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Family Photography: Modern Storytelling

Lesson 26 of 35

The Power of Photos: Photos Transport

Kirsten Lewis

Family Photography: Modern Storytelling

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

26. The Power of Photos: Photos Transport

Lesson Info

The Power of Photos: Photos Transport

I'm gonna warn everyone out there that today is we're going to be doing a lot of critique, but of the talks that I'm giving, they're a lot more emotional, so I was just having some kleenex, maybe not for this first part, but definitely the later part of the day it tends to to get people, which is good it's I want to get the emotions going today's the last day we're going to talk about the power of pictures were going to talk about my mentoring program, I'm gonna critique middle half of the day, and at the end we're going to bring it all together and with the power of pictures, presentation or lesson that I'm going to give, uh, we're going to be looking a lot of other people's work and talking about as a whole rather than just specifically documentary feeling work. We're going to be talking about how photography and pictures in general have power, so I liked this definition of power uh, the ability to do or act capability of doing or accomplishing something and that's really what I'm tr...

ying to do with my pictures, I always want my pictures tohave a sense of power. Like I said, I think day one, I want people to feel something when they look at my pictures, I wanted to elicit some sort of response so when I started thinking about how our pictures powerful couple of years ago, I kind of tried to figure out some specific things that they conduce you and that there was a commonality with many iconic photos that they were doing that's so that we're going to look at some of those now. So the first, the first thing that photos khun do is they can have the power to transport us in time literally music can transport you in time, but pictures could do that, too, for me also smells and smell something like that smells like my high school cafeteria like and I can like immediately feel like I'm the nerdy kid in school and no one's, my friend, but that's things that should stay in my head. Okay, so the power to transport us in time pictures are important pictures of an important time or event can instantly transport us to a memory of where we were, how we felt, what we saw and what sounds we heard now I wasn't alive during the time that this picture was made, but it's a very famous photo taken by a gentleman by the name of stan stern, who is a photojournalist and, uh, stance turned I'm going to read the bottom because it's hard for you guys to read stance turns you know united press international photographer was the only photographer out of seventy plus that were there that day to deliberately capture jfk jr saluting his father's coffin oh uh, so sure he had captured the on ly photo needed of the funeral he chose not to follow the family to the arlington cemetery and instead returned to the office where he immediately developed his one roll of film. I love this story actually. So obviously jfk aids funeral two very big event like stand discussed. I've read many articles about this that he was interviewed him before he passed away that he you know, he's just one of a sea of photographers and he had on ly shot one roll the entire funeral because he was so sure that he got in the picture while everyone else was focused on jackie and the coffin. No one really had any approach the photo with a lot of humility or thinking that there might be another way to tell the story. And so he was the one that there were other people that I got this photo but not deliberately does that make sense make his intention was he was watching his son the whole time so he got low enough to compositionally make the perfect picture so he makes this frame and he everybody goes to the cemetery and he's like that I got it so he runs back to the office and his boss was livid like late I've read articles that he thought that his head was going to explode like he said he had never seen anyone matter than his boss and then he was like his face was all red and he's like what are you doing everybody's there we're not gonna have the picture he's like dude I have the picture and so he developed it in the dark room with his boss on the other side like like panting and huffing and puffing waiting for the picture and he's like I swear to god your job's going to be gone if you don't have the shot he came out and he showed the one frame and he's like by golly you got the shot and you can keep your job and that's what ran on the front page of every newspaper and it was first because he was so sure that he had made the picture that he got it into the press before anybody else and rails was still the army erlandson cemetery that's amazing to me and when I want to stress is that you should trust your gut sometimes in that being taking a little bit of risk in making those pictures trying to see from a different point of view can actually be rather rewarding in the end he cared about the story like he thought about this differently than any other shooter that was there and for that I'm incredibly in all off and I think about that every time I'm trying to make a picture I think about what would stand stern teo um for people that were around during jfk a's funeral when they see this picture they know exactly what it iss and they can remember when they heard that the president was assassinated from what I understand from documentaries I've seen it was devastating like it was a devastating moment so in a way thiss added a little bit of humanity to a rather tragic event that it will go on like that legacy obviously that the kennedy legacy went on but there that he was human not just a president he had a son who loved him who was honoring him it's pretty awesome I'm pretty crazy thing about pictures a lot kind of dissect them quite a bit if I show you this picture without reading anything do you know what this is? Yes it is it's what shame the raid on osama bin laden's called right uh pizza ah he's basically the official white house photographer right now and he took this picture on may first, two thousand twelve you're exactly right it's when bin laden was captured and killed there are waiting word and from what I understand I've read quite a bit about this photo this was this this is smaller of the rooms there's a couple of thes conference rooms and they all gathered into the smaller of the rooms and I love seeing how they're all crowded and pete so smart about his composition he's filling the frame but he's positioning himself so that you can see all the way to her that's intentional like he's moving himself intentionally and probably waiting quite a bit until thes to lehman right? Because that gives you a sense of the size of the room even more so that they have to like look over people um so here's the original caption president barack obama and vice president joe biden along with members of the national security team received an update on the mission against osama bin laden in the situation room of the white house may first, two thousand eleven this caused a lot of controversy this photo do you have any idea wire you heard the story behind this I've had so many things like obama was photo shop in and all kinds of none of that is true like that's not true what is interesting is that it's a manipulative if picture because of her this evokes a certain response tow us a storytelling element she is the storytelling element this is what brings the story together because if you look at this you think oh it must be that moment when they heard that bin laden had been captured right and killed later clinton was interviewed and she said, oh, I just had a cold and I was covering my mouth so I wouldn't sneeze or cough over everybody so we talked the first day about misrepresentation of photos this isn't a misrepresentation, but it's almost the photographer has power over what photo he chooses regardless of the moment is honest or not, it does add to the storytelling right pretty fascinating I the picture came up on both of you like sunk I think even the camera people did because we all know what that isthe and we all know where we were when we found out about this attack on the world trade center I I know exactly where I wass and we were trying to call friends before I knew the news and like my phone wasn't working and I remember the smell in my apartment and I was like, why isn't form working like he gets rid of anybody could consume? My mom lived in connecticut and I turn on the news and then I heard, um there are a lot of photo journalists that are still suffering er repercussions emotionally of photographing this event along with firefighters, rescue teams but this is a very iconic photo like you look at it and you immediately know you don't have to ask any questions there's, no question about what this this picture is. Photograph such as this one of the best examples of photographic transport. There is no denying exactly what this picture is off people all around the world. Satin shock as the events developed that fateful day. And if you show this picture to anyone, they can tell you exactly where they were when it happened. This picture can also produce a great deal of emotion from the viewer, regardless of where they were living. At the time that it happened. I happen to be very good friends with this photographer. I am really grateful that I have gold nor in my life. She is a brilliant photographer. Even more so, she's. Just a really lovely, kind, genuine person who had she really has a hell of a background. She came from russia. She's had some heart ache in her life and she continues to move forward. Um, so when I was in new york a couple of about a month ago, I asked color if she would sit and talk to me about the day she made this picture and some of you out there might be wondering, why are you? Why are we even talking about these pictures? Because by listening to people's stories about how they made them, you can apply this into your own work. And realize that even though you're just photographing families, there's serious importance and what you're doing there's power and so these pictures they have power on a grand scale because we're recording history, but you're doing the same thing for your families, your recording, their history and in some ways that's even more important because that's for generations to come so that they can all relate to each other. So I'm going to play the interview it's like seven minutes long and she's going to tell you about her experience shooting that day. So in the morning of nine eleven, high was asleep and I woke up from the first, uh, plane crash, which I didn't know at the time, but I woke up from something and then I heard a lot of science because I used to live by the hospital by the police plaza and the firehouse so there's a lot of science and when they wouldn't stop, what I did is that I was I got up and they turned on cnn and that's when I saw the first tower is on fire was on fire and azad I was watching, I could see the second plane crashed into the building and I could hear a the same time uh so that's when cnn began saying that it might be a terrorist attack, and so I grabbed my camera and my film which I had a bunch of black and white film for my trip to russia what I was shooting this ongoing project with this family uh and uh I remember running around my apartment thinking I don't need a flash and it was so early in the morning and like it's right outside someone not only in a flash s o I was I didn't know what kind of planes how big how small oh I knew there was two planes in the towers uh so I went so I began walking towards the world trade center was was a four blocks I still have four blocks away from the world trade center and that's kind of weird you know you go there and everybody's running away from from the towers uh I got the super early maybe ten minutes after the second plane crashed uh it wasn't even closed yet the area um and uh just begun shooting you know, whatever I saw so was I was shooting and I was actually asked not like not to shoot by the police like you know how can you shoot that? Ah and I said here I have to it's a historical event right now what's going on I'm not just cross I just cross the street the same corner um and I was shooting right across the street from the world trade center so what happened is that I heard the noise and I lift my camera and I had my eighty five home my candid camera uh and I saw in my view finder the tower was his collapsing was collapsing so I see it in my view fine. I just took one shot and somebody screamed you know, run so we all began running I'm in people were already running but I began running and I remember falling which now I'm now I know why I fell because when the building collapsed he was like a mini earthquake so I fell and that's when um uh the first time I was like really afraid and I turned around and it was just like this massive uh cloud uh approaching you it was just it was a tall and fast and um and what I did there was now no where to hide basically so what I did I had uh head behind the car parked car and um um yeah that's what happened? You know to be honest, I don't remember taking that photo when the building collapsed. I like everyone else I was just in shock and I don't remember changing film I don't remember changing the lands I don't remember shooting it so when I didn't see what I shot I remember the few of the you know before the collapse each frame a shot so the next day when I saw that that fora and six others in total seven forest widely published that they were published like every where um and many of the photos made the front page uh mostly the color photos I think what iss powerful about that photo is that everybody could identify with that especially new yorkers I mean it's my favorite for the two because I'm one of them I was there I looked like them um and you can see that what happens? What happens you can recognise okay it's nine eleven without building collapsing or playing going into the building its people um what's also I think powerful about that photo that it's in black and wife yet but if it was in color it would not make a big difference because when the building collapsed with all the dust in the air everything was completely great so that photo has a, um all kind of um uh in the cities in the picture but it doesn't matter in the asian or black or white or latinos um they they all the same same color great so gulnara one world press award first place in new story that year and I asked her because she was nominated for the pulitzer also and I asked her if she was bombed that shooting at the poles and she was like no the world press a word for photojournalists is a much bigger honor because it's the whole world it's world news not just strictly for american um news so she has that hanging on a wall it's pretty powerful when you walk in and you just see it there it's very big think about that when you're photographing a family and you just need to roll around in some dirt when you put it in perspective it's not really a big deal but the passion that she had to tell that story came from within her even though she worked for the associate pressure as she told you she was home she wasn't even at work there was no assignment she just grabbed her camera and went and I think for good documentary family work is the same thing it's the idea that you don't put your camera down eric who is here the pre show he said, I want to make that picture if I had put my camera down always be ready to make a point a picture for me I always have my phone on me if I don't have my camera on my phone three powerful um okay so the power to evoke an emotion elicit a human response and that's what I try to do a lot of the time um we ran out of time but I've spoken briefly with the woman who's made this next picture that I'm going to show to you who is she is not a photographer and to me it's one of those photographs I will never forget, and one for me, that is a listed, more human response and probably any other picture I've seen and it's this one. Uh, lisa pembleton took this picture august nineteenth, two thousand eleven, and what she says is I took this picture and that was my view throughout the entire funeral. I could not not take this picture, pembleton said it took several attempts since every time I wasn't crying, I could focus on taking it. There was a seal at the microphone, and they didn't want to take a picture with them for security and respect reasons our family is devastated, to say the least. To me, this is the epitome of a storytelling picture. I don't need to know anything else about it. There needs to be no words to explain the picture I know already what is going on here? I've contacted her through facebook, and I think I'm still gonna try and interviewer because I would give this talk again at some point, but she said that she when this photo went viral, she was so emotional that she just couldn't do an interview. But she's ready now, and I just want to talk about it, and why show this aside from it, just like eliciting a really strong response from me? For me it does um she was brave enough in new enough that this was a picture that had to be made and she wasn't even if photographer but she knew that this was important and if you don't know if you don't know this story it's lisa's cousin who had passed away um fighting overseas in a war and the war and that is his dog and they brought the dog into the funeral and, um he just kind of went right up in front of the casket and laid there the entire time didn't move I'll tell you more about why that emotionally affects me later in the day this is by, um one of our students at foundation workshop her name is mary mchenry and uh she says this is a couple who were saying goodbye to their dog the dog had been staying with friends of theirs and bit a little girl. A dog bite requires a ten day stain quarantine to check for rabies. The couple didn't have enough money to three hundred forty dollars to pay for the quarantine they made had to make the hard choice of letting him go watching this guy staring at his dog and saying goodbye was one of the saddest things I've ever seen, so this was her assignment we gave her an assignment to go work in an animal shelter and um this was the toughest part of the three days for her to shoot because she knew she had the money to give to the family, but she knew that that wasn't her job and that she couldn't do it because she is supposed to be there to just document what's happening what's happening in life. I think about that sometimes with, uh, like nature journalists, and when they see, like a kill happening, especially if it's like a baby animal like, don't they want to be like ron? But they can't like they have to, like just document because that's life and that's what she had to do in this situation. Um so for me, this photograph proved to be mary's most powerful of the week, more so than the over imagery of puppies being euthanized and lonely dog staring through fencing. This picture produces a strong, guttural response due to the sheer connection between the dog and his owner. An obvious moment of permanent goodbyes. It's this it's like the dog is actually hugging his mom in this just this gesture, we don't need everything, we just need this it's a brilliant frame, it elicits a response and is as sad as these photos can be equally is so a photo can just make you feel joyous. Um this is one of my favorite wedding photographer's name is sergio and he's brilliant and this is his personality but like, this is my favorite wedding photo I've ever seen I think like I just it just makes me feel good looking at it you also could think that it was taken in nineteen twenty I mean it's like timeless but look at that joy on that guy's face and it's perfectly framed what sergio how sergio describes his work my goals at every wedding are to capture the bad ass photos and make my couples feel absolutely extraordinary he's he's brilliant as faras allowing his personality come through his branding as well as his pictures this is real wedding photography right here in my mind like this is what you want to get no one gives a flying bat I've now said that twice let's trend that let's hash tag no one gives a flying back at the end of the day about the shoes I'm sorry I'm sorry all the wedding but I was out there like we don't we care about how he feels on his wedding day? This is the kind of wedding pictures that should be made if you if you let go of the stress and the pressure to like perfectly align the shoes so that they have the perfect picture to put in their album you're gonna miss this you're going to miss how it feels so I said of all the wedding photographs I've ever seen, this picture is by far my favorite it exudes pure joy exactly how you hope your groom feels on his wedding day. This picture makes you smile almost unavoidably so everything from the moment to the image quality to the strong contrast of the grey sky grey scale, this picture preserves a timeless sense of happiness it's amazing the power to elissa human response to me this makes me feel trapped and almost gross I don't I had it almost makes me feel gross like I'm in pain for this person is that friend of mine, jen hagerman um I met her in the outer banks we uh she was also winning photographer down there, but I didn't understand why she was doing weddings because she is a brilliant photojournalists like they're there college courses about her work like she's phenomenal she's got a lot of recognition lately, especially about this trapped siri's that she's done she's been working on it for a while I haven't talked to her in a bit, so I don't know if she's still continuing it. She won an emmy for the film documentary about this but it's about mental health issues in prisons and the description was the continuous withdrawal of mental health funding has turned jails and prisons across the nation into a default mental health facility the system designed for security is now trapped with treating mental illness, and the mentally ill are often trapped inside the system, and nowhere to go trapped takes us inside the correctional psychiatric treatment unit of the kentucky state reformatory to see how the state is meeting the needs of the growing population. A german's ongoing syriza's both haunting and devastating many of the pictures, including her siri's cause of physical reaction, one of sympathetic pain but the prisoners trapped inside the torture of their own mental illness. I mean it's, just like I look at her pictures and I it's like it really is hunting to me, and I feel like she has done such a phenomenal job of really capturing that eeriness in the sickness of the prisoners here, I would highly suggest checking her out, john increment and I just stumbled across this guy a couple of years ago, he's from london, actually, and I'm like in awe of hiss portrait ce uh, they're all of fortress on the street like people in the street, but is different than any other street photos street portrait's of homeless I've ever seen. But he says that I can't wave a magic wand, but it doesn't mean that I can't take a photograph of them and try to raise awareness and bring attention to their plight. Uh, it takes an incredible amount of connection to photograph people away that jeff, that lee jeffries does lennon based photographer uh, these portrait's are more than just portrait. Their souls being photographed, pain captured a life of struggle, documented it not only requires his subjects to trust him, but jeffries has photographs than with kindness, sensitivity and empathy. That's the difference between what he's doing and what some random person is doing on the street and there's a lot of controversy over people that photograph the homeless or the mentally ill on the street. I mean, they're just like for me. I want to make pictures that air this strong, like he's, a really strong images from his choice in being so close to these subjects and that they allow him to be this close. He probably only spend a little bit of time with them before he get this kind of access. It's pretty amazing, and you can see their personality in every image again. His stuff is pretty haunting. Um, it just really for me it elicits a really human response.

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.