The Holiness of Portrait Photography

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One of the great privileges of being a portrait photographer is getting the opportunity to be a small part of my clients’ lives as they grow, change, and move from one stage of life to another.   Whether it be a graduation and then wedding, a wedding and then the first baby, or a series of family portraits that document special milestones I always feel a special connection with these returning clients, a bit like a trusted auntie.

Just a few weeks ago I was invited to photograph the Hamilton Family.  It was a rather short session as their son needed to get home to pack — pack for his first post-training assignment in the military.  I had, 4 years previously, photographed the son for his High Senior portrait, before he headed off to college, and now here he was a full grown man on his way to a new life.  Just this past January we did a special High School Senior session for his talented little sister.  Amazing and so humbling to watch as this family moves into a new stage of life.

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I think because I have already passed through most of these life stages myself, having raised three children and moved into the realm of grandparenthood,  I become rather nostalgic, wistful when doing a portrait session.  I know how fleeting each stage of life really is.  I want to stop time, if just a moment, so the person can later look back at that tiny hand or freckled nose and remember.

For me, portrait photography is something intimate, something to be treasured, almost holy.  Perhaps that is an overstatement, but truly, I feel so blessed to be permitted to enter into the “family circle” in this way, knowing that these images will likely be passed down to future generations, that they will be shown to great-grandchildren,

” . . . and this is what my father’s mother looked like when she was your age.  See that?  You have her eyes.”

More than eighty years of my mother-in-law's life- ages three, sixteen, and eighty-seven.
More than eighty years of my mother-in-law’s life- ages three, sixteen, and eighty-seven.

 

Home Education Graduation – The End of an Era?

This past week I had the privilege of photographing the graduating seniors at CHEA’s (Christian Home Educators Association of California) annual convention.

This year’s group of seniors was about one third the size of last year’s class, not because the number of students graduating from home education is smaller than in past years, but because the number of home schoolers choosing to attend the state organization’s annual event has decreased significantly.

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CHEA holds a special place in my heart. I started Home Schooling in 1982 and home educated my three children from primary through their high school years. That first year of home schooling was a real adventure. There was no state organization of any kind established to help or guide. Very few textbook publishers would sell their materials to non-traditional schools, the political situation and legality were in question, and the voices of “experts” representing differing philosophies, from “unschooling” to correspondence schools, were hard to wade through. Finding like-minded families with whom we could share our struggles and support one another was very important to our success and sanity. And so, at a small gathering of young mothers at a park in Southern California, while children ran and played, Christian Home Educators Association was born.

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My three children in 1982 – our first year of homeschooling

Today, the homeschooling atmosphere is much changed. The legal ambiguity is gone and home education, while still the significant minority, is almost common place. The problem of finding appropriate curriculum has shifted from too few choices, to an overabundance of tempting options. Where once we counted the days till we could gather together to share teaching and parenting strategies, closely examine every book before we purchased, and be encouraged by Godly leaders and by the sheer number of other like-minded attendees, now the internet, public charter schools, and local education cooperatives have, for many homeschooling families,  taken the place of the state-wide convention.

While I am pleased to see homeschooling grow and mature, and I am thankful that it is not as difficult as it once was, there is the danger of this ease lulling us all into complacency, or worse apathy. The migration away from a central state-wide Christian home education organization, if that is in fact what we are witnessing, weakens our voice as a whole. Who will speak for us as we face the new challenges to homeschooling; common-core, immunization, alternative lifestyles? Will it take new persecutions to rally us as one again?  Are we really so well informed that we no longer need to hear new insights or to be encouraged?

I don’t know the future of CHEA, or of home education for that matter, but I pray that this new generation of home educators holds tight to their convictions for the ride ahead and that they consider seriously their part in protecting their rights and that of future generations.

So, to this 2015 Class of Home Education Graduates,  CONGRATULATIONS! I pray you will represent us well as you engage in the wider world.

Photographer’s Workspace – Tools for the Post Process

 

Your workspace can say a lot about you.  Whether it is organized or chaotic, in a quiet secluded spot or in the flow of traffic, filled with your personal creature comforts or sparse and austere.  None of these aspects are good or bad in and of themselves, but they can be a window into the character of the person who works there.  So, here is a peek into my photographer’s workspace and post-processing world.

Where most of the post processing happens.
Where most of the post processing happens.

My workspace is in the social center of my home, the kitchen.  My kitchen is a large open room with a fireplace and it is where we gather at all times of the day.  While I do have a private separate office, I prefer to do all my editing here, where I can be with my family or company as much as possible.  Admittedly, my home is probably quieter than most; there are no small children running around, just my husband, two exchange students, and our large dog.

It is said that “creatives” generally have chaotic workspaces.  I am either not “creative” or just don’t fit the “messy” mold.  I tend to keep my space organized and free of as much clutter as possible.  In fact, when I am surrounded by clutter, I just can not concentrate, so keeping things orderly is important to my workflow.  It fascinates me how some of my artistic friends seem to not only be able to work among piles of papers and supplies, but in fact thrive in it!  Amazing! That’s just not me.  All work would have to shut down until I got the piles into some kind of order.

What is on the desk is also important.  Let’s take a closer look.

Tools for photo editing
Tools for photo editing

On the right side of the desk are my primary editing tools; wacom tablet which makes editing much easier, tablet pen, mouse, external drive, and my x-rite monitor calibrator which constantly monitors the light conditions in the room.  Of course there is also the obligatory rats nest of cables and cords behind the monitor.

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Creature Comforts

On the left side of my desk are a few more essentials; card reader, keyboard, memory cards, notepad, mail file, and two small dishes to separate the backed up cards from those waiting to be downloaded.   In addition to these work items are my creature comforts; my favorite scented hand lotion, a nice tall glass of iced tea, and the remotes ready to launch the latest episodes of Mr. Selfridge, Sherlock, or Survivor ,  or just some nice background music.

My photographer’s workspace is my own and suits my needs.  What are your “must-haves” at your desk?

My Two Dads

When I was four, I wanted to marry him.  He was tall, dark, and handsome. Everyday he would take me to work with him at Muscle Beach.  He was funny, kind, playful, proudly showed me off to his friends, talked to me like I was a real person.  I was head-over-heals in love with him.  And then, he was gone.  Divorce.

Nowadays, divorce usually means weekend visits or even two entire homes.  For me it meant the end.  He didn’t come to take me for ice cream or trips to Disneyland.  There were no arguments over who “got me” for the holidays.  Even though I seldom saw him, I carried him with me always.  It is from him that I got my artistic eye, my love of adventure, and ability to dream no matter my age or circumstance.

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I was six years old when I met him.  He was not adventurous, artistic, or particularly attractive, while not unattractive.  However, he had a cool about him, a Mad Men, golf and martinis kind of cool.  He was awkward at best in showing affection,  playing, or engaging me in conversation, but in those early days, he did give it his best effort.  I could tell he was trying and I liked him for it.  And then, he moved in.  Marriage.

I never called him Dad.  I did try at first, but if felt wrong.  However, he moved in to the empty space that need to be filled and I felt grateful to him for it.  He worked to help provide a home, food, and necessities of life.  I felt secure.  From him I learned to value education,  independence, and to seek the finer things in life.

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My two dads were so different from one another but I am forever thankful for what they brought to my life, both the good and the hard lessons.  I lost both of my dads to cancer in a short six month period, but they will be with me always.  I love to look at early photos of us together and treasure the memories they bring back, not of events, but of their character, their humor, their love.

When I do a family portrait session, I try to get a few photos of each child separately with their father. There may be other photos, those taken at birthday parties or camping trips, photos that tell the story of their lives.  It is my hope, however, that the image I take will be different, one focused on just the two of them, lost in affection.

Happy Father’s Day!