Monday, September 27, 2010

The first days of human life

If there is one lesson in life that continues to get hammered into my daily existence, it's that life will unravel on its own time and on its own terms.

Lex J. Lee entered my life a little earlier than expected. In fact, the Saturday he was born, my wife and I had plans to get things ready for the baby and had dinner reservations for Sunday.

Labor kicked in, and off we went to the hospital. I frantically installed a baby car seat while my wife packed a few items for her hospital bag. I also grabbed some of my camera gear, because I had planned to document the birth of my son. I wondered if I could stay calm and shoot in what is supposed to be an emotion-laden moment.

Once we got to the hospital, we were told the baby was coming that day. After that, it was a whole bunch of waiting until go time. I guess every case is different, but for the most part, I think there is a whole lot of waiting for most people. Luckily, there were plenty of college football games to watch on tv.

12 hours later, the little guy was fist-pumping and out of the womb. I wanted to document the birth of a child, but at some point, the delivering doctor and nurse made me be a more active participant in the process. Did I miss some shots, yes. Do I regret it, no.

Labor was a fascinating process, albeit a bloody one. I will spare you the gory details, but it was a pretty interesting and amazing experience. To think that I witnessed not just the birth of my child but in some sense the way every single person throughout the entire course of human history (minus C-section babies) enters the world was mind-boggling.

When I saw my son for the first time, I didn't know what to think. I looked at him. He cried. I snapped some pictures. He opened one of his eyes. I took some more pictures. I wasn't sure exactly what to think or do. My mind was racing with thoughts that refused to be organized. So I just started counting his fingers and toes. I guess I thought that was what I was supposed to do. Once I got to ten toes and fingers, I was stuck again. I realized what was happening and decided right then and there to cast off all preconceived notions of what a parent is supposed to do and what I've been brainwashed to believe the birth of a child is supposed to be like. I was going to experience this my way. And for me, a big part of that is photography.

Because I went into the delivery room knowing that I wanted to shoot this in black and white, I constantly scanned my surroundings for compositions with contrast. Oddly enough, when I think back to the birth of my child, black and white images play back in my head.

But since we live in a color world, I had to take a few images to reflect that as well.

Welcome to the world, Lex. You will grow up to know the sound of a camera's shutter like the beat of your own heart. For that I apologize in advance, but should you be interested in photography(during the downtime of your training for the NFL), Daddy has a DSLR waiting for you.

Hopes? Expectations? Fears? I suppose there is a lot of nervous energy swirling around, but more than anything, I just hope my son grows up healthy and I don't mess this kid up too much.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Been a little busy lately...

I try to update this blog at least once a week, but my new friend has me running around in circles without much sleep lately.

The mix of excitement and exhaustion is similar to the last days of a long trip to Vegas, but there is no end in sight this time. 

Double down, always.

I documented the birth of my son, but at some point, I had to actively participate in the process rather than hang back and shoot. I saw the birth of my child as another test of my growth in photography. In an emotion-filled moment, would I be able to properly photograph the process? You be the judge. More to come...

Friday, September 17, 2010

photography versus food

Over the course of the past ten years, the food industry has experienced a seismic shift. Foodies have become a part of mainstream culture, and a new class of celebrity chefs has arisen from the back of cramped kitchens to your living room screen in HD.

It got me thinking if there will ever be a similar surge for photography. The advent of much improved and more affordable DSLR equipment has done much to bring photography into the hands of amateurs, but I don't think photography will ever be as important or interesting to the masses as food. Every industry will always have its superstars, but whether those elite representatives become stalwarts of pop culture is a little more telling about an industry's place in society. I don't think we'll ever see a Photography Network, but that might be a good thing. The very thought of the equivalent of a "Rachel Ray" in photography is enough to unsettle my stomach for the rest of the day.

Food is an essential need. Even the most expensive food essentially serves to quench a primal hunger, albeit in an inefficient way. Photography and its enjoyment might feel like a need to some, but it really is something beyond the confines of essentials like food, water, clothing, and shelter. It may just be that simple. For the most part, the average person is only interested in photography to the extent that it allows them to document their weddings and capture the growth of their children.

Lately, I have started to wonder what success in photography looks like. There is certainly something to the notion that success in life is in part due to being in the right place at the right time. We can put ourselves in the right place, but timing is a bit more complicated. With photography, my end goal has always been to be the best photographer that I can be. Where that leads still largely remains an open frame, but I am certainly enjoying the journey. That big wave may never come, but for the moment, I just like being out on the cool surf under the warm sun.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Engagement Session: Cecilia & Yiaway - Washington, DC

Boy meets girl. That's how the story always begins. Two people on a collision course for one another, one day simply realize that destiny. Love is simultaneously complicated and simple, but there is no denying it is a beautiful thing.

I have always found it amusing to be around for the start of a relationship. As a 26 year old graduate student living a no frills life in a Cambridge dormitory, I had a front row seat to the first pages of Cecilia and Yiaway's story. A few more chapters have been written since those days, and this past weekend I was honored to make a small contribution to their story from behind the lens.

I have a dream.

A ring marks the site of Yiaway's proposal to Cecilia.

Cecilia and Yiaway both have public service deeply rooted in their core.

I can't resist a setting sun as an opportunity to compose a silhouette.

Bon voyage. Pack lots of Snickers.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Photographer versus Videographer

[Patience. The clip takes a few seconds to start.]

I've experienced my fair share of annoying videographers while shooting weddings, so I can somewhat empathize.

Something about this incident smells like a hoax to me, especially because the video guy taping the whole ordeal is left alone. Any Russian speakers want to translate what is being said on the clip?

The head photographer is most likely an amateur, because the posing and selection of background is pretty suspect. He is also dressed a bit casually for a professional, but I always try to look beyond those things. There are far more important indicators of professionalism beyond the way one dresses.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

the end of summer

Perhaps it is all the years spent in school, but September always seems to bring an air of new beginnings. Summers are surely fun, but a fresh start is always reason for excitement. Good or bad, the past is just the past. Thankfully, the end of summer also means the end of a bad (but catchy) song about California girls on heavy rotation. Still not sure why Snoop Dogg is on that track.

In some sense, a new beginning is a lot like holding a pair of aces. Excitement brews within. Potential is a thrilling prospect, but nothing is a sure winner in life. Lofty expectations that are unmet can become an even bigger curse in their own right. Each hand has to be played out until the end. And if we are lucky, win or lose, we will be dealt another hand.

Another page turned, another page bursting with new hopes and fears waiting to be written. But for a moment, the page remains blank.

Often it is hard to turn that freshly minted page without taking one more look back. Like the slightly longer last shower of summer, where all the bits of fun, hope, disappointment, and sorrow are washed away without bias and spiral slowly down the drain, thoughts marinate for a few moments longer before entering the recesses of the complicated human mind. Despite our greatest desires and attempts, the past cannot be edited, deleted, or rewritten.

The past should be processed but not held onto, a delicate balance that might only be attainable in theory. In reality, people swing towards the extremes. Some refuse to loosen their tightly clenched grip on the past. It consumes them. Others live a relatively mindless existence, sealing their destiny to repeat the mistakes of the past. If there are lessons to be learned, they should be learned. However, dwelling too long can ultimately hinder the purpose of lessons learned- to apply them to the future.

What lies ahead awaits. And for now, a moment of reflection keeps tomorrow at bay.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

beginning or end?

Not every story has a happy ending. That's just life.

All you can do is try to smile and hope it's just the end of a paragraph or chapter.

The rest of the book is waiting to be written.