It’s currently 1:42am on Saturday, December 31st, 2016.
When I was little, the countdown to Christmas went by in the time it took you to blink. Then before you knew it you were counting down the days until New Year, and until you had to go back to school, and that seemed to go even faster.
But I’m grown now, and the end of 2016 feels like these last few months have staggered and almost crawled to the end.
2016 will probably not be looked on fondly when people look back years from now. I can practically feel the echoing wave of collective sighs of relief when the clock ticks over around the world into the near year. To a lot of people, 2016 has felt like one long drawn out ending. We’re all holding our breath.
Good things happened; of course they always do. It can take longer to look for them sometimes. I feel like this year my photography finally took a step forward – it’s closer to where I want it to look, feel. I’m still not there (I’ll never feel quite “there”, I don’t even know where “there” is) but it definitely took a leap over the seemingly immovable static I had been feeling.
I was privileged to get to work with incredible people, to be supported by incredible people. I was able to push myself way out of my comfort zone and found I liked it; no, I loved it. Even when I hated it, even when I was scared of it, I loved it.
2016 firmly cemented in my mind that portraiture is where my heart and soul is; it’s where I feel strongest, where I feel the most afraid, where I feel the most exhilarated. I was so, so fortunate I had such a wealth of amazing people that helped cement that for me.
But 2016 was an ending for me too. I don’t know what the future will bring, and it was an ending for me thinking that if I just sit back and be patient enough things will happen. I have to stop thinking that way. I need to become proactive and make things happen. Patience is a virtue, but so is passion and movement and action. If I really want this as much as I claim I do, I need to go out and get it.
I don’t know how.
I will still tell myself I’m not good enough.
But I won’t listen anymore.
It’s now 2:22am, Saturday December 31, 2016. I’ll go to bed, wake up, and it will be the last day of this crazy, unrepeatable year.
A couple of weeks ago, my Aunt told me about an art show they were having at one of the residential aged care facilities where she works. The residents who were having their art work displayed were going to have photos to go alongside their biographies, and she asked me if I would be willing to take them.
I went today, and while I can’t show any of the photos for privacy reasons, I thought I would write a little bit about the experience, because it was so different to any other portraits I have taken. So I apologise if this ends up being a bit TL;DR with no photos to break it up. I’ll try and be succinct!
The photoshoot I did with Osric Chau in Vancouver was the 8th photoshoot that we’ve done, and true to form I had no idea it was going to happen until about an hour before it did.
Osric had been really, really busy over the Summer and had even missed a couple of conventions due to filming. When I went over for VanCon I didn’t even know if we were going to be doing a shoot; and even when I got there I was told he would be doing a shoot with Chris Schmelke.
On the Saturday (Osric’s last day at the con before he flew out of the country), Chris messaged me to tell me to meet him, and told me that I was doing the shoot. Osric had driven home to get a suit, and by the time he got back we had about half an hour until he had to eat and do sound check for the Louden Swain Saturday Night Special.
(This is all to illustrate how incredibly rushed things like this are; there’s barely any time to think or plan, but likewise there’s no time to overthink and worry.)
It was about 7PM, but as it was still Summer in Vancouver the light was only just starting to leave. It wasn’t quite golden hour, but close to it.
Because Osric was dressed in a suit, and because of the location where we took the photos, they ended up having a completely different feel to any of the other shoots we’ve done. They looked a lot more mature, and I think it was a combination of things that framed the shoot that way.
It wasn’t cosplay, so it wasn’t necessarily a character. It came from a more personal place, and that felt a bit more grounded. To a certain degree it was still acting, but there was more of an emphasis on trying to capture something rooted in reality as opposed to a concept.
It became more about me trying to find a way to show “him”, but it was a “him” that he was letting me see. I’m still learning direction, and being more proactive about what I want in shoots. I was so grateful my friend Kat was there to help, because she’s excellent at direction and knows Osric well.
It’s probably the shoot I’m most proud of and was most surprised at how it turned out. Because I went into it not really knowing what we were going to do, we ended up just using the location as a guide and going from there. Ideas were bounced around, we tried different things and if something didn’t work we scrapped it and moved on. It was a lot of fun, and I was so happy with how it turned out.
I think it shows a lot how much we’ve both maybe grown, in front of and behind the camera?
I was thinking about how many different ways we have of describing the rhythm of our heartbeat and how we use it to punctuate different moments and events in our lives. We say our heart races when we fall in love. It stops when we’re afraid. It aches when we get hurt. It swells when we feel proud. It hammers, it skips a beat, it bursts, it thuds, it breaks. It’s a muscle, roughly the size of our fist, that plays like a silent soundtrack throughout our lives.
Sometimes I can look at photos and all I see is a heartbeat. I can see it swell, I can see it race. I have felt it when I’ve taken photos; the feeling like it’s beating so loud I could hear it echoing in my ears. It’s usually when I know something is coming, when I’m anticipating some moment I want to photograph.
Some might say that’s esoteric or simply a whimsy, that I’m placing too much on capturing a photo. But it’s these photos that I know have effected me that are the ones that seem to move people the most.
Photography is a shared, universal language in the same way that emotion is. Emotion doesn’t know or recognise age barriers, gender barriers, religious barriers, language barriers. It just is. It’s something we all know, and we don’t necessarily understand why we know it. But if we can look at a photo and recognise the emotion in it we will respond to it, regardless of the context of the photograph itself. It’s no wonder that photography is what is mostly used to document our history and humanity. It can tell a story that can cross borders in ways that words can’t.
I truly believe that the more you put into a photo the more someone will take from it. If you want it to last and to have meaning, the feeling behind it should be equally as sincere. This is even more important in the editing process. You have to be quite strict and ruthless in what you cull. What you don’t show can be as important as what you do. It’s something that I battle with; I have to learn not to over-saturate, but instead to be more deliberate about what I show. It has greater impact that way. Leave people wanting to understand but not being given all the tools to understand.
Sometimes putting so much into photography can be exhausting, and when it’s all going wrong it can feel overwhelming. It’s tempting to just coast along and it’s tempting to not try to shift and grow.
But as exhausting and overwhelming as it can be there’s nothing really like putting your whole heart into a photo and seeing people respond to it.
There really isn’t.