After having been interviewed for the CFRC radio show Depth of Field by Rachael Hunter-Brown (the show's Facebook page is here and the full interview can be found here), I got to thinking about faces. I realized in the interview I spoke a lot about "seeing something there" when editing family shoots and portrait shoots. Well, what exactly is that something?
Often a look or an exchange between two people makes or breaks an image. And often those looks, whether it's a serious gaze leveled straight into the camera lens or a micro-interaction between family members, are what I'm looking for while I'm editing. As I've said before, the technical and compositional elements of a photograph come into play while editing. The image has to be exposed properly and visually appealing. However, if I feel a person's face is interesting or powerful, that will supersede most other elements. I'll always include strong expressions in my final edit because I believe those images will end up being the most important to the client. They are to me, that much I know.
The type of expression on a person's face can be contentious. As a photographer who works a lot with families, there can be the expectation that all images should be of a family smiling and staring into the camera. For me, those aren't the most interesting images and you can read about the way I photograph families here - we don't do more than a few minutes of group pictures, then we get on to the good stuff. This means that not all the images that I deliver to a client will be images of smiling faces. Because a smile does not always make for an interesting image. Sometimes it can, but not always. I certainly deliver grumpy faces, confused faces, bemused faces, all the faces - and that's because it's more interesting and it's more diverse. It's fun to remember those moments and it's what happened. Honesty is key for me.
I look for facial expressions and moments of emotion that are arresting - that literally make me stop in my tracks while editing. Above everything, I'm looking for real emotion, whether it's a comical face, an expression of love between family members, or a look that says something that's hard to define, but makes me feel something. My ultimate goal is to make others feel those same feelings when they look at the image. If they do, then I think I did my job. After all, visual mediums are all about sharing and communicating.
The work below is a collection of images that I feel highlight the importance of expression in photographs. Not all smiling, not all perfect, but photos that evoke emotion.
My super reliable and photogenic model-friend Gytha made time in her busy travel schedule to stop by my house for an hour this week. Canadian-born, Icelandic by citizenship, currently Kent, England for university. She truly is one of those "citizens of the world" I keep hearing about. It seems like she's absorbing and loving everything life has to offer a 22 year old living abroad. And doing it with the self-assured maturity of a seasoned mid-lifer.
She's up for anything, even when that anything is "I'm not sure what we'll shoot, probably just experiment." We chat and she tells me about her busy and exciting life.
So, double exposures. Nothing new. Defo been done before. I had an instructor at university who, when presented student images for critique, would say "Well, it's been done before, but it hasn't been done by YOU before. So keep going."
Sometimes double exposures are a happy accident (but only if you're shooting film. The images below are digital, which means I meant to do it) and other times they're a cliché. These aren't accidents and I can't tell yet if they're cliché, but it was fun, and I liked making them. Really, that's all that matters to me these days. Doing something I like and making something that brings me a bit of joy. It doesn't have to have a lot of meaning, I just have to like doing it.
I hope you're doing things that bring you joy, too.
This wedding landed in my lap. Or maybe Quirky Love landed in theirs. I'm not sure, the only thing I know is that I drove home to Kingston that evening thinking I'd been a part of something out of the ordinary.
Cristal and Nathan married at Sandbanks Provincial Park, well after the park had closed for the season, when the colours of leaves had already well changed. Cristal and her family have a close connection to the park, and the whole event took place at Maple Rest Heritage House. Their daughter walked down the aisle with Cristal, with Cristal's mother and niece in tow. After the ceremony, the guests and wedding party walked the dunes together, enjoying one of the last warm days of our summer-like fall.
Cristal's sister took great care in creating a beautiful and intimate dinner setting, complete with candles and lace. There was a bonfire, marshmallows, and even pre-cut sticks for your roasting pleasure. The atmosphere was as warm and as welcoming as I have ever seen.
Cristal, Nathan, and their family members and friends were so friendly and chatty, I had to remind myself that I wasn't actually related to anyone there. "What a wonderful start to married life," I kept thinking. Of course, Cristal and Nathan already had a life together, but this symbolic day represented another jumping-off point, one that represented the co-mingling of two families and groups of friends. A true celebration.
Congratulations, Cristal and Nathan: To Wonderful Starts!
Places I've been, people I've seen.