The root of the word photography is Greek, I believe- photo meaning light and graph meaning writing. Writing with light. Well, no wonder I like it so much. I was a writer long before I was a photographer. I was an artist before I was a writer, but photography is really where I was able to bring those two passions together. Photography is, literally, painting with light, and photography tells a story, doesn’t it?
Sometimes the story is boring. Here is this bland office architectural interior. Here is this person lecturing at a podium. Here is this thing I’m gonna sell on eBay. But me, being the keen observer of people that I am- I see the stories in a lot of what I shoot. I take lots and lots of head shots. All of the women are self conscious and self deprecating. I’m not passing judgment- I am the same way when I see pictures of myself. I hate nearly all of them. And yet I wish I could say something to these women: we are all beautiful. Ah, but I know and understand so well. The men are not as self conscious, but some are. I photograph everyone from the very top of my company to the rank and file. Some of those at the top are self conscious too. Some strategically avoid me and my camera. As I edit the head shots, each individual blown up to the size of my Mac’s large monitor, I think about them a little. They are moms, dads. They have hopes, dreams. I brush their stray hairs, wrinkles and dark under eye circles away.
Most of the events I shoot at work are typical events, but some manifest unexpected emotion. The last “Town Hall” for someone whose worked at my company for 27 years. 27 years ago, I was fourteen. This person was loved. They threw him a retirement party and I was there too. I found it interesting that when folks had the opportunity to voice well wishes in front of the group, they were all too shy. I work in PR. If my group were in the same situation, they’d all be clamoring for the mic. Even I would say something, and I know my other introvert colleague would too. These folks were behind the scenes people. Quiet, reserved.
Earlier this week I was asked to photograph a kids clinic hosted by my work, the local soccer team and the Boys & Girls Club. Not being a sports person, I wasn’t sure what I’d be photographing. That’s the thing when you’re an event photographer- you get the assignment and you add it to the other assignments on your calendar and you’re usually too busy to get more details. You just show up, ready for anything.
There were tons of kids at this event. It was so hot. I was smart and dressed to sweat and boy, I did. I keep sunscreen in my office at work and was glad I thought to put some on before I went to go stand a couple of hours in the hot, bright setting sun.
There were a few guys from the local soccer team teaching the kids some moves and getting them to run their little hearts out. I spent the first part of the evening shooting the fray, and then there was a water break and a pause and several kids noticed me.
When you are the photographer at an event, part of the point is that you need people to ignore you so they’ll relax and you can get good candid shots. But you also have to get in the middle of the action or down in front and adults know to ignore you.
I had both my cameras around my neck, one with wide lens, one with long and they were enthralled. They wanted to see the cameras. They wanted to look through the viewfinder. Most of them didn’t know about the viewfinder at first, being accustomed to smart phones and cameras with LCD screens. They liked the big telephoto lens a lot. They wanted to take pictures. They wanted to see them after they’d taken them. They wanted to see the photos I’d taken earlier. I’ve taught photo workshops for kids lots of times, but it’s been awhile. I forgot about being surrounded by kids wanting to know more about my DSLR.
I let them see. I didn’t take either camera off of my neck- this is work’s fairly expensive equipment after all- but I crouched down and pulled them close and held onto the camera with them. They were SO excited. I had to kind of fend them off after a little bit. In addition to photos of the game playing, I got some neat portraits of them. Lots of cute photos of them goofing around, but some candids too. Some of the photos they took of each other turned out too. I’m going to edit them and share with my work, but I hope the Boys & Girls Club uses them too. Some of them really capture the benefit of community play, the joy of being a kid. When you are a kid, everything is magical, and as we age, somewhere along the way we lose that. Those kids can be an example for us.