Just strolling through Boston's Back Bay when I stumbled onto a free show featuring Reggae singer J Boog. Luckily I had my trusty new Sony α6000 on me to snap a few shots.
In my opinion there are two functions when taking a photo:
- To capture a moment in time (preservation)
- To produce technically sound, artistic images (creation)
Most of the time I walk the line between these two purposes. There are times when I have the opportunity to arrange subjects, or position my camera in such a way as to capture light in an attractive or unique way. Yet my favorite images are those that have combinations of technical prowess and candid emotion. The only way to even begin to master this exercise is to practice; that is, take lots and lots of photos!
Perhaps the best photography advice I've ever received is, "always have a camera with you, you never know when you're going to need it." Certainly this is an easier task in 2014 with iPhones in our pockets, but in 2007 the iPhone was a novel, albeit revolutionary, concept and digital cameras were not yet ubiquitous.
As I continue to comb through old photos on long ago forgotten hard drives I have seen countless examples of images that are the direct results of following this advice and carrying my SLR with me everywhere! Tonight's flashback is quite simple, and yet so sincere. It comes from July of 2007, just weeks after the aforementioned first iPhone was released (I was still sporting a blue Palm Treo 755p).
One of my oldest and best friends, Todd, had invited me out to meet his new girlfriend, Leyna. Todd and Leyna are now married with two beautiful children (I'm sure we'll see their wedding in subsequent blog posts) but I couldn't have known that at the time when I captured a simple candid moment of their blossoming love. It's not the greatest photo I've ever taken. It might not even be a "good" photo from a technical perspective. But it captured a significant moment that establishes its importance as time goes on. So, captured a moment in time? Check. Technically sound, artistic image? Still a work in progress. But most importantly is it a successful photo? I'd say so.
NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY - BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 2007
Easily my first big (read: high paying/complex/multi-day/published) photo shoot was when I was tapped to create images for Northeastern University's Sex Week Magazine. Every year in mid-March, Northeastern held a sexual awareness week where there were speakers, activities, TONS of free condoms. The goal of the week was to increase students' knowledge of sexual health, to raise awareness of STDs and unwanted pregnancies, and in recent years speakers had begun addressing "rape culture." However the most popular topic during Sex Week was likely the accompanying magazine that came out the week prior. Not only did it promote the following week's schedule of events, but it had Cosmopolitan-esque stories of sexual encounters, "tips & tricks", and photos of scantily clad co-eds.
The theme of the Sex Week magazine in 2007 was "Stripped," which I took as "stripped...of clothes." Eight models (four guys and four girls) were selected by a student association and I was given free reign as to the photographic content. To be honest I was completely terrified in the days leading up to our first night of shooting. (I had never even used strobes in a studio setting before!) But I spent four hours each of the next two nights in a studio experimenting, learning, and figuring out all sorts of different ways to play with light, shadows and ultimately how to photograph mostly clothes-less models without having any overt nudity. We used flowers, books, arms, hands, legs, sheets, a guitar, and occasionally some actual clothes to create the implied nude images that were featured throughout the magazine. I owe all of the models for giving me the confidence to direct a large-scale photo shoot, and for coming up with many of the initial ideas that made the final photographs. Here are my favorites of the final edits that made it to publishing:
NORTH END - BOSTON - JUNE 2007
Pro Photography Tip: It's good to have beautiful friends.
By the Summer of 2007 I was really beginning to appreciate portrait photography and began seeking out any and all willing participants to model for me. The next year of my life found me alternating between portraiture and photographing bands and musicians; eventually leading to me opening my photo studio -- but I'm getting ahead of myself. Here's a small gallery of my friend Sydney from her North End apartment, almost 7 years ago.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - THANKSGIVING - 2007
Why would I ever need more than 700 pixels in either dimension? I must have thought back in 2007, and for a while after. Because every photo I edited and exported for upload on my website at the time (www.caseavp.com) was 700px in one direction or the other. In past blog posts I've re-edited RAW files - a type of remastering, like record companies love to do with "anniversary editions" of popular albums. But for this gallery (and certainly some to follow) I've decided to present the original 2007 JPEGs. How "vintage" of me!
In 2007 I spent Thanksgiving with one of my best friends Justin at his apartment in West Hollywood. What followed were many days and nights of west coast exploration, a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner that included deep frying a turkey on a sidewalk, and the addiction I developed to my new Canon 15mm prime fisheye lens.
Saturday, August 11th 2007 - Cape Neddick, Maine
One of my best friends Caleb was getting married and I was excited to try out my new camera. It was a beautiful, casual, outdoor wedding on a sweltering August day. Looking through some of these photos I was still encountering my fair share of technical foibles, such as standing in my own light and casting a shadow on my subjects. Or using too fast an aperture for a multi-subject capture; forgetting that depth is a plane too! (I think this was my first shoot with my new 50mm ƒ/1.4 lens, and I didn't quite realize how shallow depth of field could be when compared to my 28-105mm ƒ/3.5-4.5). My command skills in directing groups of people were also still developing, due to lack of confidence most likely. But I know I'm often too critical of photography, specifically my own. I am quite proud of many of these images, specifically the series towards the end of the wedding during the cutting of the cake where the bride and groom both smashed cake into each others' faces. So I present to you, selected images from The Smith Wedding...
DORCHESTER - (2007)
The best job I've ever had was in college. I wish I had known that back then! It was my first (and only) co-op job while I was at Northeastern University. I was the supervisor for a brand new after school music program starting in Lawrence, MA called the Lawrence Music Clubhouse. Basically I was paid to play music with kids ages 8-18 after school 3-4 days a week. It was fantastic! But as all good things must come to an end, I moved on after my 6-month internship and went back to school. I did, however, stay in close contact with the clubhouse's founder Gary Eichhorn. A few year later, when I heard there were other clubhouses opening I jumped at the chance to help.
The gallery below features some of my favorite images from a day at the Blue Hills Music Clubhouse in Dorchester. I'm happy to report that there are now TWELVE music clubhouses throughout Massachusetts! Providing opportunities for children to connect with and experience music is something I'm extremely passionate about. For more information check out their website (www.musicandyouth.org)...you might see some familiar photos.
By mid-Summer 2007 I was consistently bringing my camera to concerts around the area. It was at these shows where I first learned that I really didn't like having to use a flash (I still don't). Perhaps that's where my "snobbery" for fast (>ƒ/2.8) lenses comes from. Quite simply I've always preferred capturing the ambient light of a moment, versus providing my own - rather unnatural - light. By the end of the Summer I would purchase my first Gary Fong Lightsphere, which helped with this plight immensely and aided in my eventual embrace of flash photography in both dimly lit environments as well as for fill light. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
This particular gallery is from a quaint little bar and nightclub in Cambridge, MA called T.T. The Bear's Place. I spent a good chunk of my childhood attending shows at either T.T.'s or The Middle East Nightclub (on the same block) as it was only a short walk (or more often even shorter bike ride) from where I grew up. This particular bill was extra special as it featured native Cantabrigian Natti Vogel opening for my incredibly talented step-sister Anna Vogelzang and her band.