Been thinking also about what it is about Pierre Gonnord's style that appeals to me so much, and also that of Hendrik Kerstens, whose work is similar. I have concluded it is the silence within them. The classic painting style, simple black background, no gimmics, no overt emotional expression on the face, all focus is simply on the eyes and on the face in a state of repose. I was imagining what it must have been like to sit for an oil painter for hours, if not days on end. There is a settling into oneself that must occur, a presence, a settled gaze. This is exactly what appears to me when I look at the work of these photographers. Clearly they also use classical posing styles, the position of the body and face to camera is carefully considered. I will need to work with subjects in a slow and relaxed manner I think, as with most portraiture it is a record of the relationship between camera and sitter in that moment as much as anything else.
I am not intending to simply attempt to replicate what he has done, but this is a jumping off point that feels right and I am curious to see how it all unfolds.