It’s been two months since I’ve written anything here, and it’s because I have worked. There’s much more I could say, but it suffices to say, in July, I worked. I received some incredible opportunities that stretched me personally and professionally and creatively.
My family often looked around and wondered why our home looked as if we’d been ransacked. Our dogs put on a few pounds because I was out of the house sometimes before we could get our steps in. I got my first pair of readers because evidently staring through a one inch by one inch picture frame for 8 hours a day and then editing photos on screen into the wee hours of the night has precipitated the inevitable aging of my nearly forty-year-old eyes. I spilled a bunch of morning coffee in my cupholders and ate a bunch of peanut butter brunch sandwiches in my car.
That is what I ate most days when I was teaching school over ten years ago. I remember thinking, “One day, I’m going to own my own business and take two hour lunches.” (I WAS REALLY YOUNG AND NAIVE ABOUT BUSINESS OWNERSHIP). This past month, I think I ate one lunch with a friend. I have a few women in my life who are my hype girls (ahem, ladies). They sweep in and provide that pep talk when I need it, even when I don’t know I need it. And, even though I failed at being a good friend and housekeeper this month, my village stepped in to help me level up.
This is really a blog about headshots, so maybe I should just get on with it. When I edited these headshots, I felt a sense of pride. I think it’s the culmination of ten years of photographing people. I had a team working with me for this shoot, and the lighting just couldn’t have been better. If you’re a photographer, you know the “high key” white background challenge. It’s hard. There’s so much I could say. But, it suffices to say, it’s hard. And, the thing about being a professional in your industry is that when you do something well once, people ask you to do it again and again. So, this is the third time I’ve done high volume, white background headshots. Repetition strengthens and confirms, and I’m more confident with it now, and that confidence invariably is conveyed to the person sitting before my camera. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I’m having fun photographing people. One of my hype girl friends said, “You can tell you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.” And, I get a visceral sense that she’s right. This pandemic has forced me to question everything, but one thing I know for certain: this is my life’s work. There’s no more shrinking. There’s no more saying, “This is a temporary thing.” This is a passion that ebbs and flows but continues to sustain and inspire me.
One of my assistants and I discuss what an intimate experience it is to photograph someone. We learn all sorts of things about people. Some of it surface level– where you like to travel, who you love to hang out with. And, some of it is deep. I could say so much more, and I know there’s a book in me about the process of creating portraits, but for the sake of anonymity, it suffices to say: deep. My mentors remind me that I’m using my counseling degree and my somatic license. I’m offering each person who sits before my camera a reparative experience, and beyond beautiful photos, that’s my intention. It’s why people find me in the hall after sessions and say, “That was different than any other photographic experience. That was fun.” It’s why women stand in front of my laptop seeing themselves in a new light and say, “I’ve never liked photos of myself, and I absolutely love these.”
Anyway, if you made it this far, here are some headshots I did in July for Goodwill North Central Texas. The concept comes from Ardent Creative, a DFW local agency who handles the digital marketing and web design for at least a few of my clients. On their site, you can see the first image is a traditionalish headshot and as you hover over the image, a candid image appears. Brilliant. That’s what we did, and I got a real feel for the culture at this nonprofit that gives so much to the community.
Fair warning, at the end of these images you’re going to wish there were more. It’ll end abruptly, and if you want me to come to your place of business and create you and your staff headshots that celebrate who you are individually and collectively, I’d love to help. Send me an email, or book a call HERE. Or, check out the lifestyle photos I did for their marketing and ad campaigns HERE.
I met Kelly Decker a couple years ago. My friend and client, Tabitha of Tabitha Mahaffey Designs, introduced us. She asked me to create a photograph for her firm for a local publication. I honestly had no idea what I was getting into. We met outside the loop on some land and dragged some modern chairs out into the pasture, and I regretted that I hadn’t worn boots and was afraid I’d step on a snake and we waited for the moment for a longhorn to wander into the frame. Now that I’ve painted the behind the scenes for you, I have decided to dredge up the photograph.
It wasn’t your average company photo. So when she called me to do some new business photos, she didn’t want your average attorney headshots– the ones that are highly polished and airbrushed that have been the industry standard for years.
I went to my photography books. I sat around and studied Annie Leibovitz’s work for an hour or so, and then I knew what I wanted to do.
Basically, I have two approaches to branding photography: option one is where you go to hair and makeup and then together we create this shiny, polished curated gallery of images that narrate your brand’s story; option two is to show up often and document the behind the scenes of what you do. The former one is beautiful and has that bright, airy aesthetic that so many people love. The latter two is candid and a little chaotic and messy, and guess what your target audience feels when they see these types of images: Oh wow, she is so relatable and personable and approachable. Sold. Don’t get me wrong…I still love a beautiful, polished photo session in my studio. It’s why I offer both. I think there’s room creatively for your business to have both.
Rarely does a woman call and say I’m not going to hair and makeup and don’t retouch my photos. I want this to be real and irreverent, but in the event that they do, I am ready with option two.
Not all attorneys go to trial, but Kelly does. So we headed to the courthouse at 8 am. I wore my black court costume. I hadn’t been to court since I photographed an adoption. Kelly asked me if I liked tea, and I tried to act open to it, but I’m generally a coffee person all the way. The Earl Gray latte from Lazy Daisy Coffee though was smooth and wonderful, and I’ve been thinking of getting another one ever since. I tried to be as discreet as possible because I’m not sure judges really like to have photographers in their courtrooms. I am still wondering what happened with some of her cases. I feel invested in the families that I don’t even know. I don’t know how she does this work, but I’m glad she does.
We all need women in the arena with us cheering us on and walking with us and occasionally to be our arms and legs to carry us and fight for us when we feel we can’t go on. Any time a woman calls me and needs help getting out of a marriage, I tell her to call Kelly Decker. And, they’re always better off, for having done so.
I had a big editorial photography project in my studio last week. I knew I wanted to do a little practice on the day prior to make sure I had the lighting just right. And, I wanted to do what I wanted. I seek opportunities to photograph beyond the “shot list” that I collaborate with companies to create. For most of my career, photographers with some longevity have told me, “You’ve got to do personal projects,” and for many years, I wondered how. How could I afford to do that when I was just hustling to try to earn a living? And, about ten years in, I get it. How can I afford not to create personal work? This session is a deposit into my creative bank account. It’s sure to sustain me in ways that money can’t. And, every time I create something I love, the people who love my creative vision find me. For a few years, I only posted film images on my social media, and still, it’s the majority of what you’ll see on my site. Sometimes people know film; other times, people say, “I’m not exactly sure what it is, but your work is different and I love it.”
I met Johnica a little over a year ago when I photographed her mother’s funeral. It was the beginning of the pandemic. It’s the only funeral I’ve ever photographed. I can’t really remember how I came to be there at a Facebook friend’s funeral. We’d never met. I follow my intuition. I’m not the most talented photographer or the most technical. I certainly don’t have the best gear or the biggest studio. But, I have a strong intuition. And creating (i.e., the flow state) only makes it stronger.
Anyway, when she arrived at my studio to help me with this project last week, she started asking me about where to process film, specifically Ilford HP5. Um, in nearly four decades on this Earth, I can only recall one other person who’s asked me about where to process Ilford film. I mean, you who’s reading this…have you heard of Ilford film? Maybe. Maybe not. So, I told her a few places where I like to have film processed. Up until that point, I’d been high key light testing for my editorial shoot on my workhorse digital camera that I had tethered to the computer.
I set my Sony down, and said, “Hang on, I’ve got a roll of Ilford HP5 in the fridge.” Ilford HP5 is not my favorite black and white film (Ilford Super XP2 which is actually processed like color film is), but I knew when she mentioned it, that lone roll in the fridge was meant for her. I shot 16 frames in a matter of minutes. The process was fun and frivolous, and as is the case with film, when Richard Photo Lab delivered the scans to my inbox tonight, I felt all the feels all over again. Prior to receiving the film, I was fairly happy with that digital work. Lots of photographers try to make digital photography look like film. But, there’s something to be said for just using the correct tool for the job. Film isn’t for everything, but wow, I wish it were. Look how beautiful these are in their simplicity. I was also finishing a roll of Portra 800 35 mm that I shoot just for fun around town, so there are a few color double exposures on that film stock. With all of these, I used a couple of Profoto lights. If you know photography, you know that by the catch lights in her eyes.
In this world where our work can demand much from us, I think we all must have some activity that reconnects us to our sense of Self…or intuition or the Divine. Whatever you want to call it. Creating art does that for me. My paid work is better when I make time for personal projects that thrill me. I try to schedule at least a few hours a week for what I call “Spontaneous Boredom.” Sometimes I paint water colors, or chop vegetables, or play in my studio or thumb through a magazine. It seems indulgent, but I’m a better photographer for it.
If you’re into black and white photography and would like to do a studio session (like this but different), send me an email via the contact form. I’d love to create something with you.