Family things

Lately I've been honing my documentary photography skills by working on personal projects in my free time. I love being a fly on the wall and watching the story unfold. I love entering a room without knowing beforehand how the story will end or even where it will go. I love tapping into the journalist in me by observing, asking questions, and listening. Documentary photography connects so many things that I love.

While thinking on this, I had a thought: What if I shot family portraits in my same documentary style? What if I took the things I love about documentary and impart them on family photography? With this in mind, I called up some friends and spent a few hours one (HOT) evening shooting photos of them in their home with their family - completely according to my timeline and my style. And I loved it. I loved it! Disclaimer: I usually hate taking family photos, but this time I actually really enjoyed it! And the photos I got are a testament to how much I love shooting.

The story continues

Running into oncoming traffic. That was definitely one of my biggest fears for my children while living in Beijing. Well, that and licking their street-dirty fingers. One potentially just as deadly as the other. But those were things we learned to live with in a city as big and crazy as Beijing. Neither one of my kids had lived in a city larger than about 100,000 people, so the jump to Beijing's 20 million was something of a change - especially within a culture we knew nothing about beyond the American Chinese restaurant place mats. I'm born in the year of the dog. Our adventure was not without its fair share of tough roads and gritty living. But embrace it we did, conquer it we must. And my kids were the biggest heroes in this story with no end, just as they usually are.

 

Morning in rural Beijing

If you hop on the highway and travel 30-45 minutes outside of the city's main ring roads, you'll enter a completely different Beijing. This Beijing has frozen in a time many still remember, but most try to forget. Industrial China has pushed aside the once glorified agricultural lifestyle to make way for big businesses and an even bigger economy. But many of the small villages in Beijing still remain intact, a shadow of the not too distant Cultural Revolution dream. My family took the opportunity to spend a weekend in one of these courtyard-style homes in Beijing's beautiful foothill mountains. The crumbling Great Wall was just a hike away from the home and another step back in time to an era almost forgotten in the long history of modern-day China.

Black and White

Black and white film photography is one of my favorite things to shoot. It's also one of the hardest things for me to shoot. I find it a struggle to see things in varying shades of grey while photographing a vibrant world. While I love color and the feelings it evokes from a photograph, there is something timeless and moving about black and white photography. I think I will be doing much more of it in the years to come. Here is a bit of the black and white film I shot in Beijing.

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China in color

My year in China was awesome. It was filled with new friends, interesting places, and lots of personal growth. My only regret (if you can call it that) is that I didn't take more pictures. I had a full-time job and two crazy kids to take care of (and protect from the insane streets of Beijing). I skipped work a time or two to hit the streets and take pictures, but that was pretty much the extent of my available time. We took a couple weekend trips to the Great Wall where we could escape the rush and drama of Beijing for a few moments of reprieve. Fortunately, I got a lot of Instagram photos that I'll share in a later post.

For now, here's a selection of color photos taken with my Contax using Kodak film.

 

Strangers in my viewfinder

 

Taking pictures of strangers can be quite uncomfortable at first. It reminds me of Richard Renaldi's project, Touching Strangers. This notion of taking a picture of a complete stranger is very out-of-the-box for most of us. I don't profess to know very much about the ins and outs of how to do it, but there are a few rules that help me when I go about photographing someone I don't know.

First, I (almost) never take the picture without my subject's consent. I do not want to feel like a paparazzi photographer stealing an image from someone to use for money. When we get our pictures taken, it's like a part of our soul leaves us and is imprinted on that film. I am not one for stealing people's souls. Basic introductions/consent is usually enough. If the moment is too good to wait for an introduction, or an introduction would ruin the setting, feel free to do it after you take the picture. You'll seem much less stalker-ish that way. When there is no common language, learn enough words to get your point across. This is what I did in China. When done this way, your subject can refuse you if they feel really uncomfortable (which is fine), or they will be OK with it; in which case, go ahead and shoot away! When I know my subject is OK with having their picture taken, I'm much more free to walk around, compose my shot, and maybe get in a few extra frames while I'm at it. I don't have to fumble around with being inconspicuous or quiet. Everyone wins!

Second, don't forget to compose your shot! Sometimes the anxiety of asking to take a stranger's photo gets you so excited and worked up that you forget the whole point of the exercise! I've definitely done this before. I had my subject, he was happy with getting his photo taken, and I blew it! The angles were off, the light was less than ideal, composition didn't fit, FAIL! It's OK to step back for a few seconds and make sure you know what you want in your shot before you take it. A stranger will be OK hanging out for those few extra seconds to ensure a good picture. They'll probably even be down with a little posing if you're *into that. *note Touching Strangers again.

 

Good luck!

The Holy Trinity of Photography

I've heard it said that the holy trinity of photography is Light, Composition, and Moment. I couldn't agree more. My favorite subject to photograph, my daughter, is a perfect exercise for me in this pursuit. I look for locations with good light, a simple composition, and then put her in the middle of it. I give her the freedom to be herself and I catch the moment.

Light, composition, moment.

 

 

 

The path forward

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-- Robert Frost

This past year I lived in Beijing, China with my family. I have so much to say about that experience that words will never suffice. But one thing can be said, living abroad with my family really brought me back to the roots of who I am and what I love. Photography has been my means of expression over the past several years, and I'm finally seeing who I am emerging from my pictures. This is changing the way I do things and bringing me back to my real photography roots and goals. Over the next few weeks and months, the look and feel of this blog will be changing. It will hopefully start to reflect more of who I am and where I'm going. I still have so much to learn and so far to go to achieve my goals, but I feel like this is my first step in the right direction.

Here's just a glimpse into the China that I grew to love.

 

 

A new day

My life changed overnight. What once was normal is now the exception. Part of me yearns for the familiar and another part of me revels in the newness, but I'm OK. I have my family and that's what really matters. Every day I meet someone new or see something that surprises me and I love it. I feel like I'm developing skills and learning things that will make me a more interesting, if not better, person. Who I am becoming feels like the person I want to be. Life isn't always easy or perfect, but it is always an adventure of learning and growing. I'll be honest. I haven't taken that many photos lately. I've taken plenty with my iPhone, but not many with my film cameras. I wish I were taking hundreds of photos a day, but that's not my reality right now, and that's OK. I know there will be a time and season for that, but right now is the time for me to make some sacrifices for the bigger picture stuff.

If you don't already follow me on Instagram, check me out: paigeandgarrett. You can follow my journey in China via those photos. I've been somewhat introspective lately and have really enjoyed taking self portraits reflective of what I'm feeling. It's fun and therapeutic at the same time. Here are a few of my recent Instagram portraits:

 

 

Leave me a comment on Instagram so we can connect!

A New Season

A summer bride is a beautiful thing. Summer is a beautiful thing. O, how I'll miss her. Yet there's something special about the seasons that come and go. They allow us the time to revel in their beauty and enjoy the newness long enough to leave us wanting when it all comes to an end. Winter may be the only exception for me, but that's another story. I like to live my life in the same seasonal way. Life is good, and the experiences we have are great, but there's always a new season beckoning from around the corner, helping us appreciate what we have now. One season's coolness makes the warm season enveloping. One season's warmth makes the cool season refreshing. And so on. My family is getting ready for a huge move. It's huge in every single way imaginable. I may miss the constant hum of cicadas out my window. Or the room for my kids to run and play around the pond everyday. But those things will lead us to discover new joys. Joys we may have previously overlooked or underestimated. It will most definitely be extraordinary and exhilarating.

I can't wait.

What I love about now

Sometimes life moves so fast. I look back and wonder where in the world did that time go? Days turn into weeks and months into years. But sometimes... sometimes... we stop time for one small millisecond and revel in the beauty that is in front of us. Things slow down and one small glance can last forever.

I feel that way about my photography and my kids. Times are changing right in front of me, but I love how these photos help me pause and appreciate what I love about now.

Life as I see it

I'm writing this in a room where the windows have been shaded with beach towels to block the morning sun from entering. My kids like to rise with the sun, so the towels were a necessity. No sun, no risers. This is the fourth state and third time zone our little family has lived in over the past three months. It also happens to be where I grew up and the same room in which I spent my childhood. I never would have guessed life would take me in such a full circle. But here I am, typing away in this dark room with my baby girl making up songs and stories by my feet. This new reality is the one through which I now see and interpret the world.

(all photos taken and edited on the iPhone 3G, posted to Instagram: paigeandgarrett)

Her

I grew up with four sisters and one brother. I fell smack dab in the middle of that crew. Girls on one side of me, girls on the other. My brother, the oldest, wisely minded his own business. I, therefore, grew up assuming I'd have all sons one day. And quite frankly, I was OK with that. I'm quite openly a tomboy at heart and most "girly" things repulse me quite a bit. I was completely happy with the thought of never having to deal with pink dresses or drama queens. When my first born was a boy, I was not surprised one bit. That's just the way it was going to be. But then my second was a girl and I didn't know what to do with myself. Frankly, I'm still a bit lost. Fortunately she loves Legos and cars and is only moderately interested in princesses and pink. But still, she's definitely all girl.

And I love it.

I never knew how much I wanted a girl until she came along. She is the complete opposite of her big brother - in absolutely every sense of the word. And though I love him with all my heart, I couldn't love her more if I tried. Yes she's a screamer. Yes she's emotional. Sometimes I think it's that time of the month for her. But she's mine and she's perfect.

Inspired by Becky Earl's blog of her daughter, I decided to take a similar approach to this shoot. I sat back and watched her be her. And I love what happened as a result. Enjoy, and be inspired!

 

 

Techie info:

Cameras: Contax 645, Canon Rebel

Film: Kodak B&W400CN (35mm), Kodak Portra 160 (medium format)

Lab: NCPS

Metering: Hand held meter, bulb out, 45 degree angle to the ground facing me

...then comes the baby...

My beautiful friend Emma (you might recognize her from HERE), was awesome and asked me to take her maternity photos. Fortunately she's used to being my guinea pig (refer to first link) and put all her trust in my never-before-taken-a-maternity-picture hands. :) LUCKY GIRL!

Although there's definitely a learning curve on the whole maternity process, I think these turned out pretty rad. Helps that Emma's gorgeous, don't you think?

Enjoy!

Words

When I started this blog I intended it to only showcase my pictures. A great moving website, where the featured shoots changed every week. I felt like this blog would stay my photography platform and photography is all that would ever be here. But then I realized something. I realized I had a voice. It’s here, inside me. I remembered I love to write, and I realized I had things worth saying, things that could only enhance my photos.

So here I am. Finally speaking out from my quiet corner.

There are no photos in this post. But today, that’s OK. Today I want only words.

Life for me right now is insane. And by insane I mean CA-RA-ZY. My day-to-day is still pretty much the same routine for me – a mom with two kids – but in the back of my mind I realize I have no idea what tomorrow may bring. My husband is in the process of changing jobs, prepping for that big change and trying his best to make sure it goes the way we’ve envisioned it. But in the meantime, there are about a million things out of our control. Where will we go? Where will we live when we get there? What if it doesn’t work out? How will we pay our bills? And about a million other unanswered questions.

Brought up in the east, I have an immense case of the uptight-east-coast syndrome. It’s so hard for me to just release and let things happen. No. I have to know where I’m going and what we’re doing. I walk with a purpose. Always. I’m going to get mail from the mailbox? I am GOING to get MAIL from the MAILBOX and I mean it. Ha! But, sadly, it’s true.

Fortunately, the nice thing about life and time is that it never stops. It keeps going whether you’re ready for it or not. In my case, I’m ready. I’m ready for things to start happening and plans to unfold. I have a feeling we’ll end up living day by day (so if you see me on the street, toss me a few coins, please). One day will slowly tell the story of the next and so it will be.

So let this be a lesson to me. It’s time to let go. Let go of the wheres and hows and whens and just enjoy the nows. Life will happen, so let it happen! It’s time to release the tension and finally feel the rush of air on my face.

Here we go...!