A photograph is worth a hell of a lot more than a thousand words…

Non Traditional Family Portrait

A couple months before I moved back to Northern Michigan (during my last semester of college) I began making regular trips up north. It was during these trips that I decided that “I missed it up here,” and began looking for a place to make a nest. I had been beckoned back up by a former high school classmate that wanted me to come up and shoot a set of family portraits. Word spread and soon I was making a trip north every other week and was dragging my entire studio set up from home to home creating portraits for friends, and then it spread to the friends of friends, then to strangers.

This photograph was created during that first trip last October. This brood is the Cleven Family. Kenda & Brian did not want traditional family portraits. I thought about it a bit and remembered an assignment given my photography professor (Ryan Flathau).

In class had previously discussed Henri Bresson’s idea of the Decisive Moment, that exact moment where everything within the camera’s frame was perfect. It was a fleeting moment that, if not captured in that instant, was gone forever.  Being a studio photographer (and an infinite control freak) Bresson’s notion garnered little interest with me. But, I’ve learned that even in the studio, there are those moments that slip away and cannot be recreated, especially with children. The assignment Flathau gave to his students was called the Indecisive Moment, or a greater collection of several decisive moments.

As soon as the idea popped into my head, the refinements and changes flowed like a river and I had every shot planned well prior to my arrival. The set up was pretty simple. I placed the camera on a tripod, set up my lights as desired and took an overall photograph of the empty room. Then I proceeded to take another sixty three photographs of that room with the occupants doing various things. The idea was to combine the best images to tell a story and show the passage of time with a single frame. Brian & Kenda appear only once in the image, but each of their two children appear five times each for a total of ten children doing nothing that they are supposed to be doing.

The photograph is still an untitled piece, but I still enjoy it. Kenda has a print of this image that gets paraded about whenever someone new comes around that has not seen it. That is really all a photographer can ask for.

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