I got responses from so many people.”
Audrey Goforth, Asheville. For more information, call 828-215-4304, e-mail email@example.com, or see audreygoforthphotography.com. Find her on Facebook at Audrey Goforth Photography and on Instagram at @audreygoforthphotography