The way we do things around here
OK, I know, all my serious photog friends (and apparently I’ve many, especially the journos and doc peops) have asked politely and even not so, that I please, please, not do this any more–They’ve related it to the first time someone got ahold of a fisheye lens (we’ve all seen that) or the first days of Photoshop (yikes!). One friend asked if this was the new Fibonacci lens. This was an iPhone app and meant for fun. My wife, bless her ruthless business heart, is always reminding me how important social media is for my wedding photography biz and how I should use Instagram for that purpose. I know but my iPhone and Instagram are for fun. I don’t want to be “on” all the time. As an artist I want to have places where I can explore, let my hair down and just shoot, edit, manipulate and photoshop my head off. All work and no play–right? We can’t be afraid to have fun or make fun (of Life, ourselves, etc).
This is obvious manipulation or Photoshopping and I don’t think I’m fooling anyone (not even trying)–also, this technique has been around for years, too. Wedding photography is hardly the standard for serious visual journalism (but sometimes it is and that is important too). But here is the kicker: These tiny planets make great gallery wraps that sell for $600-$1000 a print. I’ve a print that is going in a show this weekend as part of the Somerville Open Studios (http://www.somervilleopenstudios.org/) and BLINK! (http://digitalsilverimaging.com/digital-printing-blog/). That print is from a visual journalism workshop we ran in India as part of our Visual Reportage Workshop series (http://visualreportage.com/). It is a serious piece shot in the Dharavi slum. It is printed in black and white (because we all know how much gravitas that elicits–said with half a laugh and a wink). It shows the area in all its abject poverty and surreal beauty and I’m very proud of it. It is for sale there for $500 and nobody will probably buy it. But these gallery wraps of tiny planets from peoples weddings–well they are so fun and look great on canvas and folks love to have them hanging.
As a Boston wedding photographer, trained journalist and teacher/mentor of visual journalism I am always shooting, editing and thinking about photography. It is my Life right down to the everyday constant of documenting my family (sometimes to their protest). So while I was with my class shooting the Boston Marathon I again had some fun with the images from there. I know it is a serious sporting event but it was much more this year–my students did an admirable job with their video projects, the runners ran, the crowds cheered and security secured. It was festive and light and so to was my favorite photo:
This was one of my most “liked” photos on Istagram (http://instagram.com/dmpj) and while “likes” are no measure whatsoever of a photo’s merit or even worth–they are an indication of its dollar value to some degree. As artists we need to feel the value of what we do deep within us. It must scratch the itch on the ass of our Soul. But we also must eat, pay our bills and have enough money to by more camera gear, or paints or clay…and crazy iPhone apps ;-). And we must have some fun.
One of those far off plans that you hatch while on a beach drinking an adult beverage. We are at our local pond this past Summer when a friend of mine said we should get some kayaks. He being a very handy-do-everything-with-a-tool kinda guy said something like maybe we should make them. Me, laughing, since I am so not that, just shrugged it off to one of those plans that will never materialize. Six months later I’m paddling my very own skin-boat kayak on glassy still river during a January thaw.
Every March I run our Visual Reportage Workshops program in Guatemala. We work with a great organization, The God’s Child Project, documenting some of the incredible social and economic issues that face most of the population in the country. We have been here for the past week in Guatemala City, La Antigua Guatemala and Escuintla and are headed to Izabal, near the border with Belize, to work with a wild animal sanctuary for 3 days.
More photos so come!
As I snapped away I chanted. Shoulder to shoulder with like-minded brethren under a cloudy night’s sky I thought. I thought about what really matters. Was it important that I recognized this moment as our annual moment of rebirth or that it “occurs exactly when the axial tilt of a planet’s polar hemisphere is farthest away from the star that it orbits”? I thought how wonderful it was to be somewhere celebrating Life with my little family and my father. I thought about how lucky we are to have moved to such a Magical little place where this is commonplace. I thought about how amazing it was to nosh and nog and mingle with folk afterwards at the party. I thought about the stars and how the rising embers from the fire took their place if only briefly above our heads. I drifted from one beautiful thought to the next like a distance runner gliding effortlessly over a Spiritual plane that his feet never quite made contact with. I was on a Solstice High as we circled the flame. I heard my girls chatting away with their grandfather. I felt my Wife’s caring hand as she brushed the burning sparks off my hat. In the dark I bumped along meeting new people with a friendly nod or smile.
I don’t know if I understood all the Spiritual talk swirling about from our incredibly gracious hosts BUT, what I can say is that I enjoyed our shared community experience. It was simple. Sometimes simple is best.
I wanted to take opportunity to promote a wonderful cause that does so much good. I’ve been lucky enough to witness it first hand for the past 6 years and we are headed back this March to continue our partnership. The God’s Child Project is the NGO (non-governmental organization) that we work with for our Visual Reportage Workshops.
Since 2007 when we brought our first group of photographers down to La Antigua Guatemala we’ve been returning each year with another buch of students eager to learn about what the project does for the poor and voiceless of Guatemala while at the same time expanding their photographic visions. We work alongside social workers, doctors, nurses, teachers and volunteers as they serve the children and families associated with the projects various organizations in Guatemala: Casa Jackson (a home and care center for malnourished children), The Scheel Center ( as specialized technical school), The Santa Madre Homeless Shelter and the Dreamer Center (the heart and Soul of the project and the main campus housing a school, medical and dental clinics, social work department, a library, chapel and weekly food distributions as well as the ITEMP (The Institute for Trafficked, Exploited and Missing Persons). Our students learn first hand through outreach and direct immersion with the professionals that run this incredible organization.
So what can you do? Sure, throwing money at it will help but as I’ve come to find out, direct involvement is what really makes the difference. If you want to get involved and need more info please click this link: http://www.godschild.org/get-involved. Another way to get involved if you are a budding photojournalist in the making or even a professional photographer that has always wanted to see how your photos can make a real difference–come join our Visual Reportage Workshop this March 8 – March 16. All the details are below:
” A few can touch the magic string, and noisy fame is proud to win them:
Alas for those that never sing, but die with all their music in them!”
-Oliver Wendell Holmes
The busy of Life takes over us sometimes and blurs the evidence of our true existence. I’ve been searching for something elusive but had only to see with my very eyes that which was right before me. I watched in wonder and sometimes coached–maybe too much but I didn’t want them to fail–but in the end I just stood there marveling at the pure magic happening all around me. Everything was perfect and then it was not and then perfect again. The wind rose and then died. There were tears and much laughter after. Their squeaky voices echoed down the hills and flew through the air on their kites. The pig flew the highest. Strings were tangled. The sun slowly set and we basked in its orangey warmth. A nearly full moon slowly rose from behind the trees, like a God peering at his people. We were happy. And magic happened over and over.
In ancient Sanskrit Asha means “hope”. While nothing in that ancient language quite captured it for me I felt Pablo Neruda felt it as I do. First in Spanish for me Love on her 40th and then translated for the rest:
de mi vida,
las olas como uvas,
la soledad del cielo,
todo el mar,
todo el cielo,
los batallones blancos
de la espuma,
la tierra anaranjada,
del sol en agonia,
dones y dones,
que acuden a sus suenos,
y el mar, el mar,
coro de sal sonora,
junto al agua,
junto al mar,
Las olas dicen a la costa firme:
“Todo sera cumplido.”
at the center
of my life.
Waves like grapes,
the sky’s solitude,
you fill me
the complete sea,
the undimished sky,
the orange earth,
gifts and talents,
birds soaring into their dreams,
and the sea, the sea,
chorus of rich, resonant salt,
touch the water,
struggling and hoping,
we touch the sea
And the waves tell the firm coast;
“Everything will be fulfilled”
– Pablo Neruda
Last weekend I got engaged again for the first time. It was months in the planning: A trip to Chicago to see Oprah’s last studio show (thank you to our fab client Julie for the tix), a romantic getaway sans kids for the first time in 8 years (dog years at times), and a modest little 10 year anniversary gift for my wife, Asha. A long time ago, almost 10 years ago, we were busy buying a condo and moving. I was too poor and she was too practical and the standard engagement style ring never materialized. I promised her then that if she can hold out until our ten year anniversary that I’d make good on the customary ring thing. Years passed and I’m sure she had forgotten my promise. Dharma was born, then Sarada. Dog died. Jobs came and went and the usual snowball-rolling-down-hill Life we had just kept jugging along collecting everything in its path. Anniversaries were celebrated and I quietly remembered. Birthdays and births. Laughter and our fair share of tears but through it all I remembered. It is no small feat to celebrate 10 years of marriage and is something of which I’m very proud.
So fast-forward to Chicago 2011. I’m carrying this ring around with me everywhere. I was genuinely nervous–I mean she could say no, right? After all she has spent more than 10 years with me and my socks on the kitchen table, shoes in the hall, tardiness, etc. Also, I was afraid she’d hate my choice of ring. I asked Dharma if she thought Mami would like it and her response, “I’d take it!”
So where to do it? Do I get down on one knee? Should it be private or public? We were only in Chicago for a couple days so I was under the gun. The first night didn’t have the magic and I think we even bickered about some stupid thing. Before we left for dinner that night we were randomly watching some Ben Afleck movie and the damn guy has this scene with Jennifer Anniston where he has her pull the engagement ring out of his grubby cargo pants. WTF! Ben, man! He just stole my thunder. That night the restaurant just wasn’t right and plus I still had Ben on my mind.
Day 2 Oprah Show: OK. It was a possibility. We waited in line (not good). Then had to check all our belongings so I had to insist that I get the claim check ticket and casually asked the woman securing our stuff to let me have the box with the ring. She says to me laughing, “You gonna get engaged on the Oprah Show.” That was out now and way too public–not us.
In the end it happend just as it should have, organically, as we exited the Art Institute of Chicago. The rest I’ll keep to myself and between us but it was magical and meaningful. We cried and laughed and fell in love all over again.
And that is how it all went down those 2-1/2 days last week. I gotta say a big thank you to my Mom who took care of our littlest one for us. And to Jess, Gav and the kids for entertaining Dharma for a couple days. We put our network to the test and we couldn’t have done it without them. Lastly I want to thank Maria at Absolute Titanium Design for working with me all those months coming up with this one-of-a-kind ring for my truly unique Woman.
Asha is the room parent for my daughters classes at Cambridge Montessori School and I don’t know where she finds the time between all she does but one of her duties, so to speak, is to come up with an auction project to raise money for the school. A couple years ago we made this uniquely DMPJ yearbook for her class and it was wildly successful. I think we sold books to all the parents and some grandparents and raised a good chunk of money for them (kids need books and pencils and little strange counting things plus scholarships, teachers, administrators, gym teachers, after-care peops, art supplies–well you get the idea). So when Asha hit me up to do this again how could I resist. I spend me career working to help others with my camera and talent and this is just such a no-brainer–you just carve out the time when its for your kiddos!
Two years ago we did ultra-closeup, in-your-face head shots so this time I wanted to do something that might allow the students to express a bit more of themselves; after all they are first-, second-, and third-graders. They brought their Pokemons, snow boards, magic cards, dolls, stuffed-dogs-that-look-like-their-real-dogs, Calvin and Hobbes books, skim boards, skis, hockey sticks, soccer balls and even yoga mats. They were awkward and outgoing; shy and silly. They laughed, danced and karate chopped and basically conducted themselves like contestants on American Idol. Even their teachers (they’ve got 3 in one classroom!) got into the act and yukked it up for my camera.
The book will include various shots from what I accomplished today but the meat of the book will be saturated with photos from photographer friends like Bethany Versoy and one of my NESoP students, Ryan McBride. These two shot photos over several days while the students went about their daily doings–everything from art to ski school, gym, music and just doin’ their school work (the readin’, ‘rightin’ and ‘rithmeticin’). I can’t thank them enough and will certainly post some of their great shots soon.
This wouldn’t be complete without turning the camera on ourselves. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words but a group of photos together can tell a story. Here’s to the story of this time in their young lives. Look at their faces and we see ourselves; our dreams–I’m hopeful.
I’ve recently realized that my husband’s workaholism (a new word I just made up) , and the being in three-places-at-the-same-time syndrome have rubbed off on me. Eleven years ago, when I met him, I did not have this much energy, and now, well, let’s just say, I can keep up with him no problem! I can’t keep track of how I keep track of everything in life (huh? I know, try living in my brain for a month!). The kids, the business, my personal writing, and my budding consulting business.
And yet, there are certain times, when something stops me right in the tracks of life, and make me take a deep breath, pause, and say thank you.
Thank you for all our clients, who have taken the time to let us know how much they appreciate our work, our dedication, and yes, Glen & our team’s beautiful photos. Thank you to the photographers that are a part of this amazing team, and continue to grow with us because you get that we value you, we want you to grow, and yep, we like you lots too. Chris Gagne, Blake Fitch, Janice Johnson, Zac Wolfe, Josh London, Darren McCollester, Nate Fried-Lipski, Shannon Grant, Tony Yu. And the non photographer support of Debbie, Kristen, Meghan & ShootQ (like a person really, but way more organized).
Yes, I know, it’s sounding like an Oscar speech. Forgive me; I’m having one of those moments, when I realize that without the support, we can’t be recognized in the little and big ways we are recognized in the industry.
And so, thank you for selecting our team and allowing us for the third year in a row to be among the top 5 percent of local wedding professionals from the WeddingWire Network, including Martha Stewart publications, who demonstrate quality and service excellence in the wedding industry.
Pretty cool. No night out for us to celebrate though. 🙁 Glen has weddings and engagement shoots to edit, and I have kids to feed and put to bed. But, we did stop and say thank you. And for this busy family, the stopping part is a definite, as Martha (Stewart) says, “It’s a good thing”.