Creative Senior Portrait Photographers: Joe

Creative senior portraits for film buff and soon to be human anatomy student, Joseph…
I can’t even begin to share how much fun I had on this shoot.  But, I have to admit when it came to writing Joe’s blog, I’ve had total writers block.  I know that these pictures are creative, unique and “him” in every way, but finding a way to put it all into words was extremely difficult for me.   In fact, his announcements, album and other products have already come in and I still haven’t posted the blog, so I’m just diving in and doing this…
I met with Joe and his mother in my office– the atmosphere was open, collaborative and authentic.  It quickly became obvious that Joe has a unique perspective on life– he is smug and relaxed, a real thinker (see the portrait above) yet is also incredibly creative– he loves films, think Stanley Kubrick and Quinton Tarantino.  I asked Joe what he likes about the films and he said that he liked how the cinematography was clean, streamlined, vibrant and has a timeless feel.  They are also known for their realism, dark humor and unique perspectives.  I used all of this to fuel my creative process on the shoot and the direction of our brainstorming session during our initial meeting.
Joe also noted that he is interested in human anatomy and will be studying the subject in college.  His mom mentioned his eye color at one point and it made me think of two things.  One, how cool the anatomy of the eye looks super close up, and two, of Joe’s father, who is my optometrist, and would potentially have access to cool magnifying lenses which could enhance the intensity.  So in essence, in this next shot we captured Joe’s eye color, anatomy interest, family background, and his unique worldview in a creative yet realistic way:
We got really deep really fast with that photo.  I’ll back up a bit.  I knew we’d want some more standard portraits as well, so when I first arrived on location at Joe’s family’s house I scouted out the location.  There was this incredibly beautiful light streaming in from his parents window onto a wall that was painted with the most interesting shade of blue-green that would really bring out the color of Joe’s eyes while also contrasting his pale pink shirt.
Angie and Joe helped to move the desk that was sitting against the wall and brought in a stool.  Donning my Cannon 85mm 1.2 lens I was ready to  let in a ton of light while also providing the very shallow depth of field that would capture the slightest change in expression or emotion and convey a very intimate feel.  The challenge was that it required me to move back father than the bedroom wall would allow…
Luckily, the wall had a door on it which opened to reveal his parents closet.  Luckily Angie was fine with me stepping in, which was kind of perfect because the clothes had enough “give” to give me the space I needed to use the 85L.   I took a few steps back into it and what I saw was perfect, authentic Joe…
Here Joe is putting on his tie in preparation for the opening image (which you already saw) there is something about it that really works for me– I like that it captures his relaxed nature, that he doesn’t take himself too seriously, it also shows a realness and vulnerability while also being totally masculine and capturing his hair (hehe) all at the same time.
Joe has a very interesting sense of humor and didn’t want his photos to come across as being cheesy or self-absorbed.  He also mentioned a love of satire and liking surreal art, or really anything that is complicated and takes effort to understand.  I kept all of those thoughts in mind and let them simmer. 😉
I thought it would be cool to use mirrors in a photo, almost making fun of the “egocentric look” that he wanted to avoid while also making it into surreal art.   Take a closer look and you will see 8 imitation Joe’s.  Some are out-of-focus, while others only reveal a single eye others appear headless or seem to have different expressions which is downright creepy (ahem darkness)…
Our initial idea for this shot fell a little flat.  Joe likes coffee so we thought some kind of cup-of-Joe cheesiness was definitely in order.  We played with the idea for a while and I have a few other iterations, but this one with the bare tree and overcast sky reflecting on the coffee cup on the windowsill somehow seemed to fit.
I like how the screen and vibration from the heater can be seen along the edges of the mug…
As far as wardrobe, it made sense to go for two different looks, one dressed up and one dressed down, both needed to feel timeless, streamlined and simple.  A plain white T, button down and suit really did the trick.  He could layer up or down and each look gave a different feel.
I like this shot a lot.  I was using a slightly slow shutter speed, maybe 1/100th or so and I like how you can see the motion blur of his hand here.  I also really like the intense angle of his arm and expression on his face, bringing drama to the shot with its intense light and shadow.
Joe had a lot of confidence in my abilities.  During his consultation he said, “I know you can do whatever and make it look good. You’ve basically done it all.”  Later he added, “I knew about your incredible skill with the camera and wanted to utilize it in a different way for my senior pictures.  You captured my vision in such a beautiful way.”
Joe really let me in on who he was and what he was about, so I was able to use that to fuel my creative process and use all the tools I had at my disposal to create those images.  My job was to take all that Joe had told me about himself and try to find a way to capture all of that in a still frame.
Haaa Joe’s man cave, or maybe I should call it a screening room.  It is in his basement and *so dark*.  I wanted to capture the feel of it and I noticed that he had this essential oil diffuser thingy…
I wanted to use the darkness paired with the vapor, his profile and wrinkled white shirt to capture this mysterious, intensely stark contrast with a little bit of softness.   It represents elements of his personality so well while providing visual interest, too.
One of Stanley Kubrick’s most famous quotes is, “However vast the darkness we must supply our own light”– I think that fits here:
I like these shots, I have so many more but I thought they were quirky and fun and fit Joe well…
Joe’s mom, Angie contacted me first.  She had followed my blog for some time now and loved my creative style and detailed blog write-ups.  Hopefully she likes Joe’s now that I have finally “bit the bullet” and tried to write it :).  Angie was incredibly supportive and essential to our creative process.
Angie is definitely a “yes” person and up for anything– finding mirrors, asking for magnifying glasses, throwing red paint in her basement, she was game…  This next shot was technically pretty tricky.   I was trying to create the look I wanted, which involved calculating a bunch of ratios, fractions and balancing a bunch of variables while working off-the-cuff in the dark, while Angie threw water in front of but not on Joe!
It took a few tries to get the water to arc through the frame as I was picturing it.  (We had used water as a test before moving to the red paint, haha).  I like how Joe’s features are mysterious, lost in shadow yet he seems to be glowing.  An invisible force seems to push the water away from Joe, fragmenting it to the left of the frame and expanding it to the right…
While I initially thought that capturing the red paint in mid-air would be most compelling, it turned out that the thick, ominous splatters had more impact on the ground, especially paired with the dramatic lighting and Joe’s body language.  We were going for a “Kill Bill” feel and also giving nod to his anatomy interest…
Another “Kill Bill” reference, it reminds me of the aftermath scene with the Crazy 88, only we didn’t have an army we just had Joe and some weights, haha.  I still like the feel of it and him looking off with those long shadows and his subtle reflection…
Joe it was an absolute pleasure to work with you.   I appreciate how much you opened up to me and how authentic you are, you know yourself well and are comfortable in your own skin.  I also really appreciate how much you trusted me to “do my thing.”  I think the results of your session are incredibly unique to you and something that I’m super proud of.  Thanks again to Angie, too!
***UPDATE: I just received the sweetest note from Joe’s mom, Angie.  She shared, “I am in tears reading this blog, the photos, the opportunity to spend time with you, and the satisfaction of knowing that you completely captured Joe’s heart and essence…  I’m also crying because it makes me realize how much I’ll miss him when he’s in college.  You *beyond* captured his overall being….and I will live through these pictures for so many years! Thank you, Lisa!  You are so gifted and humble and talented, beyond measure​!!!”
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