Those very words have been in the forefront of my mind since I read them. A month after returning from NYC visiting the cast and crew of Burn the Floor I read an interview where Kevin Clifton was being interviewed by Broadway Buzz. When asked about the differences between competing and performing, he told the interviewer, “I made the decision to join , where I get much more license to express rather than impress.” There have been very few times over the past 10 years when I have pondered words spoken by another for a significant amount of time. I’m sure that this is due to two primary reasons. The first is that I respect Kevin as an artist and as a friend. Getting to know him over the past year and watching him perform with an abandon only associated with pure passion is truly inspiring. The second factor that fuels my thoughts about his sage words is my own struggle to separate myself from the small successes I have had in the photographic world. “Playing to the crowd” is something I have never wanted to do, yet through competitions and juried eyes, I had found myself giving more credence to the opinion of others than to myself. And that is a very dangerous slope to begin sliding toward.
There are certainly the realities of impressing those who pay me to capture imagery. My clients have an expectation of my work and separating the commerce portion of my craft from the expressive part was highlighted only after reading Kevin’s words. In so many ways my recent work is a vast departure from the past. But allowing myself to express how I feel through imagery is the reason I began this journey. My son is currently enrolled in a college photography course and was given an assignment to capture 15 images of ‘Light, Shapes and Shadows.” So on the evening before the assignment was due (teenagers!) we ventured to San Francisco International Airport to photograph scenes which represented his assignment. During that time I found myself shooting as I had in the beginning; with reckless abandon. I was not concerned about the results, but simply the pure joy of shooting and sharing time with my son. When I returned home and put my evening’s images up on the monitor, Tracy looked over and chuckled. I knew what her laughing meant. Yet it was of little consequence since the pure joy of shooting trumped the results. My son on the other hand produced 15 images to which his professor exclaimed, “You are the very first sophomore to ever have all 15 images tagged as well done.” High praise indeed, but at some point I will also remind my son to “Express rather than Impress.” Kevin, thank you for something that has changed my approach to my work more than you will ever know.
This past weekend a friend’s wife had asked me to photograph her family. I know her husband through work and she told me she had not had a family portrait done in quite some time. So I suggested that we do an outdoor portrait where I am much more comfortable capturing spontaneous and genuine expression. While Tracy and I were waiting at Baker Beach in San Francisco for them to arrive, we both noticed a young mother and her daughter on the beach. The mother was holding up a point and shoot attempting to capture a good shot of them together.Read More»
Over the past two months Tracy and I have been photographing Burn the Floor which has been in San Francisco’s beautiful Post Street Theatre. Although my first love for this craft is street shooting, I make the majority of my photographic income doing theatrical work. So when I was approached about the possibility of shooting their performance, I was pleased. I had no idea what the show was about, nor did I know anything about the cast. In the beginning I was interested in shooting the show to further improve my ability to shoot high movement, low light situations to improve my ability to shoot on the street.Read More»
In September of 2005 my son and I went out one night when I first reentered photography. He wanted to go out on his own and I wrote about this event in one of my first Musings on this blog. You can read that short story here. Since that time he has not shown much interest in photography despite my encouragement and marvel at his natural eye for composition and timing. As he grew into a teen other activities were more important to him, friends, cars and of course girls.Read More»
Today, Friday March 13, 2009 is a very special day for me. 20 8 year old children will for the very first time show their photographic essays to the community at Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center. 20 kids who I had never known, or who had never known me. But over the past four weeks, I have come to know each of these kids, by name, by face and by voice. As they show their work today, stories about their families and friends, I will be both proud and humbled. They have given me more than I could ever describe. I started out to teach them, yet in their infinite wisdom through their actions have taught me something I never knew about myself.
20 faces can do that to anyone, even me.