I have always believed that as a professional photographer I should always continue to pursue personal projects. Projects which have nothing to do with imagery I create commercially. I find that it helps expand my view of the world, beyond that which is just ‘pretty’ or pleasant to view. Gorgeous people in beautiful outfits are easy to shoot. I also believe that in our world of immediate gratification I needed to maintain projects which take time to develop and those which require collaboration.
In October 2015 I began a project titled “Our Perceptions, Ourselves.” A pictorial study about how each of us views our own appearance in contrast to how we are viewed by others. My thought was to try to find a forensic sketch artist who could draw a specific person and then have several different people describe that same person to the artist. I would then paint the actual subject’s face white and project each sketch onto their face and photograph them with each sketch. I thought it would be both unique and interesting by adding a third dimension to a 2D image even though I was converting it back to a 2D image. In addition it invests the subject in the drawn perceptions of how others view them. My plan is to have at least 12 individuals with three separate sketches, varying by age/race/gender.
March 7 2011 was the day I was laid off from my last corporate job. Unlike most of my colleagues who move to different companies, but remain within the same industry; I have been in a wide variety of industries. Law enforcement, security, retail, insurance, broking, energy, sales, marketing and finally software. My titles ranged from individual contributor to Senior Vice President, then COO of a Fortune 100 company. Company cars, paid monthly parking in downtown San Francisco, expense accounts first class travel you name it I had it. I was a suit…..
In December 2016 I was searching for a portable printer and discovered on Amazon a small printer called the PickIt. What attracted me beyond its size was that it used dye sublimation rather than ink jets to produce the image. In my former life I used dye sub to print marketing materials so I was impressed that such a small unit used the same technology.
On December 2, 2016 tragedy struck not only the Bay Area, but my family when the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland claimed the life of 36 young adults. One of them was Jenny Morris who just turned 21 and was the former girlfriend of my son. Jenny and my son dated for about 18 months, but had ended their relationship almost a year prior to the tragic fire. In many ways I feel blessed that my son did not perish in that fire. Had he and Jenny still been a couple I’m positive he would have been at the event and perished along with the other young adults.
Back in mid-October 2016 just before the Presidential election the mood of Facebook along with the country took an ugly turn. People overtly and covertly began to show bigotry toward me as well as others. For me Facebook has never been a vehicle for real change, although there are some things like helping individuals that work through social media. I found that Facebook made me ‘feel’ as if I ‘may’ be doing ‘something’ but in reality it was just masturbation. The good of keeping ‘in touch’ with people who had moved away or people I had not seen in many years was a positive part of the social media giant, but for me nothing of substance was there. It was a time burner. In May I had a stroke after my mother died in April and when the doctor told me to quit smoking or I’d risk a stroke that could leave me paralyzed on one side of my body. So I quit…cold turkey. Had she said that I would die if I had another stroke, well I would have gladly kept smoking. The thought of being dependent on anyone, most of all my children or my partner was enough to convince me to quit. Even though I LOVED SMOKING. The positive result of my stroke is I found so many things trivial. I had found pettiness and trivial people and attitudes poor in the past but the stroke sharpened my keen sense of what is important to a new level.
Throughout my life other men I’ve known often talk about “The Unicorn” which in my circles means a woman who like the mythical horned creature exists only in fantasy. Too good to be true, too wonderful for reality yet an entity we all wish and hope is true.
Three years ago I was hired by a ballet company in Dallas, TX to create some promotional imagery for their troupe. It was at that time I met Christy. A bubbly positive young lady who like her fellow dancers is incredibly athletic and talented. I’m fortunate to meet so many talented artists and at first Christy fell right into that category to which I’ve become so accustomed. And believe me, I know I live a charmed and blessed life.
Gah! I’ve gone back and forth on which I’d buy if I was considering both. I have two AD360s and one AD600. All are the manual versions, as I don’t find TTL good for my work flow. And I should also state I don’t use speedlights of any brand or kind. I just find strobes better for my work. So I made a laundry lists of my personal likes and dislikes:
This morning I was reading the March 2016 edition of the Professional Photographer’s Association (PPA) magazine article on portraiture. Before I began I thought to myself “Oh just another article on technical aspect of portraiture, lighting, posing, etc….yawn….” But as I read the article my mind was completely changed about its intent;
“I didn’t understand until later that it is all about the connection you make with your subjects.” he says. “My father understood that, and that’s why he was so beloved. He got to know his subjects and made portraits that were about them, not just pictures of them. It’s all about the harmonic resonance that you set up between yourself and the subject you’re about the portray.” – Arthur Levi Rainville
…”For Rainville, portrait photography boils down to two key elements: the art and the heart” – Jeff Kent, PPA
How wonderful to read an article about portraiture which matches my own view. I have always believed that a portrait, a great one, is a conspiracy between three people, the subject, the photographer and the viewer. I often see portraits that are technically very well done, but without any feeling. They are simply photographs of the person’s physical likeness, but contain nothing about the inner portion of the person. In my view the most important element.
And there are also photos I call ‘cheaters.’ These are the portraits of physically pretty women which primarily show them clad in skimpy outfits, revealing lots of tits and ass. Often they are shown with what they and the photographer feel are provocative expressions, which so often appear contrived or forced. Many people (especially men) feel it’s a great photo, but the reality is it’s much like having someone walk an American flag into a room to garner applause.
Yes light, pose, expression are all a large part of a great portrait. But those are simply the basics. All of those elements should accentuate the person’s soul, who they are in that moment and should never be the ‘star’ of the image. Technical knowledge and expertise is a given in portraiture. The part that is most critical to the image is to reveal who they are as people, their soul in the moment. Rainville’s style;
“To create a mansuesco portrait, Rainville schedules a planning session, during which he often spends more time with the client than during the actual portrait sitting.”
Sometimes the amount of time we have with the talent is limited to the time we have them in front of our lens. In those cases it’s up to me to research the person, to know what they like or what they don’t. Not in terms of photos, but in terms of life. And if nothing exists to research then my research must begin as soon as I meet the person. Engaging the person is more critical than snapping the shutter or figuring out the technical details of their shot. Those items should be second nature. By far the largest aspect of any portrait is trust. In the moments I have with anyone I must convey to them the fact that they can trust what I’m about to do. That their feelings are the most valuable elements in the session. What someone was born with from their parents has nothing to do with their portrait. It’s what they developed, who they are that separates a ‘nice’ portrait from a great portrait.
I study the work of Greg Heisler and Joey Lawrence because I feel their style of portraiture is something I strive to achieve one day. I strive to achieve a story in a single image whenever I embark on creating a portrait.
And if by chance you ever feel that as the photographer YOU are the most important person in the room, find another vocation. You simply don’t get it.
Gosh I guess it was about five years ago I was introduced to Savage as he likes to be called. I had done some work for Juan at Teatro ZinZanni who recommended me to Savage when he wanted to have his dance company photographed. Savage works for the Oakland School for the Arts and is also the Artistic Director for Savage Jazz Dance Company. When I first met Savage I was amused that he had a ring on every finger of both hands. Unlike me, he dresses well and is very fashionable. They were in rehearsal and so he pointed me to an adjacent room where the shoot was to take place.
I am in a dilemma. All over Facebook, the internet, really everywhere I am bombarded by ads about skin retouching software. And when I see other photographers who post images of women and in some cases men as well, the amount of retouching is so great that a person’s skin looks plastic. No pores are visible, teeth are ultra white, eyes have no veins. It makes me think of the old movie “The Stepford Wives.” Men had their wives murdered and replaced with women who looked the same, yet were ‘perfect’ in every way including skin, breast enlargements, butt lifts, you name it.
This is a new series I’ve started. I’ve often wondered why we reserve eulogies for when people die. I’ve attended far too many funeral services and wondered at each one, “Why do we wait’ to ‘tell’ the people in our lives why we adore them, funny stories known so often to only a handful of people?” It seems insane to me so I have decided to write about those I love or admire….while they are alive.
Tracy is my life partner, who also happens to be my business partner. Together we are simply known as “Mark & Tracy” the folks who take photos for different art agencies. Tracy is the ‘nice one’ the one who seldom has a harsh word to say about anyone, even the most vile people we know. Part of it is because she’s Canadian, they apologize for everything! When she first moved to California she would obey every single rule. It use to drive me nuts that she would not even cross the street on a green light if the pedestrian little man was red.
You may find this Musing ironic since I chose to include only a single portrait in this article about portraits.
I make my entire living photographing people. It’s what I love to do, because I love people. To date I estimate I’ve photographed over 1,000 faces of all ages and ethnicities. My preference is to photograph men simply because I find them more versatile in nature. What does that mean? I find that the majority of women only want a single dimension of their ‘appearance’ to be shot one way…for beauty. Men on the other hand are more open to be photographed as rugged, sad, angry or in a myriad of other ways besides ‘handsome.’
I has taken me a very long time to write this article. My goals for writing this was twofold. First to explain as clearly as I could the concept of white privilege without raising the immediate and understandable reaction from the Caucasian community “Oh here we go again, I’m certainly NOT one of those.” and to place on paper my feelings from long ago which still extend into today. It has always been on my mind, but was highlighted when I recently house sat for my cousin in Oahu. I grew up in Southern California both in Crenshaw and Orange County. After my grandfather, uncles and aunts got out of the WWII internment camps grandpa managed to save enough money to purchase an apartment complex in Crenshaw so he and all of his adult children could live safely as neighbors. This was after all of his property was taken from the family during the Japanese American internment.
Many of my younger friends are having children and quite a few of them are having daughters. I wanted to write my thoughts about raising my own daughter and offer my feelings about raising a little girl to become a strong woman.
My first child, a boy was stillborn. Late in the pregnancy a small tear in the amniotic sack proved fatal. Examining the ultrasound broke my heart. He had wedged himself into the part of the sack which contained the remaining fluid to survive. The pediatrician told us that there was a 50/50 chance of his survival, but as the final weeks approached it was apparent that he had died. We were devastated. My wife delivered our son and since we had not gone through any birthing classes I had no knowledge of what to expect. It was horrible. Once our son was delivered, he was placed in a stainless steel bowl covered with a towel. The doctor asked me if I wanted to see our son. As he lifted the towel to reveal a full formed infant, I broke down sobbing and tried to comfort both of us. Yet in the moment some things in life cannot be comforted. Only the mercy of time has that ability. Once I got home I threw out all of our stainless steel bowls and to this day I cannot bear the site of one.
Three January’s ago I got a call from my sister in LA to tell me that our Mom had a heart attack. Mom was 85 at the time and has always been healthy, active and mentally acute. She has lived on her own since 1976 when my father passed away at the age of 51. She loved golfing, dancing every Friday night, watched her diet and exercised daily. She loved showing me her weights by the fireplace and would brag about how many lifts she would do each day.
I flew down the next day and went to the hospital. Sis told me that Mom was in the kitchen and had just finished eating her Big Mac dinner (one of her few guilty pleasures) and had the heart attack, fell down hitting her head on the handle of the oven and went unconscious, for how long we don’t know. She awoke and saw that there was blood on the kitchen floor and her favorite sweater was covered in blood. So what did she do? Instead of pressing the Life Alert device we got for her four years earlier, she got a bucket, filled it with cold water, put her sweater into it (so it wouldn’t stain) and cleaned the floor. After that she changed into her PJs and went to bed. Keep in mind that my mother is such a neat freak that when I would get up in the night to pee I’d come back to a made bed. (Just kidding, but you get the idea!
The next morning she awoke and panicked because her pillow was covered in blood. So she called my sister and that’s when she went to the hospital. Of course Mom was upset with my sister for calling me because “It’s not serious, he doesn’t need to come all the way down here…
There are many times when we are thrown a ‘curve ball’ when it comes to professional sessions. Although I try to always come prepared for the unexpected, there are times when I haven’t anticipated every possible scenario which can occur. And besides, my loathing of lugging means I can’t carry every single piece of gear necessary for all occurrences. Such was the case this week during one of my client sessions.
During an arts festival one of my assignments was to do some editorial work of an artist in his warehouse/studio. No one could tell me about the space because at the very last minute the venue had to be changed for legal reasons. My assignment was strictly editorial in nature, no portraits just imagery that would capture his studio and the patrons visiting his exhibit. So I decided to only take two DSLRs and my trusty Fuji X100T along with some lenses of various focal lengths.
This week I was saddened to hear that Paul C Buff had passed away. In so many ways Paul was a pioneer in photographic lighting. About six years ago I saw with much delight that he had developed a new monolight, the Einstein strobe. Until then I had been using Photoflex strobes, their 650ws and 300ws units. As my studio work advanced and I began to shoot more and more portraits I was frustrated with the recycle times of those units. Human expressions change in an instant and I found I was missing more and more shots waiting for my strobes to recycle. So I became an early adopter of his new Einsteins and purchased four at his introductory price, which was well below the value I could find in other units of similar performance.
To the horror of my own children and friends I enjoy the breakfasts at McDonalds. “A number 2 with orange juice please” can be heard whether I’m driving through or ordering from the counter. Mmmm, a sausage McMuffin with egg, hash browns and a juice. I was literally giddy with delight when my local branch announced breakfast would be served after midnight!
The other day I had an early appointment with a prospect, so I thought I’d stop before heading to my meeting to grab a “Number 2 please” since our meeting would prevent me from having lunch. As I stood in line an elderly man ahead of me was ordering. His tone and rudeness to the clerk was palpable. “Gimme this, hurry up, can’t you get it right the first time?! I want extra cream, make sure it’s hot. I don’t like your cups.”
Over the past month I’ve found my mood to be a bit somber. Like most individuals I question my purpose in life from time to time. In addition on what appears to be a seven year cycle I have this nagging feeling that one day I will become homeless. The first bout of this fear occurred in 2007. Although I have always been able to make a good living for myself in 1988 I was confronted with a series of circumstance which brought me to the edge of homelessness.
I just had a new child, my wife decided to stay home and I quit my corporate job of 11 years to start my own business. Just one year prior we had lost our first son who was stillborn. And in that instant I realized that money and material things meant nothing. I had exchanged what was truly important for the convenience money could buy. So I quit my job.
Each of these events were by my own choice, not from circumstance beyond my own control. But taking an almost 90% decrease in income with a new mouth to feed combined with expenses that still matched my six figure salary was not a well thought out choice. But here I was a result of my own choices and I needed to live with them. I vividly recall going to the grocery store and wondering which items I could afford to purchase; formula for my new daughter or food for our stomachs. To this day I am always grateful when I go to the market and can afford to purchase items that 26 years ago I would have considered luxuries, milk, cereal and bacon.
Every parent hopes that their own children grow up to beome better people than themselves. It’s universal. I know the reason my own father pushed me so hard was in an attempt to assure that universal truth. My dad passed away suddenly when I was 21 from cancer of the stomach. He was 51 and I have now lived eight years longer than him.
When my eldest turned 21 I had a bit of a panic attack. I had my own experiences to draw upon to emulate ‘how to be a dad’ but since dad died when I was 21 I felt that I no longer had a road map for my own children. I knew what dad did, lessons he tried to instill in me, but now that my own child was 21 what advice would I try to convey? How should I act? With no firsthand experience I was unsure of my role to an adult child.
Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s 2014-15 Season Brochure
In order to put an entire marketing campaign together it first takes vision. The Marketing VP at Dallas Symphony Orchestra had a very specific vision for his 2014-15 Season Brochure. His concept was to carry a “Date Night” theme throughout his brochure, creating an experience which would attract new as well as existing patrons. He also wanted a theatrical and dream like quality to the individual performances, one that matched each symphonic piece.
Keep in mind that whenever you’re hired to create commercial imagery there is quite a bit at stake. Beyond your own reputation, there’s the talent, scheduling, venue logistics, graphics gurus, administrative help, travel, blah, blah blah. And although an Art Director may have a specific shot they have in their own minds, it’s up to the photographer to execute that vision, one that often only exists in the AD’s mind.