Most everyone of a certain age has accumulated a set of sliding doors. If I’m not mistaken, every photograph you share is a door into another you.
Originally a wedding client, Jim has hired me a few times over the years. We’ve done family pictures when his kids were little, and there were business headshots, but my favorite session was a lifestyle shoot. He was on the edge of many new chapters in his life and happy. He was in tip-top shape and moving forward into a new relationship. His reasoning for having new portraits was sound. He wanted to catch some of the good years. I wish more people would consider it.
Every day, I hear people wishing they’d had really good pictures from certain times in their lives. We all know you can’t go back. Say you have a great five year stretch where life is just humming along and you feel really right in your world… maybe that’s a good reason to have a portrait done. It’s a keepsake for you, certainly, but it’s also a trophy for a future time… something to share with your kids in your somewhat older years… a truth.
Jim and I talked about what he wanted to do… with a little planning it turned into about a four hour stroll around Portland. We started at the rock gym in John’s Landing and, after a change of clothes, we walked the East Bank Esplanade for portraits… some for business and some for pleasure. The balance of the afternoon was wandering in the Pearl District settling briefly here and there where structure and light came together. All this in the name of serendipity and the luxury of time… this was not a rushed or over orchestrated shoot and that’s the best kind.
Gabrielle’s family photo sessions are always a treat. We’ve been working together for almost 2 years chronicling the growing family. For her ease, we have done all of them in her mother’s living room. They are neighbors enough that it is easier to get the whole tribe there on foot rather than packing all into carseats and such.
This latest session, I asked her if she was interested in me bringinga backdrop and my studio lights. She loved the idea.It took a little longer to get everything set up but it gave us a much different look. The studio lights I’m using now are a constant light source rather than flash and it seems to be a softer approach. I feel like it doesn’t wear on my subjects as much.
I had also asked her to keep the color palette of outfits mostly muted. With the dark background, I really just want to have the faces be the thing to catch you. Family photos really ought to be about the faces of your loved ones. Logo T-shirts and the glittery bits can distract from that.
We did several variations of kids and grownups, some silly and some traditional. Family sessions need to run at their own pace so I usually block out two hours when there are Littles involved because they need to have breaks occasionally. The middle Little in this crowd always takes a banana break. Sometimes twice. What I know for sure is that it doesn’t pay to set a time frame and force it too much. Every now and then, a meltdown is what you are going to get and you just have to roll with it.
When Gammy brought out the scarf, there was lots of draping, hiding and wrapping… the sisters had a fine time with it! The scarf came into the picture neatly folded and by the time it was rescued, there were new wrinkles and bits of fuzz on it.We’re lucky the snacks were in the other room.
Mother’s Day is coming up.Do you think she’d like something like this? ;0)
A friend of mine posted that he was considering changing his look. The post triggered a visual in my head and I messaged him to see if he’d sit for me before he cut off his ponytail. His gracious yes let me play in a way that is rarely an option. I asked him if he had a good overcoat, a nice suit, maybe a hat… he said he had the right coat, a tux but no hat. Then he asked about having a cigar as part of the conversation. My visual adjusted favorably and off we went. After some discussion about where, we settled on the Little White Shed at the Cornelius Roadhouse. I brought my black fedora hoping it would fit. He strolled up the walkway in that cold silver light and we made our way to the shed. I had called for permission and we were grateful that the bartender had the wood stove rolling already. We had a great hour of quiet collaboration.
Scott Sakamoto runs a blog called Puff Sumo for cigar aficionados. It’s a passion he has rekindled from years back and now he takes it to a much different level.
People as Landscape
On a related tangent, I just submitted his photo to a portrait competition. Then I added a few more of the personal portraits I like. The underlying link is that none of these was work for hire… all of them were done in play. A lot of the work I do for hire feels quite narrow in comparison. The clients tend to have a defined end product in mind and that tamps down the play.
After a session last week another friendsaid “I’m curious to see how you see me.” That speaks to the dance between a person and a photographer. Every one of us has a face we assume when the camera is present. It’s just theway it is. The work of the photographer is to cut through a little of that drama to a truer version… to keep it real with as much grace as possible.
I’m a people-watcher from way back. Faces will always fascinate me…
Mother’s Day is fast upon us… are you ready? It’s not like you have to do much beyond finding a nice card and taking your mom to a good brunch or a nice dinner. Even those things were kind of pushed by the card companies and it all turned into a holiday on everyone’s calendars. At it’s best, it’s a day to actively celebrate someone you love.
Over the years, I have been privileged to do several portraits of moms and kids and it always makes me think of how, years from now, those moms will look at the photographs and see time. The kids won’t appreciate that sense of time until they are much older and then they will understand how much history and time are intertwined.
Most of my childhood memories are of a working mom and a lot of the pictures reflect that. One of the very early photos, though, is one that catches my heart every time. Bath time on the kitchen floor… I love her wide open smile, her glee in this chore so evident!
On Mother’s Day, my mom liked getting homemade coupons for jelly donuts from a favorite bakery… back then, I was able to set up a deal with said bakery by prepaying…I was 12 or so. I don’t think gift cards were a thing yet. ;0)
Make pictures of the real parts of your life… you don’t always have to be perfectly dressed and posed, ok?
Let me know if I can help. ;0)
Every Spring, for the last few years, my friend Molly has tasked me with helping her create a photograph of the kids in her son’s class. We have always tried for a heart shaped grouping… sounds so simple, right? The first couple of years were hysterical because the kids were so little… we tried to line them up head to toe and I was to take a photo from above them. It was absolutely an exercise in herding cats.
The goal is an art piece for an auction to benefit the school and, each year, this class has gotten a little older and a little easier to direct. It seems the timing is always a challenge and we have had to dance around a lot of rainy weather. It wouldn’t be so bad but the kids like to dress up and invariably we get glittery dresses and muddy shoes added to winter jackets… the whole thing starts to look like it might blow out of control. ;0)
This last year, Molly and I had rescheduled for the umpteenth time and we finally got a dry but cold grey day with a brisk breeze. I met her at the school… she chalked out the heart shape on the edge of the playground and then hauled buckets and buckets of flower petals that she had collected up to the chalk line. We had the kids line up on the chalk and then tossed in this riot of color and textures… the breeze enough to keep it exciting. As they were fluffing the flower petals, I climbed the worn stairs to the second floor to a just emptied classroom. The windows were high and hinged outwards so I grabbed a stool and leaned out as far as I could, trying to clear the big concrete sill and the edge of the glass. Luckily, I was working with my Lumix so I could hold the camera out level and still use the tilt screen for framing and focus. All that planning paid off and the flowers scattered in the Spring breeze.
It’s true that Opera Boy and I save most of the bread heels. We freeze them and when the freezer gets too full, we have a perfect excuse to go to the beach. He gets a kick out of chumming for sea gulls. To his credit, he tries to do this away from the crowds. ;0)
If the beach of choice is Lincoln City, his first order of business is to buy taffy (alledgedly for the guys at work) and then we feed the gulls… enjoying the drama. After that we head to one of the places where we can fly our kites. Sometimes we get skunked… there are calm days at the coast more often than I knew before I had the kite habit.
When it’s calm, we walk. Watching the crazy-happy dogs and the slow progression of people weaving over the sand and sitting on the driftwood makes me happy. There are rock cairns and sand castles, feathers and shells and sea grasses. And sometimes, there are palm trees underfoot, right? Life is better with beaches in it.
Take some time to catch the moments. The littles in your life will change faster than you can imagine and the history of your family will depend on how often you train a camera and a mindful eye on your day to day life. Yes, there is always another load of laundry to do and I’m sure the dog needs a bath but that will be ongoing… your children will be differently little every day. There are some dear friends on Facebook who are on it. They post charming snippets of their kids and will no doubt have photographs to share with them later in their lives. Get your pictures off of your devices and put them in a safe place… you don’t get a Do-Over. That is incredibly important.
If you can, you should hire a pro every now and then to cover your family in a way that you can’t. I love it when my phone rings for a family session. It could be a walkabout in the Pearl District with an ice cream cone or it could be an hour or two spent hanging out at your home… the goal is to put real people in front of my camera and catch what happens. Let me sit on the floor and get to know the kids well enough that they are just themselves when the camera is out… the less direction from me or from you, the better.
I was lucky to have parents who took lots of pictures. The photographs from my childhood were rarely posed. Instead, I can look back through them and remember the houses we lived in, the cats and dog who were part of our tribe and even some pictures of my parents when they were young and beautiful, before time wore into them. That was a gift to me. ;0)
If you’d like to see more pictures of people, young and old, this will take you to my Studio portfolio. Let’s make some history! ;0)
2016 has been a strange year… you may have already come to that conclusion and skipped ahead. I’ve had a chance to sit and reflect on the last few months and I’m still shaking my head.
In August, a group that I have blogged with since 2009 decided we would relax our policy of one post per week per member… we took it down to one post per month. Apparently it was a discipline I needed to maintain my own blog.
The wedding season that usually rules my summer was nicely spaced until I got to September… that’s where it started to ball up. Partly due to the workload but there was also a Tuesday towards the end of the month where I was the one getting married. Even though Opera Boy and I kept it small and very casual, it still required an inordinate amount of work and stalwart friends to pull it off. We had a fine time and I got a new look at what weddings entail. ;0)
The beginning of October brought a honeymoon… a visit to a town where I used to live. The French Quarter of New Orleans is a special kind of place in my head and a lot of it was still there. The thing that had changed the most was me. The week was spent walking all over the Quarter with a couple of cameras at hand trying to catch a few glimpses of the old magic. The French Quarter I was looking for can be glimpsed in my personal portfolio. It was the early ’70’s and I was a part of the place instead of being a visitor. Opera Boy gets the credit for knowing how much it meant to visit again.
Home again to all of the catching up… between that and the looming political storm, I barely got my head up. November and December were all that and more. As sabbaticals go, I wouldn’t call it restorative.
And now we are in 2017 for better or for worse.
Keep the faith, people.
Preservation Jazz Hall is a place where history has piled up and I think photography is a kind of a pile of history, too. Everyone has their own version of a place so each history may seem a little different but if you put them all in the pile, it blends into itself and comes down to us of a piece.
Someday soon, Opera Boy and I are going to travel to New Orleans for a visit. It’s been 40 some-odd years since I lived in the French Quarter but parts of it rush up behind my eyes with such clarity that it is hard to ignore. When he decided that it was our next destination, I got the scanner out and pulled some of my favorite images of the Quarter from the early ’70’s.
This one was from a hot October night at Preservation Hall… it was crammed with steamy people and nobody cared because the music was so fine!
Of course there will be a camera in my hand when we go… hoping against hope that it hasn’t become it’s own little theme park… hoping to catch a glimpse of my younger self on the avenue or looking out a window. Someday can’t come soon enough. ;0)
I added this and a handful of others to my website… now that I have a Personal Work section, even I get to visit them more often. Maybe I’ll see you there? ;0)
As the Winter Solstice nears, there is a long and mournful sound that drifts across the river on December weekends. I usually stop what I’m doing to go stand on my front porch to listen… there is no sound like it!
Steam trains were an occasional treat in Virginia when I was growing up. My dad used to go looking for them whenever he heard they were going to be rolling through the valley.
Here in Portland, we have a great group of people who run the Oregon Rail Heritage Center and during the holidays, they run two trains from Oak’s Park to OMSI and back on the weekends… about a 45 minute ride.
I was all set to go yesterday with my camera but the skies turned a dull grey and the rain began to sneak in around the time I wanted to go. Meh.
Instead, I dug these out from December of 2006… I still have a couple more chances ahead and there is a different vantage point I want to try. ;0)
If you decide to go, get your tickets ahead, grab your kids or friends and be sure to bundle up… it will be cold but I think you will have a great trip!
I may try a ride next time but I love watching this slice of another time from the outside… trying to imagine it almost a hundred years ago.
If I have my facts straight, this is the Empire Builder and it is from 1929.