{The Portrait Diaries} Day 15: Every face tells a story

Today I thought I’d share with you one of my favourite photos that I’ve ever taken.

Have you ever met somebody and felt like you’ve always known them, even if you’ve met them only moments earlier? Have you ever spoken to someone and felt they would do anything for you even though you’re practically a stranger?

Such experiences are rare but when they happen we remember them because friendliness and compassion are set apart from every day life and from the strangers that pass you by on the street. I took this portrait only 30 minutes after meeting this extraordinary couple. They were so warm and friendly that it radiated from their very being.

Behind them is the door of the garage that they have owned most of their lives and that continues to be run by their sons. There’s something special about a family run business passed down through the generations. And so there’s something special about this photo. It feels like a piece of history.

The years they have spent together running this place provided many happy memories and now they spend many of their afternoons sitting outside the garage taking in their surroundings,  talking to their friends, family and the customers they have come to know.

I didn’t ask them to pose like this they just placed themselves. He was already sitting and his wife automatically stood behind him like this. I like where she put her hands in a protective and proud embrace yet also showing tenderness and some fragility.

On their faces, the story of their lives.

“Age is something impressive, it sums up a life:  maturity reached slowly and against many obstacles, illnesses cured, griefs and despairs overcome, and unconscious risks taken; maturity formed through so many desires, hopes, regrets, forgotten things, loves.  A man’s age represents a fine cargo of experiences and memories.”  – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

{The Portrait Diaries} Day 14: To smile or not to smile

Day 14

To smile or not to smile? That is the question.

Well as a general rule of life I definitely choose to smile, always. If you start the day with a smile you start as you mean to go on and it has a positive influence on your day and on the people you come into contact with who will hopefully smile back at you and so it goes on. Spread a little happiness and all that!

When it comes to photography it is a bit more complicated.

When someone takes a photo of us don’t we automatically smile? Most of us do. I love capturing people smiling or laughing naturally but I’m not a big fan of forced smiles. They don’t feel good or look good so they don’t bring out the best in people. When I photograph people on their own, generally I try to make them laugh or just by talking to them can get natural shots.

Sometimes I like to show a different side to them, a more serious side. Looking through my images recently I’ve realised I quite like photographs where the subject isn’t smiling. Our focus doesn’t go straight to their smile and gives us a little longer to take in the rest of the photograph.

What do you think? Do you always smile in photographs?

Lauren xxx

{The Portrait Diaries} Day 13: “Hello? This is the right side of your brain speaking!”

Day 13

Well it’s a horrible, wet & miserable day where I am! I hope it’s sunnier wherever you are!

Over lunch I was thinking about all the school children who will be having playtime indoors today! Some will be bored and absolutely hate it while others will relish these days.

Last summer, I taught photography at an amazing sports & arts summer camp in Pennsylvania. Some days there would be a sudden down pour so the kids would stay under the shelter of the art barn rather than move onto their next activity. As the majority of them loved art, they didn’t mind as it was a chance to get on with the current work of art they were creating or think up the next project they could work on.

These kids were affectionately known as “indoor kids,” an assumption, though not always entirely true, that anyone who loves art is not a big fan of physical activities or being outside. For the most part I found the kids would just find what they love and stick to it, which is not a bad idea really, though of course they were always encouraged to try new things.

Though I loved the outdoors I think I definitely grew up going through phases of being an indoor kid. Can I blame that on the unpredictable British weather? Maybe, but I don’t think I’d have it any other way. I used to love it when it rained and we weren’t allowed to go outside at playtimes. I loved art and doing anything creative so being stuck indoors was never a problem for me, it was a blessing.

At camp there were so many activities the children could do. There was no technology allowed so they couldn’t opt for playing their Nintendo or Xbox instead. I imagine this is one of the top reasons parents send their kids to camp, so they can really embrace this lifestyle for the duration of their stay. Kids have so much technology thrown at them in these modern times that they can forget the joy of simply creating something.

It is sad to think that some people never really get the chance or allow themselves the chance to be creative. Whenever some one tells me they can’t draw/paint or whatever else, I say…”Can’t or won’t?” Did you get on a bike and straight away know how to ride it? No. It’s about finding something that you enjoy and pursuing it. Over time the skills will come!

That creative part of your brain can influence so many other skills and aspects of who you are. If you try you never know what you might be capable of. More importantly, from being creative you learn to make mistakes and to try again, to problem solve and be innovative. If you can be willing to do things wrong you treble your chances of doing something amazingly right!

For these reasons among many others, it was such a privelege to be at camp and to be in the art department. To see children get really into something, to discover a new talent and to embrace their own creativity. I often wonder what amazing people they will one day grow up to be.

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” — Mary Lou Cook

{The Portrait Diaries} Day 12: If you go down to the woods today…

Day 12

When I was four, I completely believed I could fly, was convinced there was a monster living in my wardrobe and that I could talk to trees!

At four, the world is full of opportunity & adventure and that’s just in the garden. Go to the woods and the possibilities are endless. Now the world is full of opportunity & adventure even when you’re not four but we start to let that feeling go astray as we get older and lose the magic of childhood.

Photographing children is amazing fun not only because a little part of you gets to be a child again but you can witness them getting totally lost in their own imaginations. My 4 year old nephew openly declares, “MY IMAGINATION IS MASSIVE” while making solar systems out of blu-tac and sending psychic messages to Santa.

Eventually children become conditioned to pulling a big cheesy grin or silly faces when a camera is pointed at them.

My biggest effort/challenge then when photographing children is to create as many moments as possible where you can get them to forget they are being photographed and if this works, BINGO! One all access pass into their magical mystical wonderland.

Lauren xx

{The Portrait Diaries} Day 11: I feel it in my fingers

….I feel it in my toes. Yes I really did just quote a Wet Wet Wet song but stay with me for a second.

The song goes on “Love is all around me and so the feeling grows.” Well today I’m feeling the love.  It’s an absolutely beautiful day here in Kent and later this afternoon I am honoured to be attending a blessing service for a friend who recently got married. With that in mind, I chose a wedding themed portrait today.

At weddings you’re surrounded by the friends and family of two people who want to declare their love for each other. It is something really wonderful to see and be a part of because love is all around!

If this was a L’oreal advert I would now say, “Here’s the science bit.”

Yesterday I talked a bit about context and the struggle to know when and how much of the location or background to show to add meaning to a photo. Another vitally important context to capture is relational. Weddings give you lots of opportunities to capture special moments between loved ones. The photographer’s job then is to see those moments coming and be ready to capture them in a way that shows the special bond between loved ones.

Here the beautiful bride Jessica was showing her wedding ring to her grandmother. A tender & proud moment between generations.

Lauren xx

{The Portrait Diaries} Day 10: Location, location, location.

Day 10

Compared with yesterday’s portrait which filled the frame, the subject in today’s image only fills about 1/3 of the photo.

Why? The location is important! Background can add interest to a photograph. The more and more photos I take the easier I find it to know what kind of location or background I like to use. It is not always easy to get the balance between the subject and their context right. You can always crop a photo afterwards but it’s not quite the same. That would also be a bad habit to get into so I try to avoid relying on cropping and to get better at thinking about these things in the moment, as I take the photograph.

In the past I can remember a few times where I’ve been really pleased about a shot but afterwards wishing I’d just stood back a bit or tried to get a bit more contextual background in a certain shot. I’m a huge perfectionist! While you can’t change the past you can definitely learn from it and I always strive to do that. I learnt a lot from this particular photo shoot because we tried many different locations and it pushed me to think about what worked and what I wanted to get into the shot. It was a shoot where I really came to appreciate that balance between subject and environment and felt I could create a portrait that had some real power and made for more interesting photos.

Lauren x

{The Portrait Diaries} Day 9: Rules were made to be broken

Day 9

I took this photo today. I was just testing the light before I set up the “proper” shot so I wasn’t thinking about composition,  angle or giving my subject any direction. He was mid sentence . My first reaction. I looked at my screen and laughed. I knew he wasn’t ready but that wasn’t important to the image, or was it?

When I uploaded the photos to my computer I decided I actually really like this photo. And so I have an experiment that I’d like you to try out. Are you ready?

Everything you know about photography. Forget it. Even just for a day, even just for a minute.

Next time you pick up your camera don’t consider what a “proper” portrait is supposed to be. Abandon the rules. Forget what you’ve heard someone else suggest as the perfect or even ideal settings for any given situation.  Even just for a day stop considering the rule of thirds and how to expose perfectly or compose your image to look pleasing to everyone else. See what happens. Even better show me what happens. E-mail it to me at lauren@laurenbythesea.com or post it on my Facebook page.

If you can do that, if you can forget what you are supposed to be doing, you might just create something a bit different, something a bit raw, something a bit special.

Because rules were made to be broken.

{The Portrait Diaries} Day 8: Who’s your muse?

Day 8

Wow. I’m actually quite surprised at where this portrait experiment has taken me so far.

I’m quite a thinker anyway, an over-thinker some might say, yet only 8 days into this challenge it feels like I wasn’t thinking at all before.

I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures of people over landscapes and scenery but posting these portraits has really started me thinking on a deeper level about what kind of portraits I delight over. I keep coming back to my portraits of musicians. Why did this not stand out to me before? I’m not sure, maybe as I’m not a musician myself it wasn’t that obvious. But the beauty of a portrait of a musician is seeing their passion coming alive right in front of your eyes. Musicians take it to another place , they go somewhere else, they connect to whoever or whatever their muse might be and it makes them shine.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”- Howard Thurman

I’ve always had close friends who are musicians and I never really believed that to be intentional but now I’m starting to wonder whether it is a subconscious thing. I like the idea that we naturally surround ourselves with people that inspire us. It should be that way anyway. I feel really lucky and I am overwhelmed with gratitude at the people who I have had the chance to know and the opportunities I have had to capture people in the process of expressing themselves. In doing so they help me to express myself too.

To those people I thank you, from the bottom of my heart,  for doing what you do. Please keep doing it!

Lauren xxx

{The Portrait Diaries} Day 7: A dog’s life

Day 7

Maybe it’s a bit of a cop-out but after yesterday’s post I thought it only fair to represent the enemy and go the opposite way with a portrait of a dog so I dug out this favourite from last year. I don’t often photograph animals in all honesty but when I do it’s when something about them is striking.

Whenever I’m photographing anything I try many different angles to see what works but the one that’s always guaranteed to work and most likely make the best photos is when I get on the same level as whatever I’m photographing whether that be a child, an animal or a tiny object.

So here I got down on a reallllly dusty floor to be on the same level as this fluffy Mr. Do something crazy, go out of comfort zone and do whatever’s necessary and worthwhile to get the shot. He was so chilled and enjoying laying in the shade that me photographing him didn’t bother him one little bit. Not so much as a woof!

{The Portrait Diaries} Day 6: Whiskers & dreams

Day 6

Well today we’ve moved from musicians to an entirely different species!!

This feline goes by the name of “George Best,” a close friend’s cat who I photographed for her recently. I actually really enjoyed myself too, animals have huge personalities and you never know what they are going to do next! I think George enjoyed it too and was quite the poser. I think I can even see a smile in this photo.

Does a portrait have to be human? I don’t think so.  So often we give pets human characteristics anyway that maybe that plays a part in the psychology surrounding what defines a portrait.

What do you think? and what do you think George is dreaming about, that’s what I’d love to know ….