After completing my latest photo shoot I sat into the night, sifting through the images. At one point I thought to myself, “these may very well give me nightmares.” I was quite pleased with what my subject and I had created, as well as just how many of the photographs worked within the scope of what we were trying to accomplish. The success of this dark (and sometimes political) photo shoot was birthed by an exceptionally talented model. I was humbled getting the chance to work and create with him to capture some of these convoluted, bold pieces of art. The two of us happen to think a lot alike, which gave us a good amount of freedom within the process. Knowing one another for 30+ years may very well have contributed to the ease of exploration of these characters. I feel that he was able to take these photographs to an intense and dramatic place. While I realize they may not be for everybody, to me each one takes on quite an extraordinary story of it’s own from long, long ago.
“Tami, I am your father…”
I always liked and appreciated having an older father. I know a lot of people aren’t keen on having kids too late in life, because they want to play ball and have the energy to run around with them. I’ve had an idea ever since i was a kid that “old” isn’t until you get to around your mid-eighties, and even then I didn’t like to call people “old”. Maybe because old is quite subjective and my father has never given off an old person vibe, even today. Internally he’s really always been more of a kid, for good or bad. : ) He often says, “sometimes I look in the mirror and I wonder, ‘who is that guy?!’” I, myself, was born an “old soul,” studying the world from the get go. The stories he would tell me about “days long gone by” seemed to suit me far better than the contemporary life of other kids my age. As a result, we have a lot of common ground.
My dad has always been a sensitive artist, filled to the brim with talent. He’s a graphic designer by trade, and when I was little I would watch him work, drawing with a lot of patience and precision. On many fronts however he’s hidden away some enormous abilities that I feel would be an absolute waste not to share with the world. For example he’s got a great voice and can harmonize to anything. He picked up the accordion in college and taught himself how to play, which is a hobby he resumed recently. (He can pick up almost any song on the first or second try!) And, as you will see, he’s quite the character actor. But because of some shyness throughout the years, he hasn’t been able to show the extent of what he can do. I’m so proud of him stepping out of his box with this shoot and I think he did a fantastic job. It just goes to show that you can always change your mind, create new unique works of art and surprise yourself, no matter what the age. Start now!
To the world, please allow me to present to you my father and just one of his many unique talents. I’d like to thank him for this bold and interesting inspiration and for trusting me as an artist. You’re brilliant Dad.
Reading a quote from famed photographer Richard Avedon certainly got me thinking today. His work is gorgeous, interesting and I admire it very much. He has shot many a celebrity over the years and it seems to me that he truly enjoyed photographing harsh realities, showing the ugly as a part of the pretty. These are things that I certainly enjoy presenting as well. For me, having a pretty model and taking a pretty picture is not always extremely interesting or rewarding. On the surface they are pretty faces, ‘pretty’ being what society feeds us. I think the magic happens when imperfections are showcased and a different artistic expression is able to emerge from within the subject. This allows for new meaning and for the pictures to take on a life of their own for the viewer. Being a human on planet earth has many facets, the experiences that we go through can and do certainly change our perspective. Reading Avedon’s personal views on all these things however led me to believe that he was quite the pessimist, though I could be wrong.
Here’s the particular quote I’ve been dissecting:
“Youth never moves me. I seldom see anything very beautiful in a young face. I do, though – - in the downward curve of Maugham’s lips, in Isak Dinesen’s hands. So much has been written there, there is so much to be read, if one could only read. I feel most of the people in my book, Observations, are earthly saints. Because they are obsessed, obsessed with work of one sort or another. To dance, to be beautiful, tell stories, solve riddles, perform in the street. Zavattini’s mouth and Escudero’s eyes, the smile of Marie-Louise Bousquet: they are sermons on bravado.”
- Richard Avedon, 1959
I guess that quote struck something in me, something that compelled me to really think about why I disagree. I’m driven to explain why youth does move me. Strongly. I can still share some of his viewpoints, as I too am interested to shoot and bring out the accumulated life experience of a person in a photograph. But maybe it’s that I believe there is a very strong case for reincarnation out there. Because really, if such theories were true, you could be getting more of a veteran mind than you had anticipated, working with a child. Only now in a slightly smaller package. Let’s just say for fun that kids come from all kinds of experiences from another life they’ve lived. They’re now learning how to do everything all over again: It can surely be frustrating!
Children can be completely raw and sometimes haven’t quite figured out how to handle their emotions yet. Depending on the kid, it can be a treasure and quite beautiful to capture some of that rawness and vulnerability that you might be hard pressed to find in a more refined adult. They tend to be uninhibited and sometimes push the limits by doing or saying things that inevitably embarrass their adult counterparts. It could be said that they just haven’t quite mastered the skill of “saying the right things at the right time” or “behaving as they’re expected to.” How else could Art Linkletter and Bill Cosby have had such successful shows? When you actually listen to children, you’ll sometimes hear the most funny answers to things or interesting questions posed. They’ve got dark, they’ve got light, scared, joyful and anywhere in between, which can all come together in a single minute, and can be quite amusing! I love seeing this exuberant emotional freedom. They can and do reflect the negative or quirky things they’re exposed to as well, but even when they’ve been through hard times they tend to show a beautiful resilience. They continue to play, laugh and have an abundant amount of energy. I do believe they’re more complex than most people give them credit for. Comfortable and free to play a range of characters or just sit there bored out of their minds. It’s exciting to not know what you’re going to get, or to try and get something from nothing.
I wholeheartedly agree with the notion of shooting an ‘experienced’ subject, it’s just a matter of when.