I do commission work. I get an awful lot of requests to do work from photos. Photos of a friend, photos of a parent or child, etc. I always respectfully decline but extend the offer to do the drawing/painting in person, from a live sitting. The subject comes up often so I thought I would put it out there, why don't I work from a photograph?
I don't think there's anything wrong with working from a photograph. If you're a powerful artist and you're able to get the maximum result from a photograph, then more power to you. If your work is powerful and your expression is exact, what's the problem? There isn't one. For me, however, I find that I do the best work with the subject right in front of me.
A purpose of the artist is to talk about living; talk about life. My inspiration to work comes from living. It comes from the people and places around me. As such, my work has the most power when the people or places are right there in front of me. When I am experiencing them. It's no easy thing to try and put a slice of somebody's personality onto a sheet of paper with a stick of charcoal. It's even harder if the person is not right there in front of you.
Ultimately, my work is a reflection of my life and my experience. In order for me to have the best experience, the best emotional response, I have to experience the person or place I am attempting to talk about. The resulting piece is a combination of my emotional response and the truth, essence, beauty, and simplicity of the person or place I am experiencing. Each work is neither entirely my ideas and opinons, or just a strict rendering of what is in front of me (as a camera taking a snapshot).
I see a lot of value in working this way and striving for this result. I feel that if people are going to pay me to create something for them, I owe it to them to do the best work I can possibly do. The best work I can possibly do is when I am experiencing the subject in person and putting a little of myself, a lot of them, and as much truth, beauty, and simplicity as possible into the work.
As an independent artist, I set my own standards. I demand excellence out of myself and am working on disciplining myself to take it even further at all times. This is why I am willing to hike to the top of Little Si with all of my painting gear (2 miles one way) to do a painting on top of the tiny mountain. I can't get as powerful of a result without the experience.
With that in mind, I am always open to commisisons. Just put the person or place in front of me and I'll work you up something powerful. :)
"In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high." -Henry David Thoreau in "Walden".