There is possibly no shoot that I ultimately enjoy more than when I think I have some smart idea of what to expect, and am completely and totally wrong. Other photographers are incredible stylists and will explain how you need to visualize the shoot ahead of time and approach it with calculation and precision. This pretty much never works for me. The more preconceptions I have going into a shoot, the greater the likelihood I’ll be knocked flat on my behind trying to make them happen. I guess I’m just not a powerful director. But perhaps I’m a fairly intuitive responder.
The objective of this shoot was to photograph the owner and employees of a local café near my studio. A simple promotional shoot that I typically don’t do or care to do. So I went into it with the attitude of “thirty minutes tops and I’m out of there”. Which should have clued me in to something, since anytime I’ve uttered those words in the past it’s been a guarantee that I’m still photographing, by my own volition, well past the predicted cutoff time.
The young girl asked if I might take a few shots of her that could be used for her high school senior photo, and I agreed. She is obviously cute, so it wasn’t difficult to get a pretty picture of her. But after shooting several frames I noticed a hint of something more sort of bubbling beneath the surface, and as I’m prone to do, I impulsively asked her if she’d like to experiment with me. She was scheduled to work in the café that morning so didn’t have much time, but she was up for it.
I have a storeroom behind the studio which I use to keep supplies and props. The room was actually a stable for horses a hundred years ago, and is dark, dusty, dank, and not one bit inviting. Perfect for portraits! Not so much really, but on this day I thought I’d give it a try. It was a chilly Florida morning and the girl had layers of clothing on that gave her a bulkier appearance than was true to her, so I suggested getting rid of the sweaters. From that small but pivotal moment on, I can only adequately describe the remainder of the session as being thrust into a rapidly moving river, where you lay back into the waters, spread your arms out, and let it carry you along.....it simply flowed. She had to get to work, so we were maybe in this place for all of 10 minutes, but it was the kind of time that stands outside of the normal realm. Every second was full and worthy and rich, and there wasn’t a shot I took that I didn’t simultaneously close my eyes when pressing the shutter release and whisper thank you to myself. Not because she performed so well, or that I thought I was “on“, but simply because of the expansive feeling of connection with *everything* that was experienced in this brief span of time.
Since the shoot I’ve brought several other clients to my storeroom with the crazy kind of mystical lighting, but it’s never felt quite the same, nor have the results been similar. It would be easy to become disappointed by that fact, but I try remind myself that one can’t forcefully manufacture moments of genuine connection. All you can do is open yourself to the possibility of them occurring, continue to pay close attention, and eagerly anticipate their inevitable return.