Week 18 of The 365 Day People Picture Project has concluded with so much fun, it's taken me several hours to calm down and gain enough focus to be able to tell you about the photo's from this week. If you're checking in on this project for the first time, I'm not a photographer. I've challenged myself to learn photography by taking a picture of a person every day for a year. The photos in this project are taken fresh daily. The majority of the subjects have been strangers, but I've also included some friends, family and co-workers. Now that I'm into this project almost 4 months, I've realized the challenge is actually 4-part:
1) the challenge to find a person who is willing to let me take their picture
2) the challenge to find the nerve and confidence to then approach that person to ask if I can take their picture
3) the challenge to be able to capture a decent picture with my limited experience and knowledge of photography
4) the challenge to repeat steps 1 - 3, every day, for 365 days.
If you would like to follow along daily, I post the pictures to Instagram and my username is @missellanea.
Day 120 - Melissa
Melissa assisted me with my purchase at Sephora on Sunday. She was so friendly and knowledgeable! Everyone at Sephora is always helpful, but Melissa won my vote for the best Sephora customer service in the history of the universe, because she also took a moment to let me take her picture.
Can you imagine working there and being able to sample so many different products? I think I would have to go in on my off-days just to experiment with all of that make-up! Melissa confirmed what we've all suspected about working in a place where you love what you sell - it is an exercise in restraint for her not to turn around and give back her hard-earned paycheck.
When I asked Melissa the happiest thing happening in her life, she replied, "I'm going to be getting married in September." They plan to start a family immediately afterward. Twins run in her family, so she's hoping for a pair. Best wishes to you and your lucky fiancé, Melissa!
Day 121 - Man at Plaid Pantry
I would have loved to ask this man if he would take off his cap so that we could see his perfect silver/white hair, but I could tell that I was already lucky that he agreed to let me take his picture, so I didn't push any further.
He was a friendly man, but I got the feeling that I needed to be quick and let him get back to doing what he was doing. When I asked the happiest thing happening in his life, he said, "I just got out of the hospital last week. I'm alive and doing well." With that, he and his friend were on their way.
Day 122 - Matt
This is Matt from Black Label Tattoo. He works with Donovan, from day 10. I've always known that Donovan, Matt and the rest of the crew do excellent work, but after having just watched one of the new tattoo TV shows for the first time and then getting to hang out at Black Label, it completely reinforced just how skilled they are.
When I asked Matt about the happiest thing going on in his life, he replied, "tattooing and snowboarding - it's a tie."
Day 123 - "Mr. Bumblebee"
This is "Mr. Bumblebee." He's a baker.
I had a tough time finding a subject on Wednesday but it was all worth it because it led to "Mr. Bumblebee." I've mentioned before, the majority of the week-day pictures are taken after I get off work. Now that it is so dark and so cold, there really aren't a whole lot of subjects to choose from. I'm not at all selective. If I have the opportunity to ask someone if they would let me take their picture, I seize it. Sometimes I've approached people from behind, without having any idea what they're going to look like when they turn around.
The night I bumped into Mr. Bumbleebee, I had just finished cursing at the bus, in my mind, for taking away all the people. I couldn't catch a break! I would see people, run to catch up with them, and just then the bus would scoop them up and take them away. So, I'd walk across the street to try again from the other side and the same thing would happen on that side of the street. That's the hazard of searching for subjects at the bus stop.
I finally decided that I was just going to go hang out in front of Whole Foods and wait for someone. As I approached the store, I could make out a tall silhouette with good hair, and the most important thing - he was standing still! He was talking on his phone so I decided to just wait for him to hang up and then ask if I could take his picture. This was such a potentially awkward move on my part. It was so awkward, I was actually annoying myself! I just tried to stay out of his way, smile, and not look like a salesgirl while I waited for him to finish his call.
Once he finished with his call, I approached him to ask if I could take his picture. I didn't even have to explain the whole project before "Mr. Bumblebee" was on board with letting me take his picture. Can you believe, he was as nice as he is beautiful?
We visited while I was snapping away and I learned that he wants to move to Portland, so he had been out looking for work that day. He was feeling optimistic because one of the bakeries at which he applied, told him that his resume was going to the "short stack" rather than the "tall stack." I have a feeling he's going to get that job! (or, at least call-backs from the places he visited that day.) The guy is just nice and he gives off a good Portland vibe, even though he's a total transplant.
When I asked him the happiest thing going on in his life, he explained that he has a core group of friends who have made the migration to Portland. They keep running into each other, even though they've all moved around a bit. I couldn't write fast enough to keep up with everything, but "Bumblebee" explained that they've experienced adversity together, and now it's nice they're here together.
Day 124 - Kyle
Thursday was a funny repeat of Wednesday, in that I really had to work to find a subject. I started out thinking it was going to be an easy night. I had a hair appointment in NW Portland, so I figured it would be easy to find a subject after my cut. However, I was in total disbelief that the sidewalks around NW 23rd were fairly empty that evening. This is one of the best and busiest shopping areas in NW Portland, except at the particular moment that I went out to look for a subject.
I finally spotted Kyle and his dog, Nixon, coming out of a store and I decided I was just going to ask them. They were across the street so I dashed after them. Kyle and Nixon were fast. Really fast. They had already widened the distance between us to at least a block. I just persisted after them. Kyle and Nixon may be fast, but my marathon experience came in handy - I knew I could eventually catch up with them.
When I finally reached them, Kyle agreed to let me take his picture, practically before I finished my sentence. Later, I learned why. He remarked that he understands how how challenging it is to ask strangers if you can take their picture. Kyle is a bit of a Street Photographer - but he said it's been a while.
When I asked about the happiest thing going on in his life, he replied, "there's snow on the mountain.". Nixon also likes the snow.
Wednesday and Thursday may have been challenging - but I ended up meeting two really nice people who were patient and understanding while I tried my best to get a good shot.
Day 125 - Dave
Meet George Clooney's brother, Dave. I'm just kidding! But, doesn't he look like he could be a possible relation?
Dave is actually Anne's brother. Last night, I just dropped in at Anne's hangout, hoping she or Scott would be there. They've introduced me to enough people, I'm comfortable going there to find a subject, alone, if I need to. Fridays are my one "easy" day, in that I allow myself to look for a subject in a warm/dry pub, instead of out on the streets.
Before this night, I had only met Dave just briefly, even though we're from the same small hometown in Southern Oregon. While we were at the pub, 2 other people from our same small town showed up. What are the odds? We were having a nice reunion when Anne asked me if I had decided on a subject. I told her, "yes, your brother!" When I told Dave about the project and asked if he would be Day 125, he paused and said he might do it, but only if he could be day 127. I was a little bit crushed for a minute - I thought he was being serious!
Dave is pretty tall so I had to stand on my tippy-toes so I wouldn't be looking up at Dave. (or up his noes.) I learned the hard way, when you're on your tippy-toes, it's a little challenging to hold the camera steady. Luckily, I've also finally learned that I need to view my pictures before calling it a day. I'm glad I did. We had to shoot a few more inside and while we were both seated.
When I asked Dave the happiest thing in his life, he considered the question for a while before responding, "I'm pretty happy with the way my kids turned out."
Day 126 - Jenny & Kim and Kip & Cali
Jenny and Kim asked me if I would take their Christmas card picture. Yay! Someone asked ME if I could take their picture! This is a switch from me chasing people down to ask them If I could take their picture. I was flattered and honored. I'm not a real photographer, so I felt pretty privileged that they would consider me for the job.
We had plans to meet this morning and this entire week, I had been feeling excited and nervous about our Christmas Card photoshoot. Although I knew the pictures were simply for friends' (we're practically family) Christmas Cards, to me, it was the most important portrait session in the entire world. I felt as though I had been given the assignment to photograph the President of the United States. No, it goes beyond that. I felt like I was given a job to photograph Channing Tatum, and the entire internet would be scrubbed of all other previous pictures of Channing and my photos would then be the only pictures in existence, and the only publicity photos he could ever use for the rest of his entire life. That was the kind of pressure I had placed on myself.
If you've been following along, you know how unsuccessful I've been with photographing people with their dogs. It seems like I've been regressing instead of improving and all of my failures have resulted in me being quite intimidated by the thought of taking a picture of a person with their dog. Well, Kim and Jenny's little family includes not one, but two dogs! It was time I faced my mental block head-on and take some pictures.
I had spent some time researching photos on the internet, looking for inspiration for family portraits with dogs. I guess this isn't technically a family portrait, is it? Jenny & Kim's expectations were realistic and they understood my limitations and capabilities. They just wanted a casual setting and a picture they could send to their family and friends. In my search, I found several amazing photographs which were taken in a studio with proper lighting, backgrounds, and by actual photographers. The casual and informal images I found online, caused me to fret even more. I determined that it must be really, really hard to take a picture of a family and their dogs.
So, I had no choice but to go in with an open mind and just let our day unfold. The only setting I had mentally pre-imagined, was the thought to put Kim, Jenny and the dogs in the back of their SUV. The reason this was such a strong image in my mind is because I know how much they love to go camping. Excuse me, make that "glamping." (These ladies bring all of the comforts from home, so camping with them would be like staying in a luxury resort. They know how to do it right.) Anyway, I imagine the girls packing up the dogs and getting ready for a weekend of glamping, and in my mind, I could totally see that holiday card hanging on my refrigerator.
We started out shooting a few pictures inside, and basically, they were all terrible. I'm not skilled enough to compensate for lack of light, and I don't yet have any reflectors or lighting. Most of my limited experience has been outdoors, so I knew we'd have better luck out in the yard.
Once we all headed outside, we had a blast! We alternated between slow, intentional, deliberately composed "poses" and more candid shots where the camera was basically on "burst" and I could quickly snap pictures one-right-after-another. I wanted to capture Jenny and Kim laughing, because they're always laughing, and I wanted to catch the dogs doing dog things. (here are a few of the outtakes - in the photo below, Cali looks like she's tired and ready to call it a wrap.)
When I was preparing for this post, I spent a good hour reviewing our pictures and actually laughing out loud at the hilarity. Yes, we did capture Jenny and Kim laughing and we did capture the dogs doing dog things, and it was all pretty amazing. It was nothing we could put on a card, but we'll definitely pull out our photo-shoot pictures at the next family gathering and I'm pretty sure it will cause such a laugh, someone could possibly have an accident. (I have to explain, I had some very random shots - such as the dog peeing on a bush and one in which Jenny, Kim and Cali all looked fabulous, but Kip had darted out of the frame so only his tail was in the picture and it dominated the photo.)
The main reason we were able to get a few usable pictures is because Jenny's Dad and stepmom, Tommy & Pam, were positioned behind me, or beside me and they were able to direct the dogs and tempt them with treats. If you're trying to take pictures of your pets and your family, it is so helpful to have someone assist you by positioning themselves by/behind the photographer. The assistant helps to hold the dog's attention. This allows the photographer to concentrate on taking pictures, and frees the rest of the family from having to direct the dogs while simultaneously presenting themselves for the photo. The key is to have the assistant placed in the right position so that it appears as though the dogs are also looking at the camera. I was a little too far to Pam & Tommy's side in several of the shots, but for our first time, we did alright.
I really wish I could share all of the pictures with you so you could see the chaotic process of framing 2 humans and 2 dogs. No matter how experienced a photographer may be, we learned that it is a pretty hilarious and challenging process. Here are a few more of the shots from this morning, some showing a little of the chaos. (the picture below is a good example of the majority of the shoot - everyone looking in different directions.)
Jenny and Kim were just awesome! They were so patient and understanding and they were the best possible subjects I could hope for in my first photoshoot. I don't have aspirations of becoming a professional photographer, but I would love to become someone who my friends and family would look to when they needed informal photos taken.
In all of the excitement, I completely forgot to ask Jenny and Kim the happiest thing going on in their lives…so I'm just going to share with you what I know. They've had a great year filled with several road trips to see Pink in concert, camping, and a great Disney vacation and 2014 is going to start out even better! Kim just won an all-expenses-paid vacation from her employer. The only thing more fun and exciting than traveling, is traveling for free! I think they would also say that they're grateful for their loving family, good friends, and of course their babies, Kip and Cali.
I'm considering the possibility of a separate post with more outtakes from our photoshoot. We had so much fun and I learned a lot from our session. I just get nervous about sharing these things because I feel like I'm such an amateur, I have no business telling other people how to do their thing. But, I would have appreciated seeing someone else's process, even if they were a beginner like I.
I just want to thank you if you've been a subject in this project. I appreciate the time you gave me, and thank you for opening up to me. Jenny & Kim, thank you for inviting me to take pictures of you and the dogs. I hope you were having as much fun as I was. It means so much to me, and I hope you're pleased with your photos, and thank you for letting me share some of the funny outtakes.
Thank you for following along with this project. I'm pretty close to this and it's sometimes difficult to see the obvious…I would love to hear from you if you have any feedback and if there's anything you'd like to see more of, or maybe if you have any burning questions that you would like me to ask the subjects.
I appreciate your time and hope that you have a great week!