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La Familia

December 16, 2008


I’ve done some posting in recent weeks about photographing families, so continuing in that direction, I wanted to add a few images from a recent shoot.

Photographing families is not easy, at least for me, and I torture myself trying to think of ways to mix things up.

Great images don’t happen that often, regardless of how many pictures you shoot, and typically a great image only comes along in a fleeting moment.

One thing I see a lot of today is the motor driven, 72 frame “moment,” like a bride spinning perfectly in backlit conditions, smiling and twirling her hair, over and over, trying to make it appear as if this happened naturally, but forcing everyone to just sorta, kinda believe that it might have happened that way, only everyone knows it didn’t. Does that make any sense?

I guess what I’m getting at the is “perfect” moment that is somewhat expected now in photography. I detest these perfect moments. Why? Cause I know that 99% of the time they are not real, and real is what I think is always the best when it comes to photography.

I know, I think I’m in the minority. I’m doomed perhaps. If I am doomed can someone let me know, perhaps send a memo.

So, I wanted to post these two images, both of the same family, and tell you my thoughts about why I did these images and why I like them.

“But hey Dan, why would we care?” you ask. Good question. But it’s my blog, so my rules apply. You must do everything I say.

The first image, the black and white, I think, goes against what most “rules of portraiture” are. And I’m sure the traditionalist is building a voodoo doll of me as I write this, and perhaps I deserve it. But wait, there was thought behind this.

You can’t see their faces right? A family portrait where you can’t see the faces? Are you serious? Yes. I was.

Where is this image going to go if it is chosen and printed? Chances are, in the house of the family right?

Well then, who is going to VIEW this image? Other than the family? Chances are, MOST of the time, the picture will be viewed by people who know the family, people who without being able to see the faces, will know everyone in that frame. So…..you don’t NEED to be able to see the faces. Everything you need to know is right there.

The image is reduced to what black and white photography is about, shape and shadow. Oh, and speaking of this…I’ve never understood shooting color in digital, and then converting to black and white. You shoot black and white, and color, so differently, that when you just shoot color and convert, most of the time, it looks like color converted to black and white. I know that sometimes we have to do this, but shoot a roll of black and white film and it will show you what I’m talking about. It’s different, and forces you to really look in a certain way.

Sorry, on my soap box again.

Okay, the second image. In short, I love it.

This family is so fun, and they have tons of energy and personality. So what do you do when you are lucky enough to work with a family like this? Just get out of the way and let them be who they are!

I really like this image. It’s spontaneous, real, fun, active, etc. It’s one of my favorite family pictures. And guess what. There is ONE frame of this. One. I think I tried to squeeze of three or four pictures on the old Blad, but fast is not what this is about. I watched, waited, watched, waited and then bingo. Shooting with the Blad is like using one of the old black powder rifles where you had to carry your powder in a horn, and a patch, and a priming rod, and you got one shot, then had reload is this odd, panicky dance, hoping to get another shot off before being overrun. Think Last of the Mohicans. Only I’m not as cool as Danny Day Lewis and can’t reload that fast.

For me, this is what photography is about, the elusive moment. I could have sat back and fired off 72 motor-driven images, but that, to me, is not photography. I don’t know what it is. And, who wants to edit all that? UGH.

In the future, I can see myself going more and more in this direction. It’s a real challenge, and you must be ready to face the reality that you don’t always get what you want, something that goes totally against this “new idea of perfection” we are seeing in photography.

Personally, I find perfection boring and unrealistic. I want what is really there. Hope, sadness, despair, glee, all of it, as long as it’s real. When you finally get a moment like that it is like pouring a gallon of clear sealer on the world at that very moment, preserving it for eternity. All that energy is sucked like a vortex, raging against all the power in the world, in slow motion as that mirror churns inside the metal box. CLUNK. And it is done, and gone.

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