I think that in my journey of photography - where I started from, and where I am now, and where I want to end up - I do a lot of reflecting on what my style is. What do I want my photographs to say? What sets me and my vision set apart from the next guy who has a nice camera? I think about back in high school in the dark room watching like magic as an image appeared beneath a thin layer of chemicals. I can remember fondly the way it smelled, the temperature of the room, and the element of hope and suspense wondering whether or not this photograph was going to be a jewel. And I remember the feeling of connection that I had to my work. The way I see something in a completely different manner than the next person. The way that you could capture the light on an old wooden swing, and it could portray a feeling.
Most of you who have met me know that I'm not great with words. I'm okay in settings like this, where I can edit and think and go back and forth making sure that I say it just right. And sometimes I don't even get it right in writing. But actually saying things aloud I often find myself bumbling around and not really expressing what I exactly mean. And, as ultimately and incredibly cheesy as it sounds, when I started taking photos, it was something that gave me the ability to say something exactly the way I meant it to come out.
At that point, I was photographing mostly just things. Lots of trees. I liked trees a lot. I actually still do. Lots of country things-- barbed wire, old tires. I would drive around until I didn't know where I was and discover things that were interesting to me. And then this picture changed things for me:
This is the one that made me fall in love with taking photos of people. I had gone on vacation with my parents to New Mexico, and we were on some tours of reservations, and this lady was just watching people as they walked by. And I asked her if I could take her photo. And she held up three fingers and said "three dollars." And it was worth it. Because it was the first time that I discovered the magic of photographing people. How it can all tell a story. And I started taking wedding photos. And portraits. Anything I could do.
And then I graduated for High School, everything went to digital, and I didn't pick up a camera again for at least 4 years.
Until I went to visit my grandma right before Ryan and I got married. And I sat down with her for hours looking through all of her old family photos, which of course I loved. And I loved to see her talk about them, the fond memories they brought up. What was going on in that time of their lives. It showed me the connection that photographs can give people.
This is her and her mother-- aren't they the cutest!:
And when I look at these photos, I see a lot of my style in them. The old lady tells a story. The wrinkles on her face, and the clothing that she wears all clue into the type of life she has lead. The glamour and sweetness of one of my grandmas. The genuineness (and babies in hats!) of the pic of my dad. The sunflare and movement in the photo of me. All of those qualities are things that, when I can capture, I adore. The feeling, the meaning--it makes what I do worthwhile.
I think that sometimes I have to step back and remember that, for me anyway, it's not about finding the coolest location or posing people so they look like they're picture perfect magazine shots. I think all those things are fun, of course, but someday when my clients sit down with their grandchildren, I don't want my photos to be ones that they skip over because they were the standard photos that the guy at the local photo shot could take. I want them to pick them up and remember the joy of that time in their life.
Where did that all come from?? Well, because I was editing tonight and just couldn't pass up putting this photo in with their proofs:
That photo by all standards is a mess. I cut off big brothers head, little sister is running off, the little man on the left just discovered a natural treasure. It probably could even be a little sharper. But even though we got plenty of shots where everyone is smiling and looking the same direction, I LOVE this photo the most out of all of them. Because it shows the movement, and the curiosity, the happiness and the excitement that is going on with these guys. It talks about how big brother watches out for his little sister, and little sis has learned how to walk and you can't keep her from wiggle-running all around town. And how the twins just think everything around them is a playground. And that's life for them right now. And it's wonderful.