The Story Behind the Portrait #7


How is everyone doing? Feel free to reply back and let me know how you are! Did you have a good week?

I am VERY inspired by location. A space can add extra layers of storytelling to a shoot. In art school, I started photographing spaces that I found interesting, just for fun.

This location is personal to me. It is my brother's old bedroom. It says a lot about him, without him even needing to be in the shot. He's a music fan, he reads books, he's been to the Netherlands (the flag with the 3 Xs represents Utrecht). It is a portrait without the person.

And just like people, spaces can change over time. I took this photo ten years ago, and since then, this room has drastically changed due to renovations and redecorations. It hardly looks like this anymore.

My brother has always very much been into music. He has played guitar for years. I also love music and in that spirit, I created a playlist for you! The theme is photography. You can play it here.

I'm guessing not everyone has Spotify, so the playlist is below as well:

Picture- Sheryl Crow + Kid Rock
F-Stop Blues- Jack Johnson
Fotografia- Juanes
Paparazzi- Lady Gaga
Cameras- Wiz Khalifa
I Turn My Camera On- Spoon
Kodachrome- Paul Simon
Hey Ya!- Outkast

I had a lot of fun creating this playlist and hope you enjoy it!

The Story Behind the Portrait #6

I Wish I Could Time Travel Back to this Shoot


If I could time travel, I would go back to this moment.

In art school, I photographed a lot of strangers on the street (in fact I still do). I met this man in downtown San Francisco and he was agreeable to having his portrait taken.

We started talking and I asked him the age old question- "What do you do?" His response, "Actually, I just got out of jail." I was completely caught off guard. I think I said something along the lines of, "Oh okay, great! Now just stand here and let me photograph you."

I was naive at the time and didn't recognize the opening he had provided me. Internally, I was thinking that I should leave the presence of this person because he was probably dangerous. Now looking back, I wish I had asked him deeper questions- why had he gone to jail, how long he was there, what he planned to do now that he was out, what he most missed while locked up, etc.

I missed an opportunity for more with this portrait. I was new to approaching strangers to pose for me and hadn't yet learned the power of conversation. Conversation is so important- not just for the sake of the portrait, but also for learning something new about someone else. If I could definitely go back to this one, I would.

Have you ever felt like you've missed an opportunity to get to know someone better? Let me know, I'd love to hear!

The Story Behind the Portrait #5

In Which Everything Isn’t Perfect


This week, I want to get personal and share my struggles with perfectionism when it comes to my photography.

This photo has been living on a hard drive for 10 years. You wanna know the dumb reason why? You can't see her feet! Yes, that is correct. I've tucked away this photo from public eyes because her feet aren't visible. I had an instructor in art school who was so critical of photos that cropped into parts of the body. I definitely hear his voice in my head asking, "Where are her feet???"

Well, you know what, her feet are standing in tall grass! If you saw her feet, she'd be floating and that would look weird!

Truthfully, there are some technical problems with this photo. I shot straight into the sun, causing the sky to look white. Her face is difficult to read because of this issue.

Despite the missing feet and difficult lighting, I like the shot. I worked with a stylist on this shoot and loved the clothing she chose. I also love the color of the grass and how she has her hands placed on the jacket. And, the motivation for this shoot was practice and having fun. Both were accomplished.

So, it is high time to debut this photo. I took it in the Marin Headlands (outside SF) and worked with a fantastic stylist, make-up artist, and model.

I'm so curious to know if there is some area of your life where perfectionism creeps in. Feel free to reply back to this email, if you'd like to share (your response will only be seen be me).

ps- And even the pros aren't perfect.

The Story Behind the Portrait #4

How One Connection Can Lead to the Next

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Last week I wrote about meeting Allison and this week I want to share how that connection led to another collaboration (if you missed last week's post, you can find it here).

Last summer, I received an email from Tanisha Ford. She needed new portraits, specifically for her website. She and Allison are friends and Allison had recommended me. We spoke at length about her brand and her work as a professor, writer, and commentator. She was also putting the final touches on her second book. We brainstormed an editorial shoot, featuring various Harlem locations.

We planned the shoot on what turned out to be the hottest day of the summer. But Tanisha was not phased by the heat. She was fearless in front of the camera, unafraid to dance and strike poses on busy Harlem streets. I felt really energized by her boldness, the setting, and the late afternoon light. We both felt in flow, magic had set in.

A few months later, I received an email from a book publisher requesting to license a photo. Asking after the title, I found out that this random request was actually from Tanisha's publisher, asking permission to use one of the images from our shoot for the cover of her book! To know that our collaboration had unexpectedly resulted in the cover was such a surprise and honor. I can't tell you how thrilled I am! And I also feel so grateful to Allison and my chance meeting with her. It goes to show the power of connection.

Below I added a few more photos from the shoot that are personal favorites. Also, check out Tanisha's website to see more photos of our session together.