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

Editorial/Conceptual

An Accident.

This photograph is from about 2 1/2 years ago. I held the process for this photograph close to the vest for a long time, but I did share it eventually.

I dicovered this effect quite by accident. I was taking an alternative process class, and I had a stack of work prints that I was experimenting with in the darkroom. I was getting ready to begin work on the final project for the class. All of my film had been developed and I was ready to get started on the prints.

I had a several baths of various chemical laying about and was running prints through different processes splashing here and splashing there and just seing what does what when mixed with this and that. This print as originally created was woefully under developed. The negative was fine, but I printed it the developer had been exhausted and came out a flat gray. The darkest tone in the print looked like an 18% gray card.

Normally I would have tossed it in the trash, mixed up fresh developer and started again, but I kept it because I am a packrat. I dropped the print into a copper toner bath. I left it there for about 20 minutes but it just wouldn’t get dark enough to look like anything worthwhile. It was friggin pink. It looked like a pepto-bismol/easter egg nightmare. I figured it was a loss, so I pulled it out and was going to toss it in the trash. But before I did, I decided to drop it in a bath of exhausted lith developer just for shits and grins and to see what it would do. The image disappeared almost immediately. I chuckedled to myself and said, “so thats what it does.”

I walked away and moved on to something else, forgetting about the print (well, blank sheet of paper) in the lith developer. about 15 minutes later I walked by the lith bath again and noticed that the image was slowly returning. Lith printing is slow and infectious anyway, so I should have put two and two together.

I dropped what I was working on and tended to the now reemerging image. 40 minutes later, this was the result. Because I left the print to sit unattended, the paper floated in the lith bath and redeveloped unevenly and created a pleasing effect.

These tones are beautiful. I love these little accidents and am quite happy that I fell backward into it. This is still one of my favorite prints. It also helps that Beth is a knock out.

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A couple more wedding shots…

I spent three days straight getting the proofs ready. My eyes nearly went crossed from staring at my monitor for such a long time. Here are a couple more images from the Dobias/Myhren wedding. I tend to have a pretty dim view on marriage, but I wish these kids the best of luck, they really are the nicest people you could meet.


2nd best

I really have been trying my level best to post something new every day since I “rediscovered” my photoblog, but this last weekend really was a whirlwind (yes, I know it is now Tuesday – it was THAT busy). I photographed a wedding on Sunday for the nicest people you could know and Mr Murphy followed them (and me) at every turn. The poor bride lost her shoes and delayed the wedding by nearly 50 minutes, the sky threatened rain all day but luckily did not deliver…just managed to provide a banal sky for her outdoor wedding and photographs.

This photograph I call “2nd best” because the original idea was to have the groom and his groomsmen standing to the side whilst the 5ish year old ring bearer (an adorable tow-headed boy) took the breaking shot at the table. Unfortunately the bartender won douchebag-of-the-day for not allowing the boy to be in the photographs. Yes, I know, the room was a bar, but it was not a bar open to the general public, nor was there a single soul in the place and the whole thing would have taken less time to shoot than it did to argue with me about it.

The bride & groom like this shot and are happy with it, I just know that it would have been a cut above if I was able to shoot what I had envisioned.


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.


Male Portrait

With the bulk of my clientele being women, families, or children, I rarely have an opportunity to photograph male subjects. I photograph men, but it is usually a couple or family photograph. I’ve noted with my new born shots, I like to put the baby in the arms of the father. Don’t know why, I just do. Yesterday, John & his girlfriend came to the studio at the behest of John’s mom. She commissioned a set of family portraits of all of her children and their families. During the set I was able to talk John into this solo pose. He was reluctant, but humored me. I’m glad he did because his mom loves the shot
…go me.

As always, click on the image for a larger version…


Kristen

I had the distinct pleasure of photographing Kristen about a month(ish) ago. I say pleasure because it really is an absolute joy to photograph someone who really enjoys being photographed. As a portrait photographer it is not uncommon to have a family come in at the insistence of one party (usually mom) or another and have the rest of the family come along begrudgingly. It doesn’t automatically mean that the photographs will be piss poor, but it does present its own set of challenges.

There was nothing begrudging about my set with Kristen. She was excited and happy to do it, and that is nearly a guarantee of non piss poor photographs. She is a photographer herself, and I am sure that lent itself to the success of the shoot at least in some measure. Her charming personality and striking good looks were also considerable factors..

She told me she isn’t fond of her profile, but personally, I love it. She has strong features and emotive expressions. The photos I have of her in profile are among my favorites of the set.

I love the multiple ear piercings. In general, I like piercings on women, so long as it doesn’t look as though they fell face first into a tackle box.
I also love the colors in her necklace and they way it draws attention to her neckline.

I have no Earthly idea what this tattoo is supposed to be…kinda looks like the side view of a butterfly, but I like the lines of it, and, at least for me, adds to her sex appeal. It is a bold and courageous location for a woman to be ink’d.


I’m not a sellout, dammit.

No photograph with this post, just me running my soup cooler. I was thinking about my post a few days ago when I was lamenting not being able to photograph my own vision, and the more I think about it, the more I think that simply isn’t true. My vision goes into every photograph I create. It doesn’t matter is someone else asked me to create the photograph for them. People come to me to create their photographs because of my vision.

I remember my college professor once saying that professional photographers, those who create photographs as a means of putting food on the table have to be willing to compromise from time to time and be willing to “sell their soul just a little.” I suppose there is some truth in that, but as in everything, black and white are not critical absolutes in life. A certainty in one situation is not a guarantee of a direct translation or application to another situation no matter how similar.

My studio has been open for six months now, and if I honestly believed I was a sell out, I would close shop, get a job at a gas station and take pictures on the weekends for free. But, I just spent the last four hours sorting through the photographs that I have taken since I opened up in January (because my website is in dire need of an update), and I am finding myself having a good measure of trouble picking which photographs to include in the update.

Between January 4th and June 6th, I have taken over thirteen thousand photographs with my digital camera alone.  Granted, not all of them are winners, and about half of them are culled from the herd before I even show them to the client. But, after my sort this afternoon, I still have close to 300 of what I would call “winners,” photographs that I am happy to show to anyone. Perhaps 100 or more of them I would cheerfully enter into an exhibition…5 of them I already have plans to do exactly that.

So, I may very well be a portrait photographer for hire, squeezing friends and strangers for their hard earned dollars, but I am still quite satisfied that I am just as much an artist as when I was in college. My vision is in every photograph I create because it takes my vision to create it. My subject matter may have changed between then and now, but I still treat every subject with the same eye.

I still like photographing women sans clothes, but weddings, children, and puppies present the same opportunities for the exploration of light, line, and beauty.