One of the things I love about being a photographer is being invited into people’s lives to capture moments in their life. Sometimes those moments might simply be of ordinary everyday life. But then sometimes, those moments mark big important milestones. And nowhere is this more evident than in a couple of shoots that I did with the lovely Amanda of Amanda Caroline Photography.
First, I had the pleasure of doing a maternity shoot with Amanda when she was about seven months pregnant with her second child. The day we picked, it couldn’t have been more perfect, with the kind of light photographers are always searching for. And the great thing about photographing another photographer is that it’s easy, Amanda instinctively knew where to stand, look, and move, etc.
But what I really love about these photos is how they show just how beautiful we pregnant ladies are. It’s all too easy for us to feel bad about how we look when we’re pregnant. We’re massive, swollen, uncomfortable, and barely able to see our feet. Positive body image is not top of mind. Been there! But look, see how gorgeous she is! We forget that pregnancy also brings a glow and radiance to our whole persona.
Then, a couple short months later I got to capture the ending of this small chapter in Amanda’s life, and the beginning of a new one. What a miracle these little ones are. I always forget how small and precious they are in those first couple of weeks. I forget that my little man was once this tiny little person just starting to figure out what it means to be alive.
And I think that’s why I have such a passion for photography. Life moves so quickly that if we don’t take the time to stop and create memories, to capture the beauty of the life and love around us it will all just fade away into the recesses of our mind. I’m so thankful I could help Amanda capture these memories of her journey to becoming a parent for the second time.
This week I’ve thought a lot about the idea of inspiration vs imitation and the role they play in the creative process. It all started when the amazing Brooke Snow introduced me to Yousuf Karsh. I’m actually embarrassed to admit that as a photographer I didn’t really know who he was, even though I really did know who he was. I knew his work, his iconic portrait of Ernest Hemingway in particular stands out as one I know well. But I didn’t know his name.
I’ve spent time pouring over Karsh’s portraits and I’ve been deeply inspired. His images are classic, timeless images that truly capture the soul and essence of a person, in fact of some of the most famous people in the world. And I know in looking at these images that’s what I want to create. I might just be taking pictures of kids and family but in the end I want them to show the same kind of vision. I want them to stand the test of time, to look back on them 20 years from now and feel that they’re just as relevant and not simply reflecting what was trendy at the time.
And I don’t want people to say “cheese.” Kids in particular become conditioned to do this. But saying cheese creates forced smiles that don’t show authentic moments of joy, happiness and connection. Forced smiles don’t reflect who someone truly is. That’s my challenge as a photographer, to interact, observe, and capture moments in a way that gets to the heart of what kids are all about, what family is all about. I imagine Muhammad Ali punching Yousuf Karsh in the face if he’d asked him to “say cheese.”
At the same time I’ve been inspired by Karsh, I’ve also been reading Steal Like and Artist by Austin Kleon. Kleon’s fundamental message is that to grow as an artist and find yourself and your own style you’ve got to copy those that inspire you.
“Nobody is born with a style or a voice. We don’t come out of the womb knowing who we are. In the beginning, we learn by pretending to be our heroes. We learn by copying.”
He explains that “copy” does not mean “plagiarise” and pass off someone else’s work as your own. Copy means to take inspiration from those you admire, work to understand their process and thinking, and then transform that into something uniquely your own.
And so inspired by the portraits of Karsh and the words of Kleon, I’ve been copying. Specifically, copying Karsh’s iconic portrait of Audrey Hepburn. In doing this I’ve learned a lot about portraiture. And I’ve also learned that Kleon is right. That while I’ve copied Karsh’s image, it is completely different and my own for so many reasons. Not the least of which is that I am not Audrey Hepburn.
One of the things that I haven’t really been doing on the blog is sharing some of the photos that I take for other people. But this year, I’m going to mix it up a bit and starting including a peek into the lives of some of those who have been kind enough to invite me capture their everyday adventures.
I take a lot of photos of kids and, maybe it’s just me, but kids love to stick their tongues out at me. I’ve got quite the collection of funny faces now. And when you’re trying to take photos, the parents are always quick to shout “Stop. Put your tongue away!” These certainly wouldn’t be shots that end up on a wall. But, I think they’re fun, they show the essence of what kids are about. The tongues just come so naturally, the products of pure fun, a dash of silliness, and a bit of mischief.
Kids don’t care if their hair and makeup are perfect, if they’re in the right light to minimize the wrinkles, or if they’re facing the camera in a way that doesn’t make their nose look so big (guilty). They’re just in a moment having fun and they don’t care if they look silly.
And it’s occurred to me, shouldn’t funny faces come just as easily to us as adults? Life gets so serious sometimes that we barely remember to smile, never mind make funny faces.
Why not make a funny face at someone today? It might be just the thing to make you smile. And, as they say laughter is the best medicine.
Here are a few of my favorite funny faces.