How I Define an Intimate Event
How do I define an intimate event? Well, you know, some of that is sort of self evident, but it's usually, you know again, a situation where you know the people and in some ways this might be the most prevalent, this might be the situation where you use your mobile photography most. You know, birthday parties, weddings, funerals, family gatherings, gatherings with coworkers, hanging out with friends, going out for the day to the beach, whatever it may be. Going for a hike. Would you agree guys that maybe is where mobile photography is used the most? 'Cause again, it's in your pocket or it's in your backpack so it's always there. And it also, by its very nature, generally requires the least amount of work to get access. Unless you have an enemies party. (laughing) Ashley would probably like doing that. No, that would be fun. (laughs) Anyway, so, I'm tryin' to think. So, what we got to do, was we went on Sunday in Seattle to, as I'd said earlier, Alfie's fifth birthday party. Now, you ha...
ve to imagine, imagine that I actually knew this family. (laughs) But, the way they treated us, it was almost as though we were friends, you know, they were very familiar and very sweet with us. And you know, it was really lovely that his family, the Weuster's gave us permission to photograph and to be there. So, it was held at, I can't remember the name of the place but it was this lovely facility in Seattle where they were doing dress ups and I guess Alfie wanted to be about like, witches and warlocks or something, anyway. Sorry, dragons, dragons! Thank you. (laughs) And, so, there was all this dress up and the women who ran the place were really lovely. Very imaginative. So when I'm thinking about how I'm photographing something like this, and again talking about aesthetic considerations, again. For me, I'm photographing it very much as a visual journalist. So, I want to get wider pictures that gives a sense of place. But, then I want to capture some of the characters. Again, never hire me to take nice pictures of your kids. (laughing) Hopefully, I'll just take interesting pictures of them. You know, these guys were really cute. This boy never gave up his hat, he was so cute. You saw this earlier, capturing these moments of just pure joy and action. So, again, in terms of covering the event and thinking about what are the pictures that I need. Then also to talk about aesthetic considerations, you know I want to get overall pictures, I want to capture some of the characters. I certainly want to get a family portrait of the birthday family. But, I also want to get portraits of some of the friends and some of the other people who are taking part. And then capturing these candid dynamic moments. In terms of the aesthetics, because it was indoors, it was a rainy day, it was indoors. So, I didn't have amazing light to work with or big vistas in backgrounds. In this case it's a very small, space that I'm working in. It's artificial light. So, again, I'm thinking about how do I handle the different light sources. There was mixed light. But you know, I can't help myself, I've got to look for these moments you now. I guess the question is: would you want this as a memory of your event? I dunno. (laughs) Oh, you would? Okay, good. So then you will hire me, alright. (laughs) But you know, talk about composition. You know, when I saw this boy, and for some reason he was not cranky, but he wasn't taking part, right. He seemed to be in a different zone that morning and he was sitting in that spot and so I kinda settled down in front of him and then all the sudden, the parents kind of came into the picture in this way that I hadn't even anticipated. And so, there was this lovely, for me, I love working with foreground, middle ground, background. When we talk about composition, alright. And, in how I organize my frame and I'm always hyper aware of that sort of, the layering. The layering that we can accomplish using photography. It's incredible how dynamic an image one can make if you do layering in a really effective way. This was just a lovely moment. I can't remember what the women who was conducting this asking them to do, but and in this case I don't mind that some of the kids are looking in the camera. If I'm working as a journalist, I'd be annoyed that people are looking in the camera, because I want it to seem like I'm not there. But again, in an intimate event, that's not as important. Again, I think the primary objective is you're trying to capture memories. You're trying to capture memories of people who you know, who you might love, who you feel very close to and you'd have, let's say, enduring, hopefully enduring relationships with. So, as a mobile photographer you have, it's sort of like you have that, not just that privilege, but responsibility, if you like. Or the challenge, the opportunity to create images that become part of the memories of that family, let's say. Or that group of friends. This is the mom. So, this is a pretty candid moment where I think she was kind of like, this is just before we left. And I think she's like okay, good. It's a success, nobodies bleeding. Nobody's crying, you know. (laughs) Kids are having fun. (laughs) And, we left just before they got into the cupcakes, so who knows what happened after that. Yeah you know, capturing a sense of atmosphere. Which often is dictated by lighting. But also, you can create that through composition. So... Here's some examples of work I've had. So this picture is very meaningful to me. And this is an example, and give me a break if I start to cry here. But this is an example of an image that will forever be meaningful and burnished in my head. That's my son and this was the day where we were loading up the car to drive him to college. And, sorry, I'm going to lose it now. Actually, it's his picture. I didn't take this picture, but I think he was probably doing what an average 18 year old would do, which is like, he was taking a picture of himself that he was probably going to post to his friends saying you know whatever, "I'm about to go to college." and I didn't think about it, I just popped my head in and I did that and he had good reflexes. Anyway, so, and when we saw this picture it was like oh my god. Not only, I think it's a wonderful image. Not because we're in it, or it's my son. But, it also captures this moment in our lives that is so meaningful. Like, it's apocryphal, really, right. The first, like we're sending our kid to college. For me, this kind of image, I wish, you know, it doesn't happen that often. Right, we lucked out on that. This was, my daughter was having a play party at the house and this is her friends and I was, I didn't want to be like a creepy dad, but I was like, the light was really beautiful. It was the Summer and back East, out on the deck, so I was playing with shadows and I don't remember exactly what they were doing in that moment, but again, this is a really nice example of working with aesthetics, you know. Really nice light, playing with shadows and form. And then this sort of moment where it's, I dunno if it's mysterious, but it's a little like what's kind of going on in the picture. I was at a friends house and her son was having a tantrum. (laughing) I think this could be labeled low blood sugar moment. You know, again, after I left, I sent this picture to her and who knows sometimes if these pictures have meanings to people, but I think at the very least they appreciate when we share these moments with each other. Actually, that's Ashley Gilbertson's son. And that's Ashley Gilbertson's leg and arm. So, we were in Washington, D.C. a little over a year ago, and he had brought his son and we were playing around. And again, this is like a dear friend where you know, I was getting to hang out with him and his son which meant a lot to me. And, it really meant a lot to me that I was able to capture this moment. I'm totally bummed out that I cut off his foot though. Alright, nobody said anything, I saw it. Alright, I'm like, what can I say? (laughs) So, I think you get a little more slack on intimate moment pictures. Maybe, right? 'Cause it's really just about the feeling in the moment and what it represents to the people whose picture it is. You know, then there's also very serious, this is at a funeral of a sugar cane worker in Nicaragua. I've been working for the last three and a half years on a personal project looking at the epidemic of kidney disease among sugar cane workers in Central America. This is a case where I received the access to be there and to photograph it. This was very much for a journalistic purpose. But, nonetheless, this is as intimate as you can get. When you're photographing in these situations, it's critically important that you still, similar to when you're shooting in a cultural situation, where you might not be familiar with the people as well as with the customs. You still in this situation have to respect the people and you have to again, have that sense of what's the mood, what's the atmosphere, what can I do, what should I not do, where can I be physically, you know, where can I not be physically. So, for instance, at Alphie's birthday party when their play acting and putting on makeup let's say, I'm like five inches away from the face. You know, if every parent there did that, it would suddenly become media scrum, right. So you have to pay attention to those things. It might be that you can't make that picture because it's not really appropriate. 'Cause the one thing you don't want to do is ruin a situation by your presence. You never want to ruin a situation by the way you behave. Whether it's cultural or intimate. And this was a wedding in Nigeria. I love the way the dressed, so vibrant. And just so much energy. So, in this case, again, I was invited to this wedding. It was part of a National Geographic story, but I pulled out my iPhone to make some of the pictures. Even though I was shooting with my 35 mil camera, because I wanted to capture some of these pictures. And I ended up sending it to the family as well.