I’m not a portrait photographer, and in general I don’t like putting people in my images in any capacity. To me, when you put a person in a photograph, you instantly make the photograph about that person. If it’s a portrait, then obviously the photograph is about the person whose portrait has been taken. But even if it’s not a portrait – say, news photography, street photography, or even just a person in a landscape (as sometimes is done to create a sense of scale) – the photograph, to me, still is about that person and his or her relationship to whatever else is going on in the photograph. By leaving people out of my photographs, I think the photographs are free to be more purely about what my subjects are, typically landscapes, abstracts, or architecture.
Nevertheless, the human condition, as expressed through the human figure, is a fascinating subject in its own right. The obvious way to explore this subject would be to photograph, well, people. But again, to me photographing actual people as a way of exploring the human condition runs into the problem I’ve described above. The photographs are less about the human condition generally, and more about those specific people in the photograph.
What to do? Personally, I’ve come to enjoy photographing representations of the human figure that are (of course) not actually people. Using inanimate objects of human likenesses, such as statues, allows the photographs to become figure studies of the human form, without creating the distraction that comes with photographing actual people. It’s been a wonderful way to explore the expressiveness of figure studies, while maintaining a level of abstraction that you just don’t have when you put a real person into the image.