The Christmas Star | Athens, PA photographer

Each year he pulls it from the barn where he stores it and checks the bulbs in the light strings. 

This year he had a knee and back injury so his grandson helped him drag it into the garage for the inspection before it was placed on the hill by the house, above the nativity scene.

He built it several years ago to reflect the true meaning of the season.

Now the Christmas star my dad built is a tradition that even non family members look for each year.

Why documentary photography? | Athens, Pennsylvania photographer

Sometimes I want to give up on photography that speaks to my heart so I can make a quick buck with some quick poses but then I remember why I love lifestyle, or what I also call storytelling, photography.

It’s real.

It’s emotive.

It tells stories.

It’s memories frozen in time, not poses.

One of my favorite, newly found photographers is Lisa Tichane and she spoke at Click Away, a photographers’ conference, this Fall about why she incorporates movement in her family photography.

If I look at this image, (posed portrait photo) what does it tell me other than look how sweetly they were posing for the photographer? . . . this isn’t real. They are playing a role. As a photographer what story am I telling here except the photographer was there? . . As a family photographer this is not what I want to provide my clients. I want to create memories for them. Memories that wll remind them who they really are in 2015, not the fact that I was there.

She’s right. I have frames full of photos a family member used to give us every year for Christmas. It was the only gift she ever gave and it was her children looking uncomfortable and unnatural in posed portraits. I don’t want this to sound like a complaint, because the images were a kind gesture and we appreciated them each year. However, even though the lighting was lovely the only thing those photos tell me about her children is they know how to follow directions and be forced to smile.
I couldn’t tell from those photos that the youngest was full of crazy fun or the second oldest loved all things sparkly and shiny or that the oldest was a sports fanatic.
Eventually these portraits made me uncomfortable, partially because the family members no longer spoke to us and partially because the expression of the one girl was so full of discomfort I felt bad she’d been forced to pose.
I put those images in a closet and filled my walls with images of my children being children. There is one of my son standing in my parents driveway, wearing my dad’s fishing hat and another of him standing in a pool of light in a local creek.  
There are others of him smiling at the camera,but none of them were forced and I didn’t ask for the smile.

The photos on my wall tell a story for me of a boy who likes to explore the fields at his grandparents’ house. They tell a story of a family who isn’t always perfect, but is loved, is trying, is striving to be better.

I have images of smiling faces, but almost none of them were obtained by asking for them, they came naturally, they were gifts, given to me in naturally happy moments.

Most importantly, the images I treasure most tell a story and that story is what I want to remember as the years pass.

“What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.”
— Karl Lagerfeld

What are we waiting for? | Ulster, Pennsylvania Child Photographer

I  meet my son’s bus at an old school parking lot and usually we head home right away to make dinner and get ready for karate or to get homework started.

This past week we’ve had warm temperatures and sunny days but I’ve been too busy to enjoy it. By the time I have been ready to experience some of the warmth, the sun is already sinking below the hills that surround the small town we live in.

One day I took my daughter out of her seat as we waited for her brother and admired the golden light of the already setting sun. When my son got off the bus I heard myself say:

“Oh wow… Look at that light … It’s amazing.”

I knew we had to get home, get dinner done and get to karate. No time for photography or having fun or just cutting loose. I had to start being responsible and stop being such a goof off, as I tend to find myself being.

“Then what are we waiting for?” I heard my son say and before I could remind him we have responsibilities he took took off across the still green grass, tinted golden by the sun.

Without even thinking I was carrying the baby across the grass and watching my son climb a tree limb that had broken off one tree and fallen against another.

Soon My daughter was trying to eat dried black walnuts and I was admiring the sun flare behind her head.

I forgot schedules and responsibility and we ran down a hill and laughed and hugged each other while the sun set behind us.

Sometimes we need those spontaneous moments of joy. We need to put aside what we tell ourselves are responsibilities but are probably only things we do because someone else does and we don’t want to look like a bad parent to someone else.

My son seems to often transform mundane moments into magical ones. Watching him climb the tree limb, sitting at the top,proud of his accomplishment, I found myself admiring his willingness, maybe even his determination to seize the moment and go with the flow.

Before I had children I saw parents as the teachers and the children as students but now that I’m a mother i realize my son often leads me and where he leads me is into a world where the focus is on what is true, real and important.

A new site

I have a new site to take me into the new year and I’m thrilled to welcome you to it. As I write this post it is a work in progress, but I’m still welcoming you to check it out, poke around and learn more about my photography.

A photo of the newest member of a family in Laceyville, PA.
A photo of the newest member of a family in Laceyville, PA.

Little girls are the nicest things that happen to people. They are born with a little bit of angelshine about them, and though it wears thin sometimes there is always enough left to lasso your heart. . .– Alan Beck

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A Day to be Boys | Child Photographer Chemung NY

It was one of those warm Fall days that reminds you of summer, but not so much you wish it was cooler. It was a day to be boys.

They were boys being boys on a playground and on a path in a small city.

The fountain dyed blue, they pretended it was a monster and threw rocks at it.

Running in the tunnel under the road, into the dark and then into the light again.

Laughing as they ran up metal ladders and slid down slides and then climbed them the wrong way.

Dirty knees, blistered palms, Star Wars themed battles and superhero rescues.

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“I have heard other photographers say things like, ‘I went to photography school and I don’t know what to shoot because when I shoot something I mentally compare my image to so and so or so and so.’ And finally they feel so weighted down by references that it hinders their photographic practices. I don’t have any photographic influences, I don’t have any master, and I prefer to stay a good distance away from photographic culture. What matters is shooting what you feel like shooting, concentrate on that and the equipment comes second.”

~Alain Laboile, French docuentary photographer

Why I photograph | Pennsylvania Photographer

Recently I’ve been watching photography documentaries and reading about various photographers and why they photograph. Consequently, I’ve been thinking about why I fell in love with photography

It’s pretty simple.

I wanted to document life, my life and the lives of those around me. I wanted to capture a person how they really were in a particular moment.

The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.” — Andy Warhol

I still want to document life and since my life now entertwines with those of my children, I find my lens often focused on them.

I document the lives of my children so I can remember the good, fun, crazy, true, and real moments of their childhood and through that they can remember them too.

Photography captures that one specific moment, isolating it from all the others. Photographs tell a story when words can’t or simply aren’t enough.

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs.

When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” — Ansel Adams

Capturing a specific moment or person and revealing the truth within the frame is something that is so clear in the photos taken by Vivian Maier. Maier never shared her photographs with anyone. Instead her art was private to her and for her. Her images captured the lives of the children she nannied but also the characters of Chicago in the1950s, 60s, and 70s. More than simply “taking a picture”, she revealed the souls of people most of us never see. We see a man on the sidewalk and he’s wearing a torn shirt and his shoes are covered in mud, but we don’t really see him because we are on our way somewhere, or maybe he makes us uncomfortable and we are afraid to make eye contact.

In her images we have the chance to truly see the people, and the world, she photographed. We see them the way she saw them.

The chance to slow life down and truly see it, each part of it, each detail, each person, each place, each memory is what draws me to photography.

I find myself wondering why Maier didn’t want to share her art with others. We each see the world in our own way and sharing how we see the world can be both exciting and terrifying.Maybe Maier photographed what she saw so she would know she was there. Many of her images featured her in either reflection or shadowed form as if to say “I was real. I existed. You didn’t see me, but I was part of this adventure called life.”

She wanted to remember life in her own way, document it in images, instead of words.

Photography, like any art, is often selfish. We want to capture or freeze a moment in time for our own pleasure, our own benefit, our own need to interpret life somehow.

Artists document their view of life in paintings, in sketches, in photography, in the written word.

  I’ll admit that I compare myself to other photographers too often. Last week I told my brother’s wife (who incidentally has her own blog called Dispatches from the Northern Outpost), that I was submitting to a photography magazine but that I felt my work wasn’t good enough.

She told me: “You have to maybe trust the other voice, not the ‘I can’t,I’m not, It isn’t possible’ voice, but the one that made you pick up a camera in the first place.”

Sometimes that voice is drowned out by the screams of doubt, or the voice of some other photographer or artist.

I’m finding myself struggling to hear my own voice most days and the prominance of social media makes the struggle even harder.

This next month I plan to turn down the volume on the other voices and raise my own voice again.

____________

“I have heard other photographers say things like, ‘I went to photography school and I don’t know what to shoot because when I shoot something I mentally compare my image to so and so or so and so,’ And finally they feel so weighted down by references that it hinders their photographic practices. I don’t have any photographic influences, I don’t have any master, and I prefer to stay a good distance away from photographic culture. What matters is shooting what you feel like shooting, concentrate on that and the equipment comes second.”

Alain Laboile, photographer, France

_________

Find Vivian Maier’s work here: http://www.vivianmaier.com/

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naked babies and jumping boys | Pennsylvania life photographer

My one year old has decided her diaper is an option.
She has also decided she should be taken outside, no matter how cold it is starting to get. And if her brother is outside when she is, she shall follow him and look for him and possibly try to do what he’s doing, even if her legs are too short to accomplish her goal.

Winter is going to be tough on this little girl, who is so used to being able to going out the door when she’d like to, so she can explore.

Luckily we were able to explore outside a little this week and it isn’t yet as cold as it usually is this time of year here.

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