My friends daughter 'Fluff' has had big hair as long as I have known her. Ive always thought it would be fun to shoot a portrait of her, framed by her own hair, and this project gave me the perfect reason to.
Creating something is one of the most rewarding experiences a human can have. There is something magical about experiencing what you have envisioned come to life in the physical form. Digital photography is probably the quickest pay off in the creative process. Technology has largely automated the technical aspect, and software allows us to easily correct a lot of mistakes. Unlike a painting that may take months to complete, or a song that may take countless hours and other people to help write and record properly, the amount of time it takes between picking up a camera to getting a few dozen likes online is pretty minimal. That statement isn't at all intended to take away from the many years and thousands of hours that many masters of photography have spent refining their craft. I’m also not here to argue wether photography industry has been financially weakened because of this, but rather, has our potential creative joy been robbed because of it?
The more time and energy we invest into something, the more satisfaction we will experience from it, with that satisfaction being specifically derived from the creative act itself, regardless of someone else liking it or not. If the value of what we are creating is ultimately defined by the immediate response of others, we are robbing ourselves of a truly fulfilling and lasting creative experience. The question we should ask ourselves when picking up a camera isn't "what can I get from it," but, "what can I give to it.” What would it look like if we shot our own way, searching out what our own voice and contribution to photography could be, rather than following Instagram and Pinterest recipes? How do we interpret and perceive the world around us, and then project that back out through the camera. How are we viewing the camera as our blank canvas to carefully and purposely create our masterpiece with, rather than a paint by number guide to having a popular Facebook page? When our view as creatives shift to “what can I give,” how we approach the creative process changes drastically, and in turn, our creative fulfillment becomes greater through the process.
Last summer I had the honor to help direct the new tourism TV spot for the City of Peoria. My friend TJ is a creative director and writer, and was approached by the City Of Peoria to create a tourism piece for the city. We worked together to come up with concept, script and locations, and after approval from the City, we shot the piece below, along with several other videos focusing on new business and residential growth in Peoria. It was an insane schedule that spanned 8 solid shooting days (plus 2 auxiliary days for landscapes, or city events that happened outside of the shoot schedule), nearly 30 locations, a crew of 8, plus talent, and 2 emergency room trips. Super thankful to the City of Peoria for Green-ligting this project, and to everyone who worked on the shoot. Looking forward to the next one!
Mike has become such a good friend and mentor to me over the past couple of years, so I knew I needed to photograph him for this project. I don't think I know anyone who can simultaneously work so hard while also leading an awesome family the way that he does. If man cards were a real thing, your face would probably be on them Mike.
"I can't be serious very well."
"Thats ok, this is just about showing off who you are."
"What should I do?"
"Why don't you look over at your husband..."
Kacy Lehman, for week number 3 of my 52 Portraits project.
I think one of the hardest parts of being a photographer is having to connect with complete strangers in very short amounts of time. Sure, some people are easier to talk with than others, but it can definitely be challenge to gain the trust and attention of someone while also guiding them towards what I am trying to accomplish with a photo. When I shoot someones portrait, I like to get them as involved in the creative (and sometimes technical) process as they are interested in. It helps them feel like they are partnering with me towards achieving a goal, rather than just being directed towards an end result they may envision differently than I. When the subject feels like they are part of the process, they often bring ideas up that I may not have thought of that make the image that much better. Collaboration is almost always better than a single persons vision, so why not include the person you're photographing?
I wouldn't at all claim to be a street photographer, but that said, I don't shy away from asking to take a portrait of someone I find interesting. Its a great way to keep exercising my communication skills on the fly in random situations, while trying to develop a story and get a good photo. I grabbed this one while on the 5th Ave bus in NYC a couple years ago, and its one of my favorites. Ask people to be a part of your creative process, see what you learn, and how your work improve because of it.
For my second portrait of this series, I thought my friend Lizzy would be great a subject. She had never been photographed in a studio situation before, so it was fun to direct her and work together to get an image we both really liked. We shot for about 15 minutes, and ended up with the image below that I really loved. Thanks Lizzy!
A few years ago I did a photo 365 project, and was really amazed at how much I grew through the project, as well as how much fun I had. I love shooting portraits, but most of my work and personal projects have always been location assignments where I am lighting people in natural backgrounds. As much fun as those are, I want to push myself to shoot more portraits in the studio on a background. Its a different way and challenge to capturing someone and tell a story. For the rest of the year I'll be shooting a black and white portrait of someone every week, and sharing on my blog and instagram. I couldn't think of a better person to start off with than my good friend Austin, who is actually moving out west this weekend. Can't wait to see the collection of images as a whole one year from now, or who I will meet and photograph through it.
Thanks, and have a good weekend!
What a year its been in so many ways. Ive traveled more than imagined, and really got to work on some fun assignments. I hit the ground in a near dead sprint last January, and felt like it never slowed down until about 2 weeks ago as I wrapped up a couple of final projects. Last spring, I was finally able to shoot a personal project in Wyoming that I had been dreaming of for years. Along with a some friends, I helped write and direct a few video projects including both a city tourism spot, and a piece for a Fortune 50 company. Working on the video assignments were a blast, and I actually ended up writing my first short film I'll be releasing soon. Thought the year I shot an ongoing campaign for a huge AG company that involved everything from lifestyle shots of farm life to some landscapes and still life pieces, and was able to wrap up the year shooting a dream assignment for Zion Coffee down in Central America. All that mixed with some random editorial assignments and everything else that goes on in life barely left me with time to sleep. I have a feeling 2016 is going to be a blast, and I am really excited for this next year. Thanks to Sarah Claxton for all the help and encouragement along the way, to Jordan Lehman for your wisdom and laughter, and finally to my wife - for believing in me when I fail to do so.