Earlier in 2017, I took a turn with my photography. Since leaving school, I had seen myself as a documentary photographer which such talents were primarily used to shoot events. And I love shooting events–nothing is more fun to me than being able to people watch during something like Film On The Rocks and capture the emotion of the crowd and the performers. But that's easy for me. I needed to venture into unfamiliar and somewhat frightening areas in order to grow. I decided to shoot portraits.
Shooting portraits for me was frightening because I didn't do well with it when in school. I failed the portraiture class twice before finding a way to muddle through it. So I had never developed a love for shooting or working directly with people. But I do love a well done portrait. It’s honestly what drew me into going to school for photography. Work from Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Mary Ellen Matthews stirred that feeling in me that makes me love photography. When I saw a documentary short on photography, I realized I could do portraits any way I wanted and the way I wanted is more of an editorial approach. The shooting, turns out, was actually the easy part. It was the connecting to people that was the hard part. I had to face the fact that I was and still am, very introverted; and being one on one with another person is hard to do.
But no matter, I am determined. I just had to teach myself to start a conversation–from nothing–easy, right? I started with my friends with the objective to start a conversation with them, from nothing. They provided me with a practice space and a great portfolio to start with. What I was shooting, quickly got closer and closer to what I saw in my head. I began to feel more confident in my abilities to both shoot a good portrait and carry on a conversation to help the person feel more comfortable in front of the camera. Because let’s face it, no matter how friendly you are with your photographer, you get awkward when a lens is pointed at you. You’re in the spotlight and so many people don’t like having all the focus on them.
I hit a few bumps along the way. Some wanted to edit my work thinking they could do better, some tried to take advantage of my generosity (not a friend, don’t worry), and some just flat out didn’t like what I produced. And I will admit, at the beginning of this journey, that affected me. But, will I let all that hinder me, or will I allow myself to learn from it? I took some time off to really think about that and how I wanted to approach those problems. I would never have let such things deter me, but I had to figure out how I was going to handle situations like these.
So, I have a style of portraiture that I’m happy with. My background in documentary shows in these portraits. They are editorial photographs of people. What exactly do I do with that? It’s not like editorial portraits are in demand. You don’t see editorial portraits of all your friends in your news feed. What exactly do I do with this? I am not and never will be the type of photographer that shoots your traditional family portrait. It takes a certain type of personality for that, and as friendly as I am, that’s just not me. I know people who do this well and I can’t, nor do I want to compete with them. It’s not the work I want to do anyway. This is where the next evolution of my photohgraphy begins.
Fifty-Two Weeks is a way of challenging myself to grow. Yes, I’ve given it a name. Naming something makes it official, right? I love getting to know the people I work with. I know so many people who lead incredibly interesting lives and do amazing things. So, why not combine that editorial portrait with a column about them? Explain to the world why these people are as awesome as they are. But not just a few lines about this awesome thing they did last week. I’ve teamed up with Greth Patterson to write a thousand words about what makes this person interesting and I’ve given myself a year to refine this whole approach.
First up is myself. Not that I’m an incredibly interesting person, by any means. And I’m not here to sound my own horn about how awesome I am. But, I needed a new profile picture and a place to begin. I’m just kidding. I feel that a project should always start with yourself and your reasons for taking such a journey.
Through this process, I hope I can learn to really hone my skills with my camera and maybe even learn to write a bit better. And hopefully along the way, we can meet some really cool people doing the things they’re most passionate about.