Some folks have asked about my process - about how I approach making an image, especially when I have tasked myself with making one (keeper) image a day, every day for a year. How can I keep it fresh, and make impactful or intriguing images out of the elements in my every day life? Some days I succeed, somedays I miss the mark a little. But I genuinely try to approach each picture with the intention of making an image I will be excited to look at again and again.
Many photographers plan an image, perhaps make a sketch, noting placement of subjects and details. They see the finished frame before putting camera to eye. I do this sometimes - on assignment to shoot a specific subject, and particularly in the studio. But in general, my style is to immerse into a situation and be totally open to whatever arises.
Friday's #kidsinthehood image was a great example of how I like to work, and the product that can come of it. I'll walk you through the minutes leading up to the capture of the image that became my photo of the day:
It's late afternoon, we're preparing to go to friends' for dinner. I don't have a picture for today yet. I look out the window and see 3 of our 'hood kids, sitting on the sidewalk up the street. Grab the camera, walk out the door.
I approach (our neighborhood is by now well accustomed to me walking up, camera in hand) to find Devin, Seamus and Kate, sitting on the sidewalk amid a pile of Bionicles (if you live with a boy under the age of 12, you know what these are). I start by shooting the scene from up on the porch, I like the height and there's a sort-of-interesting van across the street.
I drop down to where the kids are and raise the camera above their heads, shooting down at their hands reaching to the confusing pile of plastic pieces. Neat pic, but a little too similar to yesterday's #bonusframe of Kate drawing with chalk. But I keep at it, and think there might be a pic in there.
Whoa...Kate stands and I see that she is wearing a long, blue velvet dress, with hot pink pants and sneakers below that. To play outside in the neighborhood. Of course. Fabulous. Kate, would you mind going up on the porch for me? So she climbs the stairs of this cool porch, I notice the old bike, the cockeyed painted chair and hula hoops in the back ground, the broom leaning near by the fantastic red door. The tiny bird house hanging from the beam. Kate stands there in perfect Kate form - looking unselfconsciously awesomely like her quirky kid self. Click.
Yeah, i like that.
Kate begins to jump and spin and just generally Kate-ing around. I'm clicking away. Interesting, but not much context. But I'm totally digging this scene and my pulse rate is beginning to climb a bit because I can feel a picture coming together.
Seamus gets to the stairs, but I don't like what he's wearing for this pic, so I ask him to move to the far left (out of frame). More pics of Kate Kate-ing around on this cool porch. Seamus decides he wants to go inside, dashes across the scene so as not to be in my way. As he enters through the red door, he turns back for one second to look at his friend, then dissappears inside. I see it - I see what this image needs. It needs a witness, and Seamus just taught me that.
But I missed it.
His granfather appears at the door to see what we're all up to. I ask him to ask Seamus to come back to the door for a minute. As we wait the 15 seconds for Seamus to come back, Kate, in a moment of pure spontaneous Kate-ness, puts one hand to hip, raises the other to her collar bone - she suddenly looks Appalachian-elegant and 22, a totally impassive expression on her face. I ask her to freeze, she does, but maintains her relaxed demeanor. She is quirky and beautiful and with the old bike and the muted light and red door I see this is all falling into place.
Seamus returns, I ask him to peer out the door again, recreating what I had just seen moments ago. He does, the light lands on his face for a brief moment before he dissappears...
Click. That's it.
Fifteen minutes earlier I am standing in my room not knowing where my photo of the day will come from. I walk up the street, look at thes kids I have been living among for so long now, take a minute to really notice them - who they are and how they present themselves to the world. All the pieces are there and I wait and ask and recieve this image as the elements of it all converge. We drive off to friends' house and I know I've got a great one for today. Later I add some post-production touches - a bit of dodging and burning here, a little vignette, a few other minor tweaks to give the image the look I want and make the most of this scene. It's good.
It's exciting to know the image is out there - its components ebb and flow, rise and fall, but the whole is there - all the time. This is what thrills me about what I do. This is why a project like this is so important for me. It forces me to bare witness and be open to the visual feast that exists around us, every single day. There are fleeting moments when everything is just right - beautifully ordinary, divine. And when i am lucky and prepared, I can capture these to share and remember.
I love this photograph. I love the medium of photography, and am so grateful to this neighborhood for its steady offerings to me and my camera.