Do all portraits need a head or is it okay to frame or crop a photo so that it is headless? Most times I’d say, “for the love of God include the head”. Normally we connect with the subject of a portrait primarily by looking at the subject’s eyes, which reveal much about the person being photographed.
But.…once you know the rules, you can try to break them to achieve a particular result. This image is a good example of a headless portrait that works IMO. If we try to analyze WHY it works, it works because the coupled elements tell a story. The Jake tattoo on the hand coupled with the suit, coupled with the Royal Monaco car actually tell a SPECIFIC story. These are all elements of the movie The Blues Brothers and both the photographer and I likely show our age by knowing this fact.
However, even if I did not catch the Blues Brothers connection, for me this shot still works. The elements are still there. The tattoo, older freckled skin, suit and older car all suggest a story. The fact that the shot is in black and white reinforce this fact. It’s up to the viewer to extract the story for themselves, but all the elements are there.
Okay then — do you agree? What do YOU think about this shot and the concept of a headless portrait?