Three hits from last night at the Giant Dual Slalom from Crankworx. Despite the serious glass fest that is Crankworx (lots of photographers) it’s a pretty good crowd, at least among the professionals. Everyone is pretty respectful of each other’s sight lines and is happy to share a few words between the moments of frenzied movement when a rider appears on course or sets up a trick. I’m new to this world, though I have shot road cycling, and some mountain biking, I am the slightly aging, soft around the middle rookie but I am pretty excited to be on the mountain and I’m pretty happy with the work that I’ve been coming home with at the end of each day. It actually feels a lot like the summer I interned; it’s been getting easier each day to get out of bed in the morning in anticipation of the day ahead. Today is Cheese Rolling and Slope Style. I have to draw up a wedding contract, make coffee and get back to the village before all the free spots in lots 4 & 5 are taken. Cheers!
When I left the house early Friday morning to mark the route of a charity bike ride stretching from Crescent Beach in White Rock to Chiliwack, BC about 100km east of where it began I wasn’t thinking much about making photos. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve left the house with my camera with it never seeing the light of day, but I always remind myself that there is a lot to miss in this world and you never know what or who you are going to run into.
I can’t tell you much about the community of Yarrow expect that it sits in the shadow of the Cascade Mountain Range, has about two dozen businesses on the main street through town, offers a great sandwich at the Yarrow Deli and has been home to Hank and his barber shop since the 1940’s. Hank had a seat in the sun in front of his shop when we pulled into town and the sun seemed to light up his white, starched barber jacket. He was impossible to miss and after our lunch break at the town park, I wandered across the street to introduce myself and ask if I could make his portrait.
“I’m Hank the Barber, guess how long I’ve been here.”
We only had about five minutes with him, and I shot shot a few frames, but this was one of those times where I was grateful to have had my camera in my bag. I love this colour frame of Hank, but as much as it captures a certain light in his eyes, it is a reminder to me that some portraits are more than the face they capture. What’s making me crazy, days later, is how I overlooked including more of his shop in the frame given his shop is such a large component of who he is and his place in his community. Next time I will do better.
So far this personal work, The Portrait Project, has already proved to be a learning experience. While I am still working on the parameters that will guide this work over the next few years, or it’s duration, I am trying new ways of presenting work both here and on my Facebook page. Years ago while I was an intern at a daily paper in Washington state, an item in the entertainment section popped out at me, it was a quote from actor Edward Norton in which he suggested that as a photographer I can do what I do in my room, but as an actor he required an audience. In no way am I comparing myself to Norton but in truth I haven’t thought as highly of him since. Photographers make images to be seen and shared and spoke about, debated and critiqued beyond measure and praised beyond reason. Photographers seek to share the world. We have forgotten that before the internet the way we imagined the world was informed by photographers and writers traveling and reporting back what they saw and experienced. What if Mark Twain had never left his room, or Steve McCurry had never left his? Could McCurry’s elegant Afghan Girl have been shot in a studio? Would the image and story be as iconic had it not been seen on the cover of National Geographic or through the thousands of times it’s been reprinted or the story retold since it was shot in 1984?
I am not McCurry, Norton or Twain, but these ideas inform my approach to sharing the work that I do. I have been giving some pretty serious thought to keeping everything but “snap shots” from Facebook but in the last few weeks, after posting images from shoots with subjects self conscious about their image, the feedback has been fantastic. As a portrait subject it feels great to hear from your friends and family how great you look, or how much you are missed. So this is the learning process and I will keep posting work to Facebook to share my experiences and I will work to find a template to continue posting here. Photography is meant to be seen and if you can bear with me, I will show you as much as I can. My shoot with Christopher started over coffee pretty early for a Sunday morning in Whistler in the shoulder season. It turns out, surprise or not, early mornings are something that photographers and event managers have in common. Do you like the way I have presented these three images? If so, let me know.
It has been a busy week. Last weekend I spent Saturday afternoon with Sam and Alex followed by an early morning in Stanely Park shooting a running event and the week fell away from me from that point on; I know it was a little over a week ago that these images were made, but it feels like a month. A week later I am coming off another busy weekend having shot and edited images of a press conference for The University of British Columbia Midwifery Program with my photos turning up on UBC & BC Government websites and a cycling event in Coquitlam which raised nearly $100,000 for the local Hospital Foundation. These past two weekends were book ends to a week filled with much thought and conversation about photography, personal projects and reasonable rates to charge new clients. This personal work, these pictures of Sam & Alex and the others before them, is a way for me to investigate and explore the relationship between subject and photographer and how I want to approach portraiture in the future. It is a definitely a process to learn when to direct and when to observe and I have always been stronger at observation than direction. It was great to see my friends warm to having a camera present, from an initial unease, to something more relaxed and comfortable.
I am on the lookout for subjects in the Vancouver area, let me know if you’d like to be part of my personal project.
In looking at Portraiture, I want the image to read like a movie trailer, or the descriptive blurb on the back of a novel. My best ambition for any portrait I make is the suggestion of a story, something to make the viewer believe that there is something going on beyond the colour, composition or technical exercise of making a photograph; it is the reveal that there is more to the subject than just what the eye sees. I have shot dozens and dozens portraits for newspaper clients, and more often than not, those images were illustrations of written stories. I have been approaching these images with greater deliberation. Locarno Beach may be a cliche place to take a picture, but when asked for a place that had meaning for her, it was Jennifer’s first thought. I believe the places that have meaning for us are an important part of our story and their inclusion in the process contributes to the reveal.
If you are in Vancouver, or in the area, I’d love to hear your story and make your portrait.