What is your idea of perfect happiness? For most of my career, my answer to this question is to bring out someone's TRUE essence. This makes a picture a portrait and portraits have emotions, they tell a story.
I don't just click to take a picture. I take a path that not many photographers take and on this journey I witness many beautiful things take place.
The joy that greets me is vulnerability and truth (this happens when a subject starts to share with me a part of their story). In these moments my mind is moving through the technical and artistic skill and takes a delicate dance with empathy. I have been blessed with stories.
These stories started to take shape for me years ago. I started my career back in the 90's. I was asked by a young man in his mid-twenties for a headshot session. As we talked and planned his session (this is key for me) he was sharing how in a few weeks he will get to meet his daughter for the first time. The story unfolded that his wife, at 6 months pregnant, took off and it took him 2 years to find her and a year in the court system fighting for custody. He won full custody and was getting things ready to be the father he always wanted to be. I took a bold move and asked that we schedule his session on the day he meets her for the first time.
I know some would think the emotional ride would be intense and not the time to do headshots. I, however, see the multitudes of things taking shape and can see the reach and impact these photos will have for my subject now and years later.
As we planned and I shared that I believe portraits tell our story long after we are gone and even a simple headshot can define our story. He could see the magnitude this would have and we moved forward.
Knowing it would be her first time seeing him and a stranger and that fact that she was 3, I planned a white backdrop, chalk, and crayons. She was drawing as they were getting to know each other and I was snapping away. She caught on to what I was doing and walked towards me looking at me through the lens with a big piece of chalk in hand a half turned up smile and wonder in her eyes.
But it's what was taking shape behind her in the background that made my heart swell and 20 years later is still with me. Her father in the background looking at her with pure love. To this day I have never witnessed this expression at this level.
As the emotions filled the room we moved just a few feet away to do his headshots and I had her help in getting him to smile. A few weeks later he arrived to pick up his portraits. With tears flowing down both our faces he had in his hands the photo of her with him in the background and several authentic smiles and laughter for his headshots and branding.
I asked him to write on the back of his favorite headshot 'this was the day we met'.
I want every photo session to encounter an empowering emotion that will last generations to come. Think about it this way; we all walk into the bank and see the wall of banker photos. I instantly get a detached sense and no part of me can relate to them.
I have walked into a dentist office and the walls had a beautiful black and white photos of smiles. The photos were of patients, staff and the dentist. I instantly had trust and joy come over me... whoever has this happen at the dentist?
Everyone has a different story to tell. It's my heart's passion to help my subject express this in their portraits. To tell our story without saying a word!
For those of us who care about storytelling, about influence, about soft and hard stories, this is a singular rich time to tell your story!
This comes with a tremendous opportunity for you... it's a privilege and an absolute pleasure to be entrusted with this job.