As a wedding and portrait photographer, I strive to create images that tell the story of your life with beauty and grace, respect and imagination. Foregoing forced smiles and stiff poses, I embrace natural smiles and expressions in order to create images that have a unique freshness and vitality and a heartfelt and emotional authenticity.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

The Art of Simplicity

I was so delighted to catch up with this family last week. We lived across the street from them the first year we were married, and we couldn't have asked for better neighbors. The door of our moving truck was barely cracked before they were over to introduce themselves and welcome us to the neighborhood. I just adore these girls: one of them sweet and serious, the other hysterically funny. A love note from them lives on my desk.

I'm helping their mom design a wall collection, and so I unearthed their photographs from the archives. It was so interesting to take an unexpected walk back through my photographic journey.

From the beginning, I was raised on film. My first camera (a Christmas gift when I was 7) was a Kodak disc camera. Remember those? Remarkably tiny negatives and terrible prints. I loved it. Later, when I was 14, I learned to shoot manually with a Pentax K1000. It was like learning how to drive in an old Ford truck with 5 on the floor. For years I practiced. Film was expensive, and every shot was carefully studied. After a lot of practice (and a lot of underexposed photographs), I learned to read the light. I eventually left the light meter in my bag because, through all of my practice, mistakes and successes, I learned the fine characteristics of my film and how it would perform in the light. I loaded my camera with Ilford or T-Max or Portra, and I knew that certain days required an aperture of f/4 at 1/60th of a second. On other days, it was f/8 at 1/125th. I grew to adore my medium-format Mamiya. Next, I challenged myself to learn how to print in a darkroom; I spent many quiet hours in the dark, listening to Dave Matthews, pushing light through negatives onto fiber-based paper. I still love the smell of developer and the rolling, rhythmic hum of the print washer.

And then ... [dramatic pause] ... I was introduced to Photoshop. And my photographic identity was turned upside-down. I became enamored with all the creative possibilities. I added heavy vignettes, soft-focus effects, and sometimes, I even added glow. ::puts her face in her hands at this painful memory:: I thought, this is what I've been missing! How remarkable! Now I am an artist.

And, thank heavens, all of that is out of my system. So, back to the beginning of my story. I pulled all the photographs of these sweet girls from a dusty CD and remembered that they were all taken with my medium-format Mamiya. And that I had ruined them with Photoshop. Special effects and diffuse glow obscured the raison d'etre of the photographs: the girls' beautiful smiles, their shared sisterhood. So I did what I needed to do ... start completely over. Each of their photographs has been re-mastered to bring it back to simplicity. And in the midst of all their photographs of tutus and tea parties and swirly lollipops, this one, above, is my favorite. They're wearing their play clothes, sitting in front of their childhood home, bathed by a little bit of sun flare. Simple. Beautiful. And honest.

Photoshop is still a very important player in my arsenal of tricks, but now I use it mostly to enhance the natural qualities of a photograph, just as I would do in a darkroom. No fake bokeh, no pretend sunset glow. No glow! In fact, I'm happy to say that Miya is coming out of retirement, along with my vintage Polaroid SX-70, my panoramic Widelux, and several Holga cameras.

It's been a wonderful journey, but it's good to be home.

1 comment:

  1. Amen! I've been enjoying film recently and am looking for a contax 645 (they are hard to find). Film is amazing for the reason that it looks perfect right out of the camera. Expensive but easier.