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Family Photography: Modern Storytelling

Lesson 27 of 35

The Power of Photos: More Power Over Time

Kirsten Lewis

Family Photography: Modern Storytelling

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

27. The Power of Photos: More Power Over Time

Lesson Info

The Power of Photos: More Power Over Time

This is interesting this section the power to be controversial uh there's many photographs many photographers in the history of photography that have caused controversy so much so that some of the photos I can't even show on created five um if you're not familiar with some of the ones I'm going to talk about some photos that I'm not allowed to show but you can yeah um google them while we're talking and some of you might know them right away. I talked about her before sally mann sally mann is notorious for photographing her children nude beyond what was socially acceptable in what I love about her response is if I could be if it could be said to have any kind of aesthetic it's sort of a magpie aesthetic, I just go and I pick up whatever is around if you think about it, the children were there, so I took the picture of my children it's not that I'm interested in children that much or photographing them it's just that they were there when she's if you you don't know anything about sellin...

g man she's like unlike any other person I've ever read about I like have dreams I could meet her one day she lives in west western virginia with no electricity she's still doing very old vintage types of photographic making she's using a lot of large format tin typing where it can take her hours to make one picture and literally she takes a frame and then goes back into a very large room, usually in like a truck bed sheet or not truck, but she has like a vehicle, so she'll travel she's been doing a lot of environmental work now, so she makes the one frame and goes in her vehicle in the back like a box truck, and she already has a dark room in there, and then she'll process right away that kind of dedication to that type of craft like like the foundation of what photography was, blows me away, and I love what I love about her is that she did not care what anybody else said about her picture making it didn't influence or make her stop photographing her kids. What she said was when my kids don't want me to photograph them nude anymore, I'll stop. But the controversy surrounding sally man's work began with her first gallery show, a black and white memory of her everyday life that included her children nude. Some critics accused man of child pornography, describing her work as pornographic inappropriate. Despite the backlash, man continued to document her family the way that she saw them, and this is the thing that's so awesome in two thousand one, time magazine not only defended and praised her work but named her america's best photographer because she was really committed to the work she was doing she was allowing yourself to come through her work she wasn't documented or kids to be controversial they were they just live in the woods and they ran around naked and so she photographed him okay so camp to google hark ice using google image um eddie adams took it february first uh nineteen sixty eight it's called the saigon execution if you're not familiar with it despite earning a pulitzer prize for this photograph eddie adams said that making this picture was one of the biggest regrets of entire life he had no idea how much power the picture would have not on ly in the media in the world view of the war but the direct impact it would have on general wind gung ga kes I think his wind jocks win got lone and his family indefinitely so if you're looking up right now you'll see that the general is holding a gun to the prisoner in the streets uh the original caption was the general lone executing a viet cong prisoner in saigon new york times so he has the gun what's even crazier is if you uh if you blow up the photo eddie adams caught it and you can see the bullet right before it hits the prisoners skull so this photo goes out to the masses and immediately the response is this is horrific how could loan kill an innocent guy on the street. That's what? They thought they didn't know he was a prisoner. They had no idea that this man was wanted for killing hundreds of people, specifically other generals. He targeted generals in their families and wood kill him. And I believe he had killed two of his friends in, like the weeks prior to finally executing this man. Use it, violent man. And he was committing terrible war crimes. So he shot him. But what it did to lone and his family for the rest of his life, this picture was pretty much irreversible. Um, death threats and basically being ostracised from his community when what he was doing was his job. And he was saving a lot more families by executing him and happened to me in the street. But I find it amazing that eddie, his pulitzer prize winning photograph till the day he died, he said, I wish I never made that picture. I should have made it that's how powerful your photographs, khun b it's. Another one you're gonna actually have to google. I wasn't allowed to show the original picture. Uh, nick cut, who is still alive and lives in california. The name of the photograph is napalm girl if you look it up, creative lives um asked that I not show it because she's nude the girl is new in the front but if you're looking at the picture you'll see that there's children that have been burned from the war as well running down a road nude near trang bang after the south vietnamese air force napalm attack this also caused a great deal of controversy because looking at the picture what they say critics the repercussions were how could you sit there and take pictures of children running to you for help and their skin is literally melting off like what kind of photographer are you that you put that before helping them okay well before you jump to any conclusions before you make a decision based on an impulse about any photographer in the work you might want to just research it a little what people don't realize is that nick took two frames of that and he didn't have to but he along with the other photographers and video crew there were there was news crews there as well they all put their stuff down and helped thes children if you can see especially her kim all this film crew but they put down their stuff and immediately went to their aid and not only that he went back to check on her later to make sure she was okay and they got they got her into a um hospital that was closer because nick used his press pass but no one cares about that part of the story they just wanted immediately judge and judge the photographer. So what I wrote was ap photographer nick cut, along with his fellow photographers, received harsh judgment following the release of this picture. Critics accuse the media prioritizing documenting the event over helping the innocent children in need. What critics did not know is that I only shot a couple of frames before he and his colleagues put down their equipment and quickly rushed to their aid. Naturally, that they get medical attention for the children, use his press pass to get them to the nearest hospital, and cam and nick are still in touch with one another. All these years, he made a personal connection that did not. It was not necessary that it be judged that situation. I had the privilege of chatting with sarah. Um, a bit, um, she's in mexico. Right now, we we chatted online. I wanted to interview her, but she is right now, working on a project for national geographic in oaxaca. I believe and she's interning there, so she had to stay there and it was going to be tough with the internet, so I couldn't interviewer, but this was my favorite series that was released last year again, caused a great deal of controversy, um this is what she says people don't give maggie enough credit, says sarah she left I wish the story would have been about her and not meet just the freaking photographer and love her she's so spunky um litowitz received it turn this amount of criticism after her story was published first on photo is iria missouri and later on times lightbox. In february two thousand thirteen, viewers were outraged that sarah documented a nineteen year old maggie being beaten by her thirty one year old boyfriend, shane, especially in front of their two year old daughter. Critics blamed sarah for not stepping in and maggie for allowing the beating to happen. The only one that did not receive any blame was shame I mean a lot of flak she got I can't eat actually I can't show you the picture the rest the syriza photos if you look her up and I highly suggest you do, her work is brilliant. Um, she's really like one of the best upcoming photo journalists out there right now. The amount of trust and access is this young woman got into this family's life is I I don't know if I could have done it she really has to put her whole self in there in order for these people to trust her enough that shame is going to beat his wife in front of her now the beating that that was released that caused most controversy if you look it up and you see the picture, you're going to see shane with maggie in the corner in the two year old is nude um kind of that at the side of the frame and she's crying. So what critics said was, how could you, sara, take that picture? And with a child watching? What? What are you thinking? Well, what people didn't know if she took two frames of that. The other thing is there were friends also in the house that quickly she screamed for the friends sarah did, the friends came and got the little girl, and sarah put her own safety at risk and grabbed her own phone out of his pocket and called nine eleven she did wasn't her job, but she did it so she did intervene, but it's also important, she fell is important to show this story. This is happening everywhere, and the whole point that she was making was this is happening every day she got blamed for it, and maggie got blamed for it, but no one said anything about what shane was doing that's the whole point of her story, what I love is that she has continued to follow this family and maggie laughed and maggie actually left the state and she's trying to start over check she left the state and then I think came back um but you can you can see her work uh light box this is the most important and this is wasn't me the most applicable to you all and that is the power to become more powerful over time we assure you one of my favorite photos actually no I'm not going to google it by any liebowitz and and he was actually really kind to give me permission to show this photo but crave I was concerned because they're celebrities in it most people already know it and I don't even have to have you google it but it was the front page of the rolling stones it is a photograph of john lennon and yoko ono and john is completely nude um and yoko is closed I love this quote from john if you love somebody you can't be with them enough there's no such thing we don't want to be apart he really loved yoko like a lot so much so that you kind of broke up the band um joke please don't bash me in the chat room about what I just very paranoid about what y'all were talking about in there anyways. Um the back story behind this is that annie got the assignment and rolling stone didn't want yoko in the photo because there was so much controversy over her and the band and if she broke it up but she had seen a photograph that had been taken of john and yoko where they were kissing I believe it was on their first album she's like that's amazing because that wasn't that you didn't see that a whole lot like that physical affection in marketing we're in on albums or whatever, so she had that idea that shows there's something that had to do with their connection she came up with this idea I'll have them both nude because they had they were pretty free with themselves um I'll just have them both nude on the floor because she didn't care she's like I'll put yoko in it, you know I'll do it and she got there and she suggested they both be nude and yoko was like, uh I am not doing that I'll take off my top, but I'm not going naked. According to the book there's a book out where any discusses this photo she doesn't go into the fact that there might have been like a little bit of tension between the two women about the point of view and the artistic um the artistic view of what she wanted. But I have read other things that there might have been a little attention either way while they were having the discussion about what they're doing to john was already start naked and so they laid down and they naturally put themselves together and she had a polaroid back for the camera took the frame and then john got to see it right away both john and yoko saw it right away and he looked at me he said this is my most favorite picture of you I mean yoko ever it is the exact representation of our lives together in our relationship and he was killed six hours later so who does that picture become were powerful for some might say rolling stone because now they have the cover right after john was killed some might say annie because annie made that picture and so she was the last one photograph the tune than the other but the one that becomes the most powerful for is yoko and she's the only one that matters because that's the last picture of her time with her husband before he died and that's pretty powerful and I tell you the story because this will happen to you it's going to happen at some point remember I told you day one we're going to talk about these people news the gordons I photograph them um you never know what event might take place and the photos you have taken are going to become some of the most important pictures of your client's life no matter what kind of day you're having, how tired you are how stressed you feel try to put all of that aside to make the best picture possible for them I love this family. This is a family with a little elf girl if you remember her, um, and I told you I always try and make one good picture of all the adults. So I took this picture, and less than twelve hours later, I got an email from the daughter, her daughter, their daughter who hired me and said, we're in the hospital mom had a massive stroke right after the shoot. Do you just have one picture that we can put in the hospital room? And I immediately, like, went and got this she's never fully healed, and I got the last I made the john lennon and yoko ono photo for them in a way because this is exactly how they remember their mom and I got to make a really good picture of that. I didn't have them kiss about that wasn't a plan picture, they did it on their own, which shows everything about their personality and everything about their relationship and how playful and loving the art. Even at this age, I believe they were celebrating the anniversary don't quote me on that, I'm pretty sure they were, but that photo instantly gained a lot more meaning for sure this is a different situation, her name is kirsten the mom, she contacted me. To photograph their family on the beach I said yes definitely how come um when I got there I got out of the car and she pulled me aside and said we just got a call from my husband's doctor that is cancer is not reversible and he's going very quickly I had no idea he had cancer so now I go from just going to a regular shoot to now I'm making the last pictures of this man in his family basically what do you d'oh my best advice I can give you is you have to put your emotions aside you can not get emotional about it you really have to put yourself in extremely professional um mindset and say this is my job this is really important and I have to get it done you can cry when you leave do not cry there so for me the most important picture was to make one really great one of the family all together and it was interesting because this day it was really foggy and it was really tough to shoot um it was important even more important for me to make this picture and normally you don't like the camera where photos but this one was important because the kids will want this as much as they want that I believe he passed away within a month after the shoot these pictures are what his children are going to cling to for the rest of their lives because that's what they have left ah, this is friends of mine family so this is even in a different situation I'm showing you all these different situations that you might come in you come across at some point in your family photography career I got this email I don't know if you've heard but jay's dad ted has been diagnosed with bone cancer he will be having a him pil vic talk to me basically they're going to amputate his leg and a portion of his pelvis within the coming weeks. Um at hopkins, the hope is to cut off the cancer before it spreads its a pretty radical surgery and shocking to say the least. Of course, in typical dent fashion, ted is seemingly taking it all in stride and already joking about being the pirate for halloween. It goes without saying his recovery will be long it's been estimated that he'll be in recovery and rehab for at least a month since jake and I are planning on being in richmond with his siblings already lived there, I thought it might be nice for ted and the family have some lasting memories of their life life together as they know it right now, so I definitely was like, yes, I'll be there, no problem, so I went and so this is august first, two thousand eleven for some reason I had a feeling was really important to make a great portrait of he and his wife and show their relationship they're they're like the most joyous couple together I loved being around their energy the whole family is really amazing so I made the pictures thinking well, this is the last time that dad's gonna have a leg but then he died like a month later in a way I just had a feeling that it wasn't really important to make those pictures um uh so I ties obituary contacted the dense right away major I delivered their pictures as soon as possible go above and beyond sometimes and use your heart over business I've said this before I really believe it uh just another family, mind you I have a lot of these types of situations because I photograph so many families my percentage of things like this happening is going to increase uh I photographed this family um hope and her husband twin boys had a great day he had a great relationship with his kids the dad. So I've made a lot of really good pictures of the three of them and I don't think anything more of it and about six months later I get this email and all it says is high person my friend hope mchale had a photo shoot with you this past summer unfortunately her husband just passed away recently recently passed away I know she had received the pictures and low definition but is there is a way I could pay for a handful of photos in high def? I just send them everything I didn't charge and even think about it I just sent them the pictures because that's what you should do I think you should just do it means nothing to you. What? All right, I'm out five hundred dollars I don't care just don't I all I can think is these boys are only gonna have this picture when they get married and their dad's not there that's what I think about I asked people to send me in their favorite picture if they if they, um I want to talk about that the end of the day but if you the houses bring down what picture would you take with you? So is the family I photographed in, um, south carolina they hired me to come do one day session on their vacation. I had photographed them before and they're very lovely. And so she sent me this picture. I was like that's nice like pitch my picture. I remember making this picture I was like, oh, this is such a nice tender moment, but I didn't know anything other than that, so she sent this inn is her favorite picture you did the day in life shoot for us, which was a fantastic day, but unknown to everyone there. Mike and I were pregnant. We lost the baby two weeks later. I guess that this moment, captured by you will always be a little precious and a little bit bitter. Sweet for us. Do not mistake there about one hundred others that are my favorite from the day two, but this one always makes me pause. Your pictures means something. Remember that they have a lot of power. You don't have to be making pulitzer prizewinning pictures for them to have power. They have power to your clients, and you need to remember that this industry is so consumed with competition and who's the best, and who has the most instagram followers that you kind of forget ultimately, who you're shooting for. You should be shooting for you to fulfill you, and you should be shooting for your clients.

Class Description

Learn how to capture genuine, emotional images of families. In Family Photography: Modern Storytelling, Kirsten Lewis will teach you how to take meaningful documentary-style family photographs.

Kirsten Lewis takes a unique approach to family photography, leaving posing techniques and studio light at the door to capture real moments, as they are lived. In this class Kirsten will share her techniques for creating the relationships and environments that help her subjects feel at ease and open-up in an authentic way while she shoots. You’ll revisit the art of storytelling through still images and how to bring storytelling into your work with families. Kirsten will teach you the steps to developing client relationships that allow you to honestly document a family, from birth onward, while nurturing your business. You’ll learn new ways to approach composition and editing so your final product is both beautiful and true to reality.

If you want to deepen your relationships with the subjects you shoot and deliver photographs that are joyful and authentic, join Kirsten for this in-depth class on documentary-style family photography.



I cannot recommend Kirsten's course highly enough. I've tuned in to a couple of CreativeLive courses on photographing families and children, and they were both very "studio"-centric. A lot of posing, a lot of gear, etc. I don't have a studio and a lot of gear, I don't desire to, I'm uninspired by the outcomes, and I tuned out pretty quickly. I love capturing people, especially kids and families, in their moments. I love a great candid. I love "documentary photography" (as I learned to call it from this course). And loving and creating photos that tell a story or capture a genuine moment is exactly what this course taught us to do, and did a fantastic job of doing. A few things I loved about Kirsten from the get go: she is not pretentious, but intelligent and genuine; she as a person and her photography are inspiring; she knows how to teach - technical without being 'technical', knows how to explain her process, draws on her mistakes so we can all learn from them (and our own - and this is a HUGE element of teaching most people lack!), all the while packing in an enormous amount of information that could improve anyone's photography. is very accessible in her explanations and her language; she is honest: a good teacher will be critical because again, if she's not (and if we're not open to it) how will we ever learn? Although I felt sometimes her language was a bit harsh or her assessments "right or wrong" where more nuanced language could be merited - my one critique. really seemed to be teaching first and foremost to have people learn and be excellent photographers, and to enjoy the gifts photography can offer (personally and productively), which made it so much more appealing to be "in the room". Best of all, I had an awakening that I am allowed to be myself in my photography. As much as I love candids, I get caught up in the expectation to take posed pics, for those I'm taking the photos for more than for myself. No more. It makes me impatient and disappointed with the outcomes. I'm going to cultivate what I love. I also finished each day inspired to take and process photos - visiting my nieces, bringing my camera everywhere. During the class I kept going into lightroom to look at my pics while she was teaching, to compare my past photos to what she was teaching. It was such a wonderful learning experience. Thank you Kirsten for being true to yourself, going out on a limb in your approach, and sharing all of this with us!

Kathleen Petersen

I started out in photojournalism, but it was a long time ago. Back in the 70s, I would play with the little ones, in their backyards, or at their breakfast tables, to get lots of beautiful, real images. Then, over the years, with the need to earn income, and then later, the need to compete, I got side tracked. I still did photojournalistic images of my kids, and eventually, their kids, but clients were wanting specific things. I called it the line-them-up-and-shoot-them style of family photography. The creative soul within was always longing for the more natural, more real images, and I have always been able to sneak them in to any session. But my business was mostly about everything else. I shot some weddings early on, to pay my dues and my rent. But discovered that I much preferred being a second shooter and capturing the candid moments and the details. As I am now a grandmother, I have been making changes gradually in my business to get back to my roots. Taking this class has been life-changing for me. I was making these tiny little baby steps, as if I was afraid that I would fall out of favor with my current and future clients. The competition is huge here in socal, so how could I dare step away from the white shirts and khakis? I dare. I am about to completely revamp my business model to return to where I started from. I plan to march to the beat of my own drummer. It really does make one happy to follow one's passions and to be true to one's self. I don't even care if I lose any clients. I want to provide for people something that is so essential. Real images that will nail down the memories forever as they interact and love each other. This is so important. At first, I wasn't sure if I would like Kirsten. But by the end of the three days, I loved her as if she were my best friend from forever ago. I love her for her personality, the things she taught us, and her great example. Best class I have ever taken at Creative Live, and that is saying something! Thank you!

Jo Benoy

The great thing about photography is that it can be all things to all people: a hobby, an art form, a profession. As long as I can remember, cameras and pictures have been important to me - for different reasons in different seasons. I have never been particularly interested in formal photos, and I thought my preference for "catching moments" in a style three or four notches above a snapshot made me seem like some sort of slackard. Enter Kirsten Lewis. In three days, she explained, modeled and taught the sort of shooting that I've loved for as long as I can remember. She mirrors my philosophy that good photographs aren't necessarily pretty, and that if a picture is compelling or evocative, it's a good one. Lewis is not only a gifted photographer but a clear and cogent teacher, which is always a welcome combination, and as strong as her tangible skills are her confidence and dedication to her own style and voice. I've watched and bought several CreativeLive courses, but I have enjoyed none more than this one: ever since watching it, my brain has been spinning and my shutter finger has been itchy. I loved, loved, loved this workshop.