Richard Beaven: 

All Of Us

Photographs by Richard Beaven, Foreword by Kira Pollack

Photography at its most precious captures a moment in time. For Richard Beaven, the 200th anniversary of the town of Ghent was a compelling reason to apply his photographic art in order to create an archive of the town through its people, in the year of its bicentennial. Richard, his wife, Mimi, and their two daughters have been connected to Ghent since 2005.

Eight years ago, when they established a farm and farm store, they became an integral part of the community that he has recorded. Sometimes the most important photographic projects are the ones that are in your own backyard.

In the spirit of some of the great photographic documentarians, Richard approached the project using a medium-format camera, which lends itself to a more studied and controlled environmental portrait. A Beaven portrait is very much a combination of the individual person within the context of his or her surroundings. The landscape, the light, and the season are all critical details that reveal richness of location and give the subjects a firm sense of place.

The camera pulls back at different lengths, but the subject remains central in the frame, most often seen from head to toe. Rather than approaching the project with digital technology, Richard chose to use film. That choice lent itself to a more focused session between photographer and subject, and the film captured a precision that lends itself to master prints that act as a true catalog for the project.

Richard’s eye is thoughtful and measured. He focuses his gaze on a dignity and soulfulness that translates in each portrait. I am intrigued by the genuine, naturalistic feeling of the pictures. There is a sensory quality that Richard succeeds in communicating: I can hear the quiet solitude in some pictures; I can feel the crispness of the seasons in others.

By capturing his subjects with natural light, he yields truer and more intimate portraits. I am taken by the hope of the young and the wiseness of the old, and all those in between.

Richard estimates that he traveled nearly all of the 149 miles that comprise Ghent for this project. Although he photographed some in the community he was already acquainted with, the project grew, thanks to a combination of word of mouth and his own reporting. Until he photographed them, he had never met eighty percent of the people that ultimately inform this collection of portraits—a collection that now resides in the Ghent Town Hall archives.

Never before have we so needed to be reminded of community; of that which unites us, not divides us. This series of portraits, representing nearly five percent of the population of Ghent, is a powerful reminder of community and of a town that brings its people together.

Richard Beaven

Richard Beaven is a freelance editorial and documentary photographer living and working in The Hudson Valley of New York. Eight years ago, following a career in advertising, studying people and their behaviour, Richard quit for photography and has been working professionally and for personal projects since. His portrait work has recently featured in The National Portrait Gallery Portrait Prize (UK), National Press Photographers Association/Best of Photojournalism and American Photography 33.

Kira Pollack

Kira Pollack is creative director of Vanity Fair magazine. She is the former director of photography and visual enterprise at Time magazine and deputy photo editor at the New York Times Magazine.