“Trust me” has become a phrase with negative implications, often two words used to coerce or convince someone into doing something they may not be inclined to do. Yet those are unspoken words in many human interactions. There are unspoken trusts with people we barely know, like the person who cuts your hair. You are trusting a stranger (in many cases) not to screw up your appearance, something that’s very deeply tied to our sense of self and self worth.
In good photography there is a similar trust. I have photographed people who hadn’t met me before our session, or who knew me but hadn’t seen my work, or who had seen my work but thought that there was no way they would look as good.
“I like your work; I don’t like how I look,” to paraphrase a friend of mine.
People ask me if I’m going to go pro. My answer is always a firm “No.” I have a job. This is a talent I have, a creative outlet, a way to satisfy the insatiable need to MAKE something. It has been far more gratifying than writing novels, but to do the kind of work I mainly do I need partners. I need co-creators.
I need people to trust me.
I need them to trust that I won’t laugh at them for looking goofy for a moment if they try a pose that doesn’t work. I need them to trust me not to make them feel less than they are. I need them to trust that I won’t put out images that they don’t find flattering or empowering. And I need them to trust me with their vulnerabilities, be it their physical nudity or their (clothed) emotional nakedness.
The photo below was made during a maternity setting where my creative partner agreed to bare all. Before we finished I asked if we could make this photo for a contest with the theme “Trust.” The contest had called for at least 5 pieces and I had only the one, so I’m sharing it here.
I am grateful to everyone who has trusted me with their time and themselves. I have been blessed to have made many beautiful pictures in the last 5 years, but having had (and I hope earned) the trust of the people I’ve worked with is far more beautiful than any photo they’ve helped me make.
I was going through my photos from Italy (2018) for my family album, and I came across this little gem. It’s a very blue field broken up by the bright red ship. I just liked it so here it is : P
Most of us can’t go anywhere right now, but some of my work continues to travel digitally. This piece will seem familiar to many of you and it’s off to Vancouver this time.
There was a contest for still life work, and I wasn’t going to bother as I dislike photography inanimate objects for the most part, but then I walked into the room and saw the light coming in and figured I’d carpe that diem. Threw this together in 5 minutes.
Then I saw that the contest wanted minimum 5 photos, so I didn’t bother.
Which means YOU get to see them now : P
In 2015 I had the great fortune to be able to take a photography workshop in Montalivet, France with an American photographer: Jock Sturges.
It changed my life.
Prior to the workshop I’d make landscapes when I’d travel, but I had little knowledge or training in photography, despite having taken high school and college classes when film and darkrooms were still a thing (or should I say THE thing, since digital work was still in its infancy). He told me I was a competent landscape photographer and now I needed to add the figure. At the end of the too short week he told me that he’d never seen a photographer progress as quickly in such a short period of time.
When I came home I couldn’t just sit on that and do nothing, so I started photographing anyone who’d say yes (or say “No, but I have children.”) It has given me a creative and social outlet I can share quickly and easily (novels took too long and only like 3 people have read them) and a sense of self and confidence I’d never had before. I am forever grateful.
I have all his books, but today I selected “Fanny,” a collection of his work from 1990 to 2012 that follows his goddaughter from about age 4. For me the book not only shows the quality of his work, but also summarizes some of his philosophy and approach. The book shows the slow progression of Fanny maturing, but also the ongoing relationship; the best photos come from people that you like and who like you; it’s a relationship, not a job. He has photographed many families over the years and you can feel the connection he has with these people.
Fanny now has a child of her own and the cycle continues.
I’d had this idea for a couple of years but for various reasons could’t pursue it, but recently I asked Becky if she’d be up for it and she totally was.
It’s always a challenge to take an idea from the mind that isn’t crystal clear, more of a concept, and then put it in the real world. The setting is busier than I’d envisioned I think; just a plain room with the two people and the easel, but I think this worked nicely. The touches of color were a last minute addition given the situation and the happenstance of having the red pieces.
It’s silly but we had great fun making it.
It’s no secret that we’re all having a rough time in 2020. For the most part I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve been able to keep working at my real job, though with fewer hours which has been most welcome. But sometimes the isolation gets to me, not so much because of being alone (one is never alone with furry beasts) but because it’s left my mind free to think about the personal events of the last two years. There were some wonderful accomplishments, but also probably the worst moments of my life (so far, hopefully ever). Most days I feel good and fine and all that, but some days the pain of those wounds returns and I’m forced to accept that I haven’t healed from the losses.
Today was one of those days. The two savings graces are:
1 – my faith (I need not say more for the benefit of you who don’t believe; I remember how obnoxious it can sound)
2 – a visual in the mind’s eye
Item 2 is the relevant one here; I felt like a dark hand was gripping my heart and my throat. As an artist I have a choice; I can sit and wallow, or I can make the image and in doing so push it away and hold back the despair.
I’ve talked about how I dislike doing self-portraits, partly because I can’t make them as good as when I can be behind the camera (vs the timer), but also because I find them self-indulgent and narcissistic. But I share them to encourage my fellow artists to embrace “art-therapy” and for all of you who are hurting from moments past or present so you know you’re not alone.
In that spirit I’ve made a “now” and a “future.” The future one has a heart made in the Kintsugi style from Japan. Gold is used to repair broken pottery. It makes for unique piece but also reminds us that our scars are part of us and we continue to be both beautiful and useful. I hope that those of you who are broken hearted will keep the image of the heart in picture two in your mind.
I’m starting to go through my collection to find choices, and this week I decided on The World Atlas of Street Photography. The fun part about collections is that you can get a sampler of a lot of artists and if one catches your fancy you can always Google them and/or buy a collection (if they have one).
Street photography is a form I find attractive, but I’m also wary of it. On the one hand it shares many of the traits I find attractive in my portraiture work: it has the four bare minimums (the subject, the camera, the light, and me), it’s real life, and if you catch that fleeting moment you’ve immortalized something visually or even emotionally meaningful, one of those singular tears that would be lost in the rain but for the fateful click of a shutter.
On the other hand it can violate one of the key principles to which I subscribe: I believe in MAKING photos, not TAKING them. I want to use my talent for the building up of the individual, for making them see their own strength and beauty and value in their image. I want them to give to me freely only what they are willing to share, and the hope is that over time they trust me more and share more that WE may show it to the world.
Street photography is the antithesis of this: I’m out with a camera stealing moments. I know the argument that public domain is a free-for-all; you know if you go out and make a fool of yourself the world is going to see it. It’s quite different to spill your latte on yourself on the street vs doing it in your house. Admittedly, the vast majority of good street photos are simply moments that most of the participants wouldn’t find particularly embarrassing, but I wrestle with the principle of it the few times I’ve done it.
Below I’m attaching a handful of street photos from Japan; not because they are good, but as an admission that I’ve done it.
Received confirmation of two more digital appearances courtesy of GuruShots. I keep playing in hopes of receiving another print appearance at some point, but it’s still a change for someone to lay eyes on it in another country : )
I don’t often do cosplay, but it’s fun when I get the chance. Sunday we did a gender-bend Joker with model Lizzie Dame with makeup by Becky Jo Gambino. Love working with these ladies. These were the ones I edited that night with maybe more to come.
Fans, see if you can spot the two that were inspired by famous Joker images.