Photography Blog

#IAmYourNeighbor

Trying to raise your voice in the digital world is like shouting into New York traffic at rush hour. Horns are blaring. A Prius is cutting across four lanes of traffic for the exit. Someone’s tire blows out. Some guy sporting a mullet cranks up Highway to Hell and nobody can hear you. Nobody can hear me.

Despite our cries for world peace, our voice and passion is carried off in the heat and rage of rush hour - which is the eternal state of social media.

I sat silent for a while. I felt stupid for trying to compete with propaganda and the louder larger voices of the world. I started to wonder. Maybe the world doesn’t need my voice. Maybe it’s all been said before. Who am I, anyway?

But I couldn’t let it go.

Every day I listen, and read, and feel the growing division. The bi-partisan, dichotomous thinking that plagues our culture is wreaking havoc. But chanting along with one of the two pre-defined groups wasn’t my solution.

I thought back to an old story where a man was told to love his neighbor. He got cheeky and asked “Well, who is that, exactly?” This turns into the story of the Good Samaritan. The tale that crosses lines, climbs walls, and breaks borders.

The end point being that you are my neighbor. And #IAmYourNeighbor.

So, my solution is to use art to restore some dignity and humanity to our story.

My solution is to take the people who are hammered down into political rhetoric - those who are dehumanized for the sake of sound bytes - and give them a platform to show their normalcy. To break down the divisions of stereotypes, misinformation, and fear.

Portraits of your neighbors. People doing people things. Making eggs. Mowing the lawn. Playing Frisbee.

Stories from your neighbors. Talking about their favorite coffee. Or the last time they cried.

Humanity.

People, not problems. Reality, not rhetoric. Individuals, not issues. Stories, not stereotypes. This is art to humanize humanity.

I emailed Jeremy Cowart about the idea, worried that it wasn’t original enough. Worrying again that my voice wouldn’t be….enough… and he took the time to reply. “Don’t worry about what might already be out there. You just have to do it.”

So this is the start. I have people interested. I have shoots booked. But I need more. More stories. More portraits. More humanity. I don’t want to launch until I have s solid gallery of images and stories and this is where you come in.

Let’s make connections. Help me find the people. Help me build the neighborhood.




Ethan: Portrait Session

Typically, my portrait sessions are on location and I use the surrounding landscape as my backdrop. In this particular case, I used a backdrop and leveraged a semi-industrial setting to enhance the session. So here’s some of the process.

I have an obsession with the neutral soft tones frequently drawn out with Oliphant backdrops, which first caught my eye in Annie Leibovitz’s work. I also studied Mark Seliger’s use of light in the Oscars portrait room for Vanity fair. I kept my eyes open for a portrait session which would lend itself to this style when I was asked to do a shoot with a local young musician.

Going into the shoot, I knew I needed a space which would let me place both my subject and backdrop in a larger setting to add to the overall style, rather than take away from it. Fortunately, the church I attend has a few industrial walls with exposed pipes - those worked flawlessly for this.

I also knew I could not afford a proper Oliphant backdrop. They’re hand painted, large, and expensive. So I did a quick search online and came across a muslin that had a similar tonality and hit it with a steamer before the session.

I dragged out my biggest umbrella (Fotodiox Parabolic with White Interior, 60”) with the Godox/Flashpoint 600 w/s monolight. I perched a smaller Flashpoint Evolv 200 behind my subject to add dimension and separate from the backdrop. It gave a great highlight on his face. The key light was close to the subject and high, pushing the light downwards and creating a nice soft wrap while defining the jaw/chin. You can mostly see the setup in the shot below.

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I could have added a grid to narrow the light spread a bit and darken the backdrop but I was pleased with how everything was pulling together (doesn’t always happen like that).

There wasn’t much touchup needed in post. Ethan nailed his posing, and everything was already neutral in tonality, so just a few touches to exposure in Lightroom and we’re good to go.

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Bridget and Ryan: Essex, Ct

It’s hard to believe just over a week ago we were in a heat wave! Thankfully it broke just in time for Bridget and Ryan’s wedding in Essex at one of the most beautiful houses I’ve ever seen. Everything was planned with the utmost care and attention to detail and it was the perfect way to end the wedding season as Bridget and Ryan danced the night away under string lights on an early September night. There were too many good moments to share from this Essex wedding, so enjoy this brief selection: