My vision for this portrait project has been to create a collection showcasing my bandmates in the Novi Concert Band with one significant portrait of each musician, each with their own unique persona, to share their stories. Why? Because in our society, we are most accustomed to seeing artful photos of our rock stars, athletes, and Hollywood actors. This project is about shifting paradigms and checking assumptions. Making this collection of photographs created an opportunity to portray adult musicians in a fresh light. By working one-on-one with each musician, I’ve been able to share their personal stories, hobbies and passions.
The takeaway I didn't expect was the richly diverse collection of experiences we shared in making the portraits. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to spend time with each of these interesting people. To stand in the rain and deep freeze, and sweat, and get up too early, haul equipment, tromp through the woods, and knock on strangers' doors for permission to photograph on their property. A few of my bandmates actually took inspiration from what we were doing and got lighting equipment, too. I can't wait to see the photos they make!
Someone asked me at the end of making these 50 portraits which one is my favorite. I can't answer that! Each one is my favorite for its own reason. I hope I've been able to convey the fun and adventures we shared. Sometimes I love a portrait for the serious or intense expression captured. Sometimes it's because of the absolute thrill of seeing what would be ordinary on a cellphone snapshot turn into something special by popping my lights and umbrellas.
Those portraits that I was able to make match my imagination through post-production editing make me very happy, like flutist Greg floating in the air as his daughters tossed music in the air. Some are my favorites because of the amazing hobbies and collections they shared. A few of these experiences made my heart sing. Standing in the park waiting for trombonist Dan Patient to arrive, I heard and felt the rumble of his motorcycle coming down the road and realized he was bringing it out for me to photograph it! Learning from flutist Amy that having her portrait made left her feeling wonderful about the experience, especially because of the connection I made with her young daughter. That is a precious memory, because helping my subject feel beautiful is always my goal.
I thought my own portrait would be the last one in the project, but had the good luck to fulfill one of my first visions for the project a few days before the show went up. One our band members has been struggling with health set backs the past few years, and I had photographed him in concert dress. But I wanted the bari sax playing farmer in his cornfield. He's feeling better these days, so we made a last minute date to make that happen. Driving out to Don's farm with him and seeing not only how he tended 220 acres on his pristine farm until he was 89, but also how the neighbors and their kids love him so was so special
You can see I'm very fond of my bandmates. All are favorites for one reason or another.
For me, the challenge and goal of embarking on this project was about mastery of the environmental portrait. There are those who say you can never achieve mastery in photography. But for me, mastery means I learned from 50 very different individuals how to work with them to showcase each one of them at their best.
Making portraits is not just about the photographer's eye and taste. It's about making an image that makes your subject feel good. Posing for portraits is not a normal act for most adults and not for us as musicians. We like to be in a group, in the background, or not photographed at all! So many negative voices are shouting inside our heads: ""But...my hair, my wrinkles, my belly - my goodness I'm old."" As important as making the click to capture these portraits were the connections we forged.
do not know yet what my next project will be, but I guarantee you that for the rest of my life, the experiences and learning that took place while photographing my bandmates will continue to inform my choices as a photographer.
I leave you with this. A challenge like this one I set for myself:
The show is still on display for two more weeks, we have our "Pictures at an Exhibition" concert on Sunday, October 20 at the Novi Civic Center, So please, come out and meet my wonderful bandmates.
Blog: Stories from Behind the Lens
As much as I revel in the final image and love returning to look at them again and again, the process of making a photo is also a treasured experience.