Saturday, September 19, 2009

Farm family portrait Gila Bend, Arizona

This is an environmental portrait of a family I photographed for the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Project "Picturing Maricopa".

When I get an assignment or pursue a portrait, I usually have all kinds of ideas rush through my head on how I want the final shot to look. So many times I want to make a picture that looks and feels a certain way. I want to render a representative portrait and at the same time develop a style that reflects me as a creative.

Sounds great but that's never how it ends up. My experiences have taught me to be flexible. I think all the ideas that run through my head are based on previous experience and books I have read throughout my photographic life.

How many times have I thought to myself, I will try a stark black and
white Mary Ellen Mark type portrait or a Richard Avedon white seamless portrait or a mega lit Jill Greenberg portrait. I guess this is normal and I accept that I have pre-visualized expectations. It's my visual library all coming to the surface. I love the quote by John Szarkowski "every photo is derived from a previous photo".

My point is with all this knowledge and photographic foundation my photographs never look like I originally thought they would. The preconceived ideas might work sometime but rarely. I always seem to make the best pictures when I keep myself out of the process.

The portrait above is a perfect example. This was to be a family portrait in front of the apartment in Gila Bend, Arizona. While I was making the 55 mile drive to Gila Bend my mind was running like a PBS Masters in Photography documentary. I was going to put my heart and soul and apply all my years of experience into this portrait. It was going be a signature image.

When I got there, I meet the husband and immediately talked to them about what I wanted to do. I explained my goals for their portrait and for the story I was working on. They were totally on board.

As I started to shoot it become clear within 10 seconds of shooting the little guy in the white cowboy hat wasn't on board. On this late August day it was 115 degrees outside and we are heading into PLAN B fast! Plan B and I are very familiar friends. The little guy wasn't going to let my pre-visualized master piece photo session take place. At least not on my terms.

Actually I should thank him when he is old enough to understand. As a result of him breaking up the formality of the portrait he made me shoot photojournalistically. I just kept shooting as the family portrait fell apart. As a result, I think I got a very interesting image that is far different from my original idea. I like the light and the disjointed feel and structure of the image. At this point its a real moment and not something contrived and forced.

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