As a photographer I have the ability to make things beautiful and perfect…even when they are not. I have a front row seat to the most important moments in people’s lives. I am a memory maker…I preserve innocence…I stop time.
I didn’t always want to be a professional photographer. The first camera I received was a gift from my husband. His intention…or so I thought was to buy me a big camera with professional lenses and I would chase our children around snapping photos. His real motive to this investment was that if I was photographing our children I would stay out of the mall portrait studios and stop spending hundreds of dollars a year. Well he was right about not having to go to the mall but oh so wrong about the spending money part. Little did he know he opened a door to a very expensive hobby.
I loved learning about the camera. I begged local photographers to let me watch what them in action, I picked the brain of my son’s preschool teacher and brought her samples of my “work”. After all she is an award winning photographer and if she thought I had potential then I was on the right track! I began to take classes at a local art school. There I was in the heart of South Philly, mediocre old me among (and by mediocre I mean mother of three, minivan driving, knowing the dinner dishes were home waiting for me) the free spirited and privileged.
I fell in love with the instructor’s stories of traveling the world and shooting assignments for National Geographic. As instructed we had to shoot photos of our surroundings every week and bring them to class to be critiqued. While most of my classmates used the city as a subject I was subjected to only shooting my children and my family's and friend’s children.
One week my children were “unavailable” to be photographed so I bribed my twin nieces. I took them to a park and asked them to act natural. Their idea of natural was to argue about who was getting more pictures taken. Finally they took a seat on the curb and I was scolding them for fighting and told them that they needed to understand that they are sisters and to give each other a hug. Neither would budge and I told them that we were not leaving the park until they apologized. I walked away from them to shoot some trees and pretended not to pay attention to them. As I turned to check on them I noticed that they were engaged in a conversation and began to snap photos of them without them knowing. Then out of nowhere they must have solved the issue and hugged one another. As I called their names to tell them how proud I was that they worked it out on their own, they just stared at me still locked in each other’s arms. Right then and there one of my favorite photos was born.
I went to class that week with some tree photos and the one of the girls, when it was my turn to display my work to the class I cringed at the thought of boring the instructor with yet another children’s portrait and a couple of trees from Penny Pack Park. He came from the back of the room and asked me about the photo of the girls. What was the situation concerning this photo? Why are they not smiling? I explained the situation and he was real quiet. I thought this is it…he is going to bury me right in front of the whole class. But he didn’t, he told me that I took a moment of chaos and controlled the situation. I was able to find the beauty in a situation that was not ideal as far as children’s portraits are concerned.
That teacher in that class was a turning point in my quest to improve my interest in photography. I went on to take more classes. I learned that composition is totally different than the cookie cutter images displayed in mall portrait studios. The ability to capture an image or subject for what they are is a beautiful thing. Anyone can manipulate a situation but there is nothing like having a situation that manipulates you!
One day my phone rings and there is a young man on the other end, he sounds no older than my daughter. He explains that he is getting married in the park to the love of his life…he is 19 she is 18. I listen closely to their story and how he acquired my phone number. Then he drops the bomb. “We want to know if you will photograph our wedding”. I nearly drop the phone and tell him that I have never photographed a wedding, I am a low budget children’s photographer. I tell him that he was misled and I will make sure I kill my friend that recommended my services. He then proceeds to plead with me, he says he has never gotten married before and so we can try this out together. IS HE CRAZY? I tell him I would not even know what to charge. He says he will tell me what he can afford. I tell him this is his wedding day I have no wedding experience. He still doesn’t care! Finally after us debating back and forth I give in, I take on my first wedding. IT WAS AWESOME! I never felt so much freedom. And since we were both new at our tasks at hand we helped each other. Then and there…I fell in love with weddings. How could I never want to be part of capturing one of the most important events in a person’s life?