I don’t like to post images that look like ads. But I am still trying to figure this out, using social media to promote my work, to engage people, to find new clients. I often worry that I’m not doing enough, not reaching out enough. I don’t like self-promotion. But it’s difficult, being your own sales and marketing team. And it’s hard to be subtle and show restraint when your very life depends on the hustle.
I’d like to think that my work speaks for itself, and it does, to a degree. But it’s a whisper. It’s a low voice in a sea of shouts. Slow and steady wins the race, they say. Be patient, they say. It takes years to build a business. Is that what I’m doing? I didn’t think of it like that six years ago when I embarked upon this crazy dream. I just followed the breadcrumbs, and crumbs they were. But I hustled gigs, and people helped spread the word, and I’m still in the game. For now.
My goal has always been to create portraits that you’d stop and look at. I wanted you feel something. I...
Tell me what you think. Tell me how you relate to the world. Don’t mince words. Life is too short and too dangerous for that. By dangerous I don’t mean deadly. We live in a time of hyperbole and outright lies. Not everything is as it seems. But this is not the era of falsehoods it is the era of truth. Those who are honest, and real, and vulnerable, are the true leaders we look to, we must look to, to save us from ourselves.
In my photographs I seek the truth. It’s that simple. I want to see people as they really are. All I ask is that you come as you are and embody your authentic self. Can you look in the mirror and love what you see? Can you look at all the other faces around you and feel the same? I’m not talking about your family and friends. They are easy to love. What about the person in front of you at the stop sign? What about the woman ahead of you on line?
That’s my approach to this. That’s my technique. We both show up honestly and recognize ourselves in the other. And that’s w...
There are so many facets of us that no one image can capture our nuance. And that’s what we’ve lost lately, that nuance. Everything is so facile, so black and white. But people aren’t like that. We are each a rich and complex fabric woven of experiences and dreams.
When I first envisioned this concept that I call ODE, I imagined that each person was a mosaic, a stained-glass window. I would take many photographs and choose a representative few, combined with written content I gleaned from interviews with them and their family and friends. The end result would be a tapestry of images and words that created a fair portrait of who they are.
That’s what I did with Marshall Guttenberg. Although I have done dozens of single-image ODEs since then, his 9-panel ODE is the closest I have come to what I envisioned. This is panel number 9, in which we pulled a quote from The Alchemist, one of his favorite books.
I’d like to do more like this. The idea was to post them all over social media and the we...
A company is made of people. It is the people who define the brand. If you can feel the passion, feel the zeal, your connection to that brand will be authentic. You can’t believe in a logo. You believe in human beings. Sometimes that begins with a photograph.
I’ve been lucky. I’ve had the opportunity to photograph brilliant people at companies large and small. From start-ups to industry leaders I’ve played a small role in capturing the magic behind the brands.
My specialty is in corporate portraits. About Us pages. Speaker bios. It doesn’t matter the size of the company. All that matters is that the people love what they do. Because that passion can be captured. In fact, if it’s real, it can’t b contained.
I specialize in portraits. Not so much headshots, but authentic, real, true photographs that capture the essence of a person. I'm especially good with people who don't like their picture taken. The process of a portrait involves a conversation. The result is a natural photograph. I don'...
We can’t possibly know what’s going on inside a person. But there’s a whole universe in there, an entire lifetime of experiences and feelings. Looking at a face is like looking at a distant galaxy through a radio telescope. Something is there. But what?
To some degree we are mysteries to one another but we are more alike than we often believe. We may be galaxies orbiting in our own universes but we share so much. We are here together, on this planet, breathing the same air. We have arms and legs and hearts. We have mothers and sisters and sons. We eat food, drink water and sleep. We love and despair.
My portraits celebrate that. They are an attempt to recognize one another as individuals, but also collectively as people. I mean, this is not something I think about while taking photographs. I don’t think about the meta purpose. I focus on the person. But I see each as a planet recognizing that we’re all spinning around the same star.
I know that I’m just looking at the surface, below which...
The other night I was watching The Sopranos and there was a scene with Hal Holbrook where he plays a scientist who, while watching a boxing match, tells Tony (Soprano) that the two fighters in the ring are an illusion. We’re not separate entities, he says, we’re all together, in a soup of molecules. There is no distinct individual. We’re waveforms. Everything is everything.
I think about this a lot. I’ve always believed that everything is connected, beyond metaphor. Literally. Each of us is a thread in a vast fabric. Holbrook’s character goes on to say, we exist as individuals only in our consciousness.
Photographs seem to further this illusion. They seem to support an objective reality. They serve to reinforce our perception that we are entities, islands. Is it possible that over the last decade or so we’ve grown more distant from each other because of social media and the over-reliance on the so-called objective reality of the photograph?
I have said before that it’s possible for a phot...
Each person is unique, but each person is connected to every other and has more similarities than differences. Without over-stating it (actually without stating it at all) that is what I try and communicate. Without realizing it, I want you to see yourself in every face.
It’s strange how what we notice first about someone are the differences. In an instant we perceive how we are not alike. Those differences are, in that fleeting moment, purely physical. Skin color. Body type. Ethnicity. Age. That is what our eyes are trained to do, that’s what they evolved to do. It seems to me that we could solve many problems if we saw less with our eyes and more with our hearts,
It’s easier to do that when we’re honest in how we come across in something as facile as a photograph. We live now in a world where photographs are ubiquitous. They’re often what we first see of each other now. So they’re important. They say you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression but I don’t think that’s true...
In photographs we sometimes glimpse that little spark of life in us. There’s something beyond perception, beyond what we can see with our eyes, that manifests. Our more subtle senses pick this up. In some photographs. How does this happen?
I think (and this is just a guess) that when two people agree to see each other something comes through from a realm of spirit. And that something transcends time, generations, form. We live in a time when if we can’t see it with our own eyes we don’t believe it’s true but what of all the truth that can’t be seen?
Not everything can be labeled, cataloged or numbered. Data is fine for stock markets and purchasing trends but can data capture the human soul? They say this is the era of ‘big data’ and perhaps that’s why we seem to be losing that sense of humanity, the sanity of human interaction, that helped us to know each other as individuals.
Maybe I’m probing too deeply for a photography blog. These essays are supposed to be about what sets my photograp...
Presence. That’s what I’m going for. I want you to feel as if you’re standing in front of the person in the photograph. I want them to feel real. I want you to feel as if you could just reach out and touch them. People worry about how they look in a photo but it’s not how you look, it’s how you feel.
That feeling is the difference between a stiff, sterile portrait and one that conveys a true sense of you. Not the whole you obviously, but a whiff of you, a flavor. There’s a certain essence that comes through. That essence is, I guess, spirit, or maybe even soul. I don’t know. I certainly don’t want to over-analyze it, or even think too much about it. But you either feel it or you don’t.
I have found that natural light and natural backgrounds work best. They compliment your natural qualities. I have also discovered that serendipity - chance juxtapositions of texture, color, and light - plays an important role. You just don’t get this in a studio or with a plain, uniform background element.
This is the first portrait I ever got paid for. I got $50 which is not a livable wage for all the time and work involved but what I learned was invaluable. North-facing windows, I discovered, provide the best light. And the serendipity of location my ally.
I began my portrait photography career as a Task Rabbit which gave me experience and helped me build my portfolio. But it was no way to live. The so-called ‘gig economy’ is rigged. Service providers compete on price. It’s a race to the bottom. In order to win projects you have to bid blind, and bid low. There was no way I could make it as a photographer that way.
But how DO you make it? I don’t know. Word of mouth and constant hustle. It’s not enough to be good. You have to be lucky, and dogged. And you need friends. Thank God for my friends. Gratitude is always helpful but what I’m really here to talk about is authenticity. Truth. My photos strive for a certain truth in how they portray the people in them.
I can’t take everyone out to the Marin Headlands for portraits. I wish I could. The light is sublime. And the backgrounds are so interesting. Maybe one day I’ll do a series of team portraits there. It’s not easy to get to, but the results speak for themselves.
I choose to photograph in natural light because of the subtlety and nuance. I like the serendipity factor. You never know what you’re going to get. And there’s a freedom to this. Under the right conditions I can recreate a similar effect indoors, but still there’s something to roaming - randomly moving from place to place.
My favorite locations all have this in common - you can wander and always find great light and backgrounds. Perhaps someday I’ll do a portrait series in San Francisco’s Chinatown. That wo
uld be perfect for a local company.
If you’re looking for the standard headshot against a flat color, I’m really not your man. I can do that of course, but my strength is in synchronicity in natural light and locations. I’m lookin...
I know that we are so much more than we see. We are not our photographs, not our reflections. Yet, in those things there is an aura of truth. The eyes see, but the heart processes. The more we look the more we feel.
Fleeting glances reveal but surfaces. To go deep you must absorb, and that means looking with organs other than eyes.
Intent is crucial. You have to want to see. If a photographer takes this approach, the resulting images will more likely reverberate with an energy beyond the visual. Why does it matter? Because such portraits leave an impression. Because the human behind the image will register.
You want to capture attention, and hold it long enough for a person to feel something. It’s not about vanity. It’s about conveying the essential you. Passion, commitment, care. That’s what you want to show. You don’t get that from a selfie. You don’t get that from an assembly line photographer.
When you choose a photographer engage a person who engages you. Choose wisely. The wrong doc...
Yesterday, I was in someone’s living room and I was looking at them through the camera, and we were talking. I was asking questions, getting to know them, and the light was perfect, and the photos were looking great and I thought ‘This is it. Doing this. Meeting someone for the first time and experiencing their life.’
I get to stand in front of strangers and and look at them, and humanity blossoms before me. It’s an incredible honor, a blessing really. I feel as if I am privileged to be in this position. Can I really get paid to help people see their best selves?
If I could I would do it for free. It’s sad that we live in a world where we have to charge money for helping each other. I truly enjoy being a portrait photographer. It brings me joy. It’s not easy, and I’m far from rich, but I have yet to find a job that makes me feel as this one does.
When I look at a face like the one above I am paid a bonus. A tiny explosion of joy erupts within me. Months, years later I feel my heart swell...
When I look at a face in a photograph I want to feel the person, get a real sense of their spirit. For this to happen they have to behave toward me as if I was an old and trusted friend.
This person here I’ve known for thirty-eight years so it was easy. There is no barrier between us. He knows how I see the world, and thus trusts me, not just with the camera, but with all the little decisions that have to be made after the photo is taken. People don’t realize this.
I take an edit pass over the photos. I choose the photos that I will show you. I process those photos in such a way as to enhance light, line, texture, skin tone etc.. That’s really the work. That’s the hard part. Taking the photo is only half the job. The other half is editing. It takes longer to edit a photo than it does to take it. When choosing a photographer consider their editing skills.
I look at thousands and thousands of faces. Selecting the ones that convey the right ‘feeling’ is the most important part of what I do a...
I shot all these DBI portraits with a 50mm 1.2. For most of you that means nothing. But do you notice how there’s almost a 3D quality to the photo? Think of the image as a loaf of bread. Only one slice is in focus - the face. The larger your aperture (the shutter, the opening that light enters) the thinner the slice of bread that’s in focus.
In this case his eyes are that slice, which we call the focal plane. The back of the chair, his neck and parts of his collar are all nicely blurred. That blur, which is sometimes called bokeh, is what gives the photo a 3D quality. In the case of a portrait, the face pops out.
Since a person’s eyes are the focal point of your attention in life, as well as in a photograph, this ‘technique’ helps to draw the viewer into the person’s face. When you combine that with good light, interesting texture, and negative space, you are likely to get portraits that are, well, interesting.
I love this effect. It gives me a visceral feeling of presence. For me at leas...