I have been getting calls about grad pictures. So far (we are entering our 3rd year of business) I have not photographed many grads. The grads that I have photographed have been individuals who somehow found me, despite (or perhaps because of) studios’ who have the contract to offer grad pictures with a given institution. I have not attempted to get any contracts with institutions as of yet. I know (as a businessman) that I should – but somehow the ‘production line’ aspect of that kind of photography leaves me somewhat uninspired. I may be wrong in my bias against this.
Above is a photograph of myself from 1986. I had just graduated from the Univ. of Victoria. Although I had studied photography while getting my B.F.A., I still went to a commercial photographer to have this picture created.
The photographer was working out of a studio (on Fort Street in Victoria) that had been a photo studio since the 20′s, as, incidentally, is the studio I work out of in Lethbridge. I went to a photographer because I wanted an image that would join all those other images of graduates. I wanted more than a photograph of myself. I wanted an icon that said : graduate.
So when I photograph a grad, I always think of my own desire, as a young art photographer, to have this image. (I was completely satisfied with this picture at the time, as was my Mother.) At the same time as I create the above when photographing a grad, I always attempt to create another kind of timeless photo – one that will remember the specific person at that moment, rather than the specific moment, as the iconic picture does.
Artists always have a reason for what they make. That reason might be formal (something to do with how the final object looks) or conceptual (something to do with what the image says). Actually of course, it is a mix of both- only superficially being one or the other. And anyway – none of that need really matter to the person being photographed, however much they are actually motivated by those same desires. Mostly they show up because it is what one does. I am always happy when they do.
I have mentioned before that I get asked to photograph many different moments. Most are the obvious: weddings, kids, pets and portraits. Each of these times call for appropriate behaviour…which begins with me being prepared technically…and happens, hopefully, with a connection between the model and the photographer. If the model is a small child or baby…this might involve me making surprising sounds and pulling faces. With a dog, squeeky toys are part of the process. With individuals – staying calm and helping position the model in relation to the light and their ‘best’ angle of view is what the job calls for. In every moment – I try to empathize with the model as I do my technical work. Photography is part mechanical and part magical. The magic is in the connection.
This fall, I have been asked to photograph two funerals. Somber and sacred - what is needed at those moments is not magic…but empathy and documentation. My job is to document, but I do bring myself to every job. At every wedding there is a moment when I am swept away by the sweetness and hope of the day. At each funeral I am reminded of my own mortality, and that of those close to me. It is an honour to be at such an intimate moment in another persons’ life.
I pretty much feel like that every time I am working with people. Just the same,as a professional hired to do a job – the needs are concrete. To create a picture which speaks to this moment, this client. Not much philosophic musing is required. As an individual, I feel my presence and enjoy the access my position allows. Still, there is always the need to be completely respectful and aware of where one is – whether studio, church or graveyard.
I recently encountered some work by a local photographer that had a model rolling about on a soldiers grave with a toy gun in her hand. At first I simply marvelled at the bad taste…then it hit me. This model and photographer clearly were just havin’ some fun / thinking the whole world is an amusing backdrop. Much of the world might be: I am pretty sure soldiers’ graves are not. Have I suddenly become a curmudgeon…complaining about the disrespect of young people?
As image makers we DO have a responsibility for the images we create. We create our work from what is around us – but it is not ours – we are simply borrowing it. We must take good care.
I am, happily, called upon to do a great variety of photography – sometimes all occurring on the same day! It is all (as we say) good – I love the constant change and being required to ‘bring myself’ to the type of image needed. At every moment (photographically speaking) I am called upon to be both my ‘personal’self – what would I want to ‘see’ in this image as a viewer?…and my photographer self (where is the light? what are the conventions for such an image? do I go – with convention or against it? …these are are ‘formal’ considerations when creating an image – the technical stuff, if you like.
At times, the clients’ desire for a specific image is clear – in those cases I attempt wherever possible to create a facsimile of what I am shown. I am delighted that my influence always -seeps- in…and inevitably a ‘new’ object is created…that lives within the history and practice, but is none the less a unique – never seen before- thing. Part of the beauty of being human.
This is not to say that every photographic moment is joyous…but only that it is a priviledge to have as my job the sensitive documentation of the human condition. Forgive me for getting, um, a little wet here…but my position as a photographer is one of acceptance and, ah, love. I do not think of myself as documenting a moment photographically (as I might have said in my university days)..rather, I am creating an object which speaks to our connections to one another…through a history of such images.
(this is my great Aunt Ruby and her husband Roy. Image from Russell Studio, Penticton. 1931
I love thinking that 80 years from now an image I created would be a treasured object in the hands of someone who had known and loved the people in the picture…
…Thanks for coming to Mueller…
Stuart August 4, 2010
The Brazen Hussies were in the studio the other day to create some images for promotion. We were very happy to work with Brittany and Trisha…very happy. Really. Jo set up a beautiful set for the girls to be in…and we moved between there and the white space with every costume change. This kind of image is ALL about artifice…mixed with a huge dollop of good-ole fashioned girl-power (make that gal-power) sexiness. I find it all very confusing, myself….but it sure does make for some / ah / fun pictures.
Of course, as I have said previously – many people are needed to create these kinds of images. Thank- you Penny and Kaelee. Thank-you Jo. Thanks especially to Brittany and Trisha for their hard work under the lights.
Ok – so this shoot was really about the – hair tattoo – an intricate design shaved into the scalp on the side of the models head – but of course I am going to take a few shots of the model – herself – just for fun. I really enjoyed working with Samantha – who professed to have never modeled before – but still was able to get into it and perform for the camera. Sorry to let let you in on this secret – but it is the truth – the model has to be willing to present themselves to the camera – or we end up with that – other – kind of picture. You know what I’m talking about.
Kelliane Litchfield, amazing vocalist and charming person, was in the studio recently creating some images for promotional and (ahem) possible album use. Always interesting working with artists of any kind – while open to the process of photography they also bring an understanding of representation and certain desires around that. Drawing those concepts out and creating images that represent them is the studio’s job – and really the ‘fun’ of photography in a commercial sense. The pictures that occur are the result of (on the best days anyway) a creative collaboration between the photographer and the subject. Thanks for great fun, Kelliane and Band! None of this happens casually, I can tell you – many hours of preperation – and then sets of eyes, hands and heads (or is that hearts?) are used in the creation of these kinds of images. Levi and Jo – these pictures couldn’t be made without your input!
Was priviledged to get to spend a week at Donna and Grants’ place near Ixtapa, Mexico. I love photographing people in their ‘natural’ environment, at home – where they feel most comfortable. And who wouldn’y feel comfortable in such a beautiful location. Anyway we had a great time playing on the beach and hanging out.
Julie Duschenes at Mueller Gallery
Well we were really thrilled with the opening at Mueller Gallery on Saturday evening March 13. Lots of the community turned out to see Julies’ recent work. With opening at the SAAG, the Trianon and the Potemkin – it was a big night for the art galleries. Thank goodness that our gallery is a joint project between Jo and I…as I was busy photographing a wedding till 9:30 or so – and arrived to find the gallery full and sweet music drifting out of the studio. Jo had left the wedding early to get back and open the gallery for the evening…)
Murray Nelson played all night and was joined by Jolene ______, who is a new singer and is developing her craft beautifully…we really enjoyed her singing!
An opening is a party for the gallery and the artist to celebrate a body of work. Artists often spend years in between openings – so each one truly is a special event…and it is most fun when lots of people turn out.
Reclusive co-owner of the building (with Levi Cox) Ryan Juss turned up briefly to view Julies’ exciting new work. He was so taken he made a special trip back to the gallery late into the evening to get another dose of luscious colour. Murray really did play late and we were all just loving it and wishing it would never end. But, as they say…
Every job is a bit like a puzzle: given the limitations of a scene (amount of light / movement / context) what will you choose to photograph? While we all want to make ‘good pictures’…(and usually people mean – visually interesting when they say ‘good’)…the real question is: what is your desire? What about this do you wish to represent?
Ok / have to go lay down now / these pictures are from last night at the Slice nightclub / Bands were Jon Vornbrock and the Void / Tyler Brownfield and the Phantom Creeps.