Connect With Client to Create Portrait
Let's welcome Janice onto our set, come on in. I've got a stool in behind here for you to sit on so you don't have to stand.
Alright, have a seat. And then I'm gonna get you to slightly kinda turn this way. I'll hold the back of it 'cause it's got wheels.
Are you happy with your feet being up there, or do you want a box to put them on?
And if not I'll put 'em on the floor.
So when you start to look at this set, I wanted to create balance. So I'm gonna take my photograph from back here, from a slightly higher perspective, looking down so I can see the elements on the table. If I took the photograph from down here, they're gonna look like flat objects, and I'm not gonna be able to read the text and things like that. Also if I took it down here instead of coming up, I'm then gonna start to have a lotta blank background on that backdrop where I can't hang anything. So coming from that higher perspective, I can slightly shoot down ...
and this is gonna be my frame. So now I can start to see that this photograph, see the title of the book, see all those different elements that are gonna make sense to the photograph. Alright, so some of these things Janice, is this kinda what you would have in your home? No? (raucous laughter)
Well definitely this. (audience laughs) And probably some food.
I bought this for you from Australia. It's got a wombat on it, so you can take that home with you.
Oh you're kidding.
Oh, it's gorgeous, oh that is so pretty, thank you.
Wombats aren't really that pretty.
Yes it is!
No, in real life. It's pretty, this is pretty, this is a beautiful drawing, but wombats are actually quite ugly and smelly. No they're not, they're not, they're not. So we'll turn it around 'cause that's got a little bit of connection there. And we have your photo album. When you were writing, did you use a typewriter?
I laughed because I have, I have a portable typewriter in the garage that I'm trying to get rid of, nobody wants them anymore.
But yes, I learned on that.
Yeah wow. So CreativeLive have an incredible inventory of props and things like that that you can use. So because I couldn't go to Janice's house I'm kinda trying to simulate something that can help tell a story and yeah, it's pretty exciting. Janice has an amazing story to tell, and when she mentioned to me that she was a literature major, that allowed her to edit anything and everything of everybody else's work, but it kind of like, stopped her from doing her own stuff.
Uh-huh. (lightly laughs)
So what were some of the things that you liked to write about?
If I were going to write, oh, I started writing my mother's biography, and I got to and that's when she and I met in the hospital at my birth. And yeah, it's sort of wandering off. I have a few fiction pieces that I really wanna get back to, but eh. And my computer does not always cooperate. I was writing some things to you and the computer just erased.
Yeah yeah, you said that.
Well I think the word is delete, I'm trying to get as techie as possible and tear myself away from the easy stuff. Oh those are so, can I take it home?
You're trying to get rid of one.
Well I know but this isn't, that one is such a mess.
You might have to bargain with Jamie over there. (softly laughs)
I'm just borrowing them. So for the idea of this photograph, I kind of got a sense when I was reading your emails that you have a pretty cool story to tell in terms of writing your own biography.
I don't know if that's true. I did start at one point in communicating that I had spent a lot of time working at jobs that allowed me to skate through without recognizing that women basically are discriminated against in the workforce. Mainly because they were union jobs, which meant, like I said about the gas company, the women in the office got the same money as the men in the field reading meters, but we didn't have to carry snakebite kits, that was the only difference. And then I got to the point where I took a job in a small community in California, San Diego county, running a Chamber of Commerce office. And it came to decide what my title would be, and I balked when they said you can be the executive secretary. I'd never been a secretary. And all the men who had similar offices were executive directors. I said why can't I be that? Well, well shortly thereafter I quit, and the community was going to incorporate so I got on the incorporation committee. And we did incorporate, and I was on the ballot for the first city council and I was the top vote getter. And on my fourth year I got to be mayor of that little community. I said I believe the phrase is I waved the bird, and it made me feel so good. (audience laughs)
What page are you on in here? There you are.
This, this was my last year in office, and some of the highlights of that. Okay, that was the year that the Olympic Torch came to San Diego. And it was carried through all the communities in the east county. And all the mayors of the other three cities, in their knobby-knees and their shorts, carried the torch. Nuh-uh, not me. We had a young woman in the local high school, and she was a cross-country runner and she had won lots of awards, I gave her the torch. And of course I got an editorial in the local paper. I also came out, I mean this was kind of dumb but we were having the Miss Santee Pageant and I came out rather loudly against it. I said until we recognize young men and young people with problems in the same way that we recognize gorgeous young women, I said I'm not in support, I got another editorial. (audience laughs) I mean there goes the bird again, I mean I had fun.
I love that you stood up for everything that you believed in, though.
And I still do, and of course right now, politically, nationally, oh my God. (lightly laughs) But I live in Susan DelBene's congressional district, number one in the state of Washington. She's in Washington D.C. with my issues. I have two women senators, I feel very, very comfortable living here.
And my husband, by the way, was extremely supportive of that. We got him through UCLA, and when he was given a teach, well when earned a teaching job in Riverside that's where we moved. And it was always a given if we were anywhere near a university campus I'd go back to school, and I did. And I was able to graduate from UCR. And I taught for two years, wore myself out, literally. Learned early on, okay. There was a class right at the end of the year, and the prof said you know, you can learn any number of names if you want to. And he said okay, the night before class starts you can take, we called them cuum cards. You can take those cards home and you'll have one for each student, and you can make a seating chart. And when you go in the next morning you can tell them where to sit, and they've got you. Or, you can not look at them, you can go into the classroom the next morning and learn their names, every one of them, and you've got them. I said but you can't do that. He said well, you can. 35 10 year olds sitting there, and I have opted to give it a try. I went home that night and I had a mental picture of every one, we played games all day. And you had to say your name, we did all sorts of things. And the next day I walked into class and I had 'em. I mean I knew them, you can do it. And you don't pick little, I mean you just, you get to know them individually and you've learned their names which is just, I tell that and people say it can't be done but it can.
I think that that is probably one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard in terms of what we do as photographers, and getting to know people individually. Oh, I'm. (loud crowd laughter)
Speak up honey.
I said getting to know people individually, as a photographer, it's one of the most important things we have to do, yeah.
And that's why I'm excited to take your portrait today. And we've bought in, Janice has bought in something that's really meaningful to her. Her children made this for her on what would've been your 64th wedding anniversary?
Yes, and my husband died just short of that occasion. He died in March, and the anniversary was in September. And they knew I was hurting, it wasn't an easy thing to experience that first anniversary alone. We had 70 years, we never met. We were just throw, together in junior high, and we were neighbors, and we had fun.
That's pretty cool. And we have a beautiful photograph of him behind you here on set. I snuck it in there, I'm sorry.
Yes, I saw that when I was sitting over there.
And then she's also brought in a couple of other things in terms of proud moments, I suppose, that you've had that I wanted to incorporate into this. So as I create a set, I wanna make sure from that viewpoint that I'm gonna capture this from that you can actually see these without making it too contrived, if you know what I mean. I kinda don't want it to be immaculately placed, I want it to be just like a normal kind of area. So if you were going into somebody's home you would wanna collect some of their most, you know, treasured possessions in terms of sitting down and talking to them and saying you know, I would love to see your favorite photographs. I would love to see something that you can show me that, you know, you may have achieved like a certificate or even a book, or have you been published? Just getting to know them a little bit more, you can do that via correspondence and over the phone if you can't get to them, but I suggest if you were going to photograph someone around Janice's age that you go and pay them a visit first. Go away, come up with some ideas and then come back and talk to them about those ideas. I mean I'm pretty sure that Janice would tell me yeah no, this is not right, like if she felt that way. But it's all about communication, and it's all about having patience and listening to them. Listening to her stories, this is how I'm learning more about her life which is gonna allow me to photograph her the way that she deserves to be photographed. You know, she didn't put up with any, I can't swear, but any, you know, nonsense, you know, in the workforce, and she's really stuck with her guns. I do wanna give her more kinda powerful sort of seated position here, I don't want her down low, I want her up a little higher. And I kinda want, you know, the way that she's sitting to express that sort of body language. You saw in the photo of my grandmother, she was kind of more sort of down, looking down. I want Janice to be kinda looking up and proud of what she's accomplished in her life. And these are the things that you need to kinda focus on. So when you're creating that mind map for that person, you've got the information that you need about them, that's when you can go right, how do I wanna pose her to create that, you know, that emotion, that reaction? How do I want to light her to have that impact, to create that kind of three-dimensional look. Because, you know, when you think of a photograph being two-dimensional, you really wanna add depth. Which is why I've got, you know, foreground, middle ground and background to help tell that story. So because I've got so many different elements in here, I'm gonna wanna photograph this with, you know, a much larger aperture so I can get that detail. If I shot this at 2.8 I'm gonna have blurry, focus, blurry. So I wanna keep that focal plane quite wide and probably shoot this at about F8. But we're gonna test our lights, these are pro photo lights that I'm still getting used to, 'cause they're a little different to the lights I've got at home, which is good. (light laughter) But you ready?