I've been over committing myself these past couple of weeks. Photography has become an addiction to the point of exhaustion. How much can I learn in a short amount of time with no regard for a hiatus to reflect? Not even time to tend to other things in my life. This is Portland during Summer. Things bloom into their full potential and beauty. Knowing it will not last, knowing that the rain is only weeks away, life begins to move at an unbelievably fast pace! People become full of energy making sure there is nothing that they will miss. It is difficult to keep up.
As a result of this Portland phenomenon known as Summer, my back yard is a jungle. The lawn mower I once used to cut the grass has drowned to death and is now rusted in time. The grass is about a foot high, vines have encased half of our old tiny garage and have begun to pull it down. Think... The Leaning Tower of Pisa mixed with Little Shop of Horrors. Weeds and the evasive ivy have overtaken most of the grass's territory. What once was a backyard with defined borders is now another overgrown section of vegetation in SE Portland. I kind of like it...
This past weekend I had a friend of mine stop by my house to do some portrait testing. I had an idea in my head and I wanted to see if it could be done. The idea was to go into the shoot as simple as possible... no make-up, no fancy location, no preparation, no expectations. I simply wanted a close up of my friends face and let the background be undefinable, only colors and slight textures. Then to take these photos and see what I could do with them in post.
So my friend, Simone, comes over and we definitely hit my goal... we were totally unprepared. Originally we had planned to walk to Laurelhurst Park and shoot there, but I was hungover and said lets go into the backyard. I forgot to mention that this was the first time I used a speed light outside in the day time, so I was too busy looking like an idiot adjusting camera settings. Any attention I did have was not on my friend in front of the camera. What are friends for right? Luckily, my roommate was there to talk to her, helping her relax. Before we knew it, we had ditched the whole "keep it simple idea" and we started messing around doing fun stuff. The cliché jump in the air shot, the headbangers shot, funny faces... the whole shebang. It was a good laugh.
When I looked at my shot count and realized we were getting in the the three hundreds. I decided to call it. Whew... that was fun. As we walked across my overgrown backyard towards the door. Simone stops and says "WAIT, get a shot of me laying in the grass! Time to get itchy!" I turn around and she is already laying down. This shot, although I know of it from watching the musical Across the Universe, never occurred to me to utilize the tall grass. She had a vision of how she wanted to look and I knew exactly what she wanted. She looked comfortable, I was comfortable. For that brief moment there was no mutual expectations to catch up to, we were already there.
Looking back on the photos, the ones of her laying on the grass, I thought to myself "how did I not think of this?" These shots look amazing! Although my intent was to go into this test without any expectations, that surely wasn't the case. My expectations were indeed still there in the back of my mind sitting quietly. It was the image I wanted to capture going into this project. That image narrowed my imagination and wouldn't open my mind up to the infinite possibilities of my actual situation. All the images I shot never came close to making me feel like I caught something meaningful. Nothing like what I had caught when Simone decided to express the way she felt laying there on the grass.
I find it strange to take pictures of people and ask them to make a face that does not reflect how they are actually feeling. It is like the first time you watch a movie or TV show on one of those SUPER high quality HD TV's... the ones where it's hard to watch because you can clearly tell they are acting. In a way we allow ourselves to be taken into this imaginary world so long as the power to convince is strong enough to tell us that it is real. When you look at the photos of Simone... listen to your imagination. Let the photo speak and build a world in your imagination!
But in reality... you and I very well know that she is laying in what is the result of another Portland Summer.