Good leaders care about their people. They just don’t say they care, they actually do. And that is demonstrated by their actions. But mostly it’s something we just feel. That care. It’s tangible. Palpable. Because it’s love.
Love makes leaders that last. Love makes leaders effective. Think about the leaders you’ve admired. There’s love there. Not authoritarianism, love.
Empathy flows from love. Affection flows from love. Love, simply, is the recognition of another heart. I love everyone I photograph. I see their hearts. I try to. And often that is reflected back.
Edward (above, or below depending on how this is posted) opened his heart to me on many occasions, not just on the day we took this photo. So I knew our time together would yield the kind of portrait you can feel, not just see.
That’s the secret to my ‘success’. If I take a great picture it’s because the person I am with is open, and willing to be seen. And that begins with me. I must also be open and willing to be seen....
We carry around our stories. They drive us, they define us. Our stories are who we are. Beneath this skin, this frail facade, we are a collection of experiences and ideas.
Sometimes they are heavy and we strain beneath them. But that only makes our legs and shoulders stronger. Over time our stories make us impervious to the weather of our lives. If we choose that. If we insist on growing. If we have faith in ourselves. Because our stories can also buckle us. They can break us. How we tell the story matters, not just to others but to ourselves.
The glass is always half full. Things can always be worse. If you are alive and breathing you are in the game, you can help people. And if you can help people then your life has meaning. Our meaning does not derive from what we can do for ourselves.
I must always ask myself ‘what story am I telling?’ and ‘who am I helping today?’ That is my anti-depressant. That is my raison d’etre. My story is only complete if it includes yours. And it does. Not...
You earned your acronym. You worked hard for it. You are to be congratulated, and celebrated, not for your title, but for your human qualities. You are a person. You may manage a team but you’re also a member of that team. Let that human side shine.
Look at me, look into the camera lens because those are the eyes of all the people you work with, and will work with. The difference between a portrait and a headshot is that in a portrait you are looking, not being looked at. You are listening, and open. The energy and attention comes from you, not to you.
I don’t do headshots. Not because I turn my nose up at them but because my style engages the subject in a way that turns the energy in the other direction. I draw out and absorb energy. Not that I have any special skill or powers. It’s just that that’s my style, developed organically over thousands of portraits.
The world needs more listening. The world needs more real people. The world needs more honest witnesses. That’s what I do, I rec...
We are so much more than eyes, and skin, and hair. We are more than ears and necks. We are packets of energy and light held within these fragile containers. Our faces are labels. We can discern some of the ingredients from a mere glance, but only some. In the right light, at the right angle, we can get a sense of character. But what is ‘right’? When the spirit glows. You know it when you see it. You feel it.
Sunlight is, I believe, is the most revelatory. It is also the most flattering. Sure, it can be approximated. Faked. But the serendipity of natural sunlight creates the most powerful portraits. It is what the painters of old used for their portraits. Rembrandt. I am after that Rembrandt drama. The drama of the face. That is a landscape worthy of depiction. In such a photograph the soul seeps through. And souls are what we bond with, not faces. Hearts and minds are won through feeling, not seeing.
The portrait is a success if you feel something. I’m not interested in lifeless cardbo...
Lines mean a lot to me. Lines and curves. They help create compelling narratives in which the person I’m photographing is the protagonist. They suggest movement which is not always physical movement but emotional/spiritual. It is pure synchronicity. Nothing is ever planned. We find an interesting location and the backgrounds suggest themselves.
These kinds of portraits reveal more than just reflections. This is about more than what you look like. This is not a typical business headshot. And though I do those, I enjoy these the most because it’s through them I discover the person I’m photographing the best. And it’s through them I discover myself.
If I could bring an entire team out to one of these types of locations (and I know many) I believe I could create one hell of an About Us page. The world around us characterizes us. It provides a context for who we are as people. Clients don’t often think about the background. Often they ask for something neutral or white. But we are not neutra...
Housed in these packages our souls haunt the earth accumulating wisdom and experience like snowballs until they move on to who-knows-where? Other packages? Other planes of existence? It’s all too mysterious to absorb but I like to think about it. And when I take a photo, do a portrait, I am all too aware that pictures are not just pictures. Faces are more than faces. We are so much more than what we see.
Why does this matter? How is this relevant to the About Us page? Well, we are not automatons. We are not ants. We choose where we work, many of us. and that choice is reflected in our values, and our hearts. When I go to an About Us page I want to feel something. I want to feel passion and concern and all the human values that add up to what a company can be.
That’s why I don’t just take pictures. That’s why I invest time in each person to help bring out their best selves. My photos have depth, and emotion, they contain three dimensional human beings. I’m not interested in flat, uniform...
I tell people always not to worry about their skin or their hair. The focal point in any portrait is your eyes. There’s not much you can do to affect them, but you can hold the truth in your heart, the truth about who you are. Your eyes cannot hide you. They can’t be Photoshopped. They can’t be faked. So just look at me and breathe, I say. Show me who you are. This is not really a conscious choice but you can set intent. And intent shines through.
I can provide you with a focal point. All you need to do is relate to me. Just be present and talk to me. Or I can talk to you. Whatever works for you. A portrait is a conversation, or part of one. It’s one side of a conversation, and you can glean the energy and the veracity of that conversation by looking at the results. You can’t be authentic for me if I’m not authentic for you.
So the onus is on me to create space for that. My intent must be open and focused on you. And I have to be real. I can’t fake it either. If your portrait fails I ta...
The eyes, they say, are the windows of the soul. The portals, the doorways, the access points through which we feel a human being. There’s something about the shape of them, the way they set off a face. We can tell in an instant the demeanor of the person we’re looking at. We can sort of see into their heart. How does this happen?
It’s more than just mood. You can certainly gauge a person’s mood. But it goes deeper. You can also assess their intent, their goodness, they’re stability. People often say to me “I can’t do photos until I lose some weight.” But it’s not your belly I care about. It’s not your arms. All I want to see is your eyes and their size doesn’t fluctuate. You’re born with the eyes you will always have. That’s what I want to capture, that childlike look in your eyes.
I understand that you want to feel good about yourself/your body. If you don’t it will show in your photo. But fat doesn’t matter. Confidence does. All you have to worry about is being your authentic self. Sh...
I want every person to just pop out of their photograph. I want you to feel as if you’re standing in front of them. I want to erase the barrier between what is seen and what is felt so that when you look at a photo you are filled with emotion. I want you to feel a person, not just see them.
To that end I ask you to look at me. To really look. You know when you’re a child and you’re arguing with your parents and they say “Look at me!” ? It’s that level of focus I ask though not in a condescending way.
When I was living in New York, and spending a lot of time in Manhattan, I learned how to break down barriers quickly so that a person would become an instant friend. They say you’re not supposed to look people in the eye on the streets, in order to avoid conflict, and that’s mostly true, but it also works in reverse. You can make friends by looking a person in the eye. So it becomes a case of discerning who is who.
When I do portraits, everybody is a friend. I arrive at each situation with so...
You are a story. And a portrait is a wordless version of that story with no beginning, no middle, and no end, There is no arc to the now. If you look at your portrait, and assign to it moments from the past and future yet to come, you will be distorting it, and may not like what you see. It’s human nature to create some sort of Gestalt composed of memories and expectations but that is wholly unnecessary and potentially counterproductive. Your portrait is a slice of the now. And by the time you even see it, it is in the past.
Part of my job is to take the picture. But another part is to help you to interpret it. When I see your photograph I see beauty, no matter what you see. I have no filters, I create no story where none exists. Unfortunately I can’t be there for every person when they see their photo for the first time, but that’s the kind of photography I want to be doing. I hesitate to call it therapeutic. Let’s call it guided. The whole experience, from the moment we meet through...
Not all portraits I do are indoors, in offices, in urban settings. Not all lines are straight. Sometimes something softer is called for. Sometimes the best setting is the earth and sky. And occasionally, there are horses.
If a person asks me, I will tap into my reservoir of sacred places - locations where I have known magic to happen, and by magic I mean serendipitous encounters with trees, animals and land. I have done this now with countless individuals. I have never done it with a group, or team, though I could if the aesthetic of such a team called for it.
This can be a very personal, very emotional experience. For both the person being photographed and me. Usually such an experience requires walking together, and walking generally leads to talking, which means learning about one another. This is an excellent way of getting to know someone, and of loosening them up for a portrait session. Walking is the preferred method for priming the emotional pump that so often yields truly great...
If there’s one thing I believe in as a photographer, one guiding principle I turn to again and again, it’s that seemingly chance occurrences and juxtapositions are every bit a part of the process as light and composition. You never know what you’re going to discover. And the more control you have over the elements of a photograph, the less this important part of the experience shows up.
It’s scary to trust that you will find the light, find the right background and be handed such a perfect setting as say, this, above. But in my experience 95% of the time the universe, or God, or you could call it luck, arranges things so that it all works out.
I believe in serendipity like I believe in gravity. It’s a mysterious force that always works. It works in regular day to day life and for sure in photography. I have taken far too many pictures to have not noticed its effects. When I do portraits on location (outdoors and not in an office) I often discover amazing and meaningful things waiting for...
He was a stranger that day. He just walked up to me and asked if I could take his picture. We were in Chinatown. It was my birthday. I was doing free portraits for my friends, or anyone who would show up in Chinatown. And I loved him instantly. He was so open, so willing. He trusted me before he even knew me. He used to live in Chinatown, he told me. This alley was familiar to him. He was comfortable and relaxed. A perfect subject for a portrait.
The perfect subject for a portrait is a person who wears their heart on their sleeve. A perfect subject for a portrait engages me as if I were an old friend. A perfect subject for a portrait is not afraid to get close, to be emotionally intimate. A perfect subject for a portrait feels totally comfortable in their own skin. You don’t have to be perfect but it’s helpful to be aware of these things. All you have to do is be yourself, the way you are with your family and friends. Treat me as a family member. Treat me as a friend.
It’s 2019 and we don’t use our portraits to adorn our parlor walls anymore. Portraits are not about vanity, or the preservation of the familial line. They serve a different purpose now. They are how we introduce ourselves to the world. This hyperconnected world. This is how we do business. This is how we court one another, both professionally and romantically. I see your face before I ever meet you. In general. And when I see that face an impression is formed.
What is it that you wish to convey? I ask almost everyone this question. What do you want people to take away from your photo? Confidence, approachability, competence, friendliness, strength, compassion, authenticity. Those are the answers I hear most often. And when I hear those words I say “Okay then. Embody that. Summon it.” Because I can’t bestow those qualities on you. I’m just a mirror. You’ve got to glow from the inside out.
Just be yourself. Take a deep breath and just be. It’s actually very easy. Look at me like we are the...
Photographing teams, especially game studios, is a great honor. These are nascent juggernauts who build worlds based on dreams. I love world-builders and dreamers, whom I feel a special bond with because I used to be one of them.
Back in the 90's I co-founded two game studios, Drew Pictures and Jinx, and I remember well the feeling of dreaming big and pushing the envelope. There's a special esprit du corps within a small team that is just palpable. And it's infectious. Just being among a team like Ascendant (pictured above) made me feel like I was part of something exciting and important.
Capturing the unique personality of a team through photographs is something I do well. I try and mesh with them, become one of them, while I am with them, and I think I can understand their vibe. I'm not just a good photographer, I'm a good assimilator. I blend in and foster a feeling of e pluribus unum. That's really what a good team is all about. You have many different skills and personalities all se...