What inspires me? The human face inspires me.
Wherever I am, on the street, in the mall, I look at people and think about how I’d photograph them. What are their best features? How would I light and pose them to bring out those features artistically? I look for the expressions that seem to exemplify that person, and think about how I’d bring that out in the portrait. It’s never boring. Every human face is an artistic challenge and pleasure. I love photographing people.
My primary interest has always been people. I don’t have much interest in landscapes or still life. But people hold my attention.
I actually started early painting portraits, only dabbling with a camera at first. Then I began using photography as a foundation for my painting. I discovered, though, that I preferred photography as a superior form of portraiture.
You see, a painted portrait may be totally from the imagination of the painter. You’ve seen paintings of characters the artist has never seen, such as angels. A painting may be totally imaginary. But when you look at a photographic portrait, even though it may be heavily retouched, you still have the feeling that you’re looking at a living, breathing human being, a real person–not the imagination of the artist.
When talking about my work with my clients, they will usually hear me speaking of their “portraits” rather than “pictures.”
I take my artistic inspiration from the great portrait artists of the past, and like them I’m always working toward that singularly ideal portrait that captures the best of the individual. When I’m working with a client, I will “sketch” with my camera the way a painter sketches small images. I’m studying dozens of variations, seeking the best expression from the eyes, the best position of the hands, the best curve of the lips.
After the camera work is done, I will spend even more time–days– perfecting the image until the portrait I see before me is the portrait I saw in my mind. Then I will show only the very best.
I’m never looking for the latest trendy thing, because trends become dated and stale. I look for what will be beautiful and desirable ten years, or twenty, or one hundred years from now.
Kirk Darling has been making portraits since early childhood in the 1960s–his first was a portrait of his best friend taken with a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, a camera he still owns.
By high school in the early 70s, he was lead photographer for the school yearbook and newspaper, freelancing for a local city newspaper, and photographing weddings, as well as teaching photography at the nearby Army post.
Earnest prayer, however, did not point Kirk to that as his calling at that time. It did, however, convince him that his profession must not simply earn an income, but must also fulfill a mission.
Following a century-old family tradition, Kirk entered the military and enjoyed a successful career in Air Force intelligence specializing in photographic reconnaissance. During those years, he continued in freelance photography both in the United States and over thirteen years in the Pacific and Far East. During this time, observing families on the other side of the globe, he learned to appreciate the value of tradition and family.
It was not until after his military career, after finally settling his family down in central Illinois, that Kirk got confirmation: This is the place. Now is the time. His mission: Recording family relationships for the benefit of future generations.