Jay Marroquin’s ENCOUNTERS Deliver an Almost Citizen Kane Look to Portraiture

All images by Jay Marroquin. Used with permission.

Photographer Jay Marroquin is a fashion photographer with offices and representation in a number of cities. His latest project is called ENCOUNTERS and gives off an appeal that is bound to resonate with a lot of photographers. Jay tells us that the project celebrates beauty in just someone being who they are. He specifically shot it in analog black and white, and the lighting looks a lot like it was from scenes in Citizen Kane.

Jay talked to us a little bit about the project.

Phoblographer: Tell is about the inspiration for the portraits. They’re unlike a lot of what traditional portrait photographers do.

Jay: Working in the fashion industry as a photographer, I’ve seen many different sides of the industry. Mainly the definition of beauty, as defined by people sitting in some boardroom. To me, sometimes these definitions are skewed and don’t really define what makes a person beautiful.

I’ve always said “If I ask to photograph you, it’s because I think you’re beautiful just the way you are. I actually like you with your wrinkles, blemishes and imperfections”.

The current climate with society and social media puts so many pressures on people to alter their image to meet something that’s simply not real. Why are there a ton of retouching apps available now? Why is being you not enough, why can’t you be beautiful just the way you are? When I take a portrait of someone for my “Encounters” project, I want to celebrate who they actually are. To love themselves with all their imperfections. I hope that every person I’ve photograph can come to love themselves just a bit more for who they are.

Phoblographer: Why render in black and white?

Jay: Black and white has always been a favorite medium. There are times when I wish the photo had been in color (ex. a radiant red head). But not only black and white, analog black and white. Composition has a bit more of an importance in black and white photos to me. The tonal quality of black and white is also something great.

Phoblographer: What inspired you to shoot them this way?

Jay: I want the photo to be intimate and simple with little distractions. To have a sense of intimacy with all the details of the face you would only get when near someone close to you.

Phoblographer: The emotions on these people are sort of all over the place but they all in some ways seem uncomfortable. Was this a stylistic choice on your part?

Jay: I think that’s a big part of it. The way the photo is captured is very uncomfortable. The actual camera and lens are only a few inches from the face. It brings a bit of intimacy that I don’t think the subject was quite expecting. Some great direction goes a long way however in making them feel comfortable and dropping their guard.

Phoblographer: How did you do the lighting exactly?

Jay: The lighting is a bit of a old school technique. With this particular project, I push all my film. It gives it a bit more grain and more character. To achieve the effect I’m going for, I use a hand held LED light as the main high key light. I’m able to manipulate the outcome of the actual face by deciding where and how I want to shadows to interact with the camera. One face can give you multiple different looks depending on how you light it and where you choose to have your shadows. It also has the ability to make the image a bit surreal blending out the background and giving the illusion that the face is simply floating in space.

Phoblographer: How do you feel this project helped you grow as an artist?

Jay: I’ve never had a problem approaching a total stranger. But I feel projects like this can help those that might find it difficult to approach people. I feel this project has helped me grow more as a person, not necessarily an artist. To find beauty in people of all shapes, colors, sizes & beliefs. To appreciate those around who are different and embrace diversity.