Tag Archives: portraiture

Photos by Kirk – directed by Jamie Day Fleck

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I have been a bit MIA on my blog. There is a reason. The reason is that I have been working on a short documentary for my Masters in Documentary Media at Ryerson University. After about two years of work though, completion is on the horizon.

 

The short documentary, Photos by Kirk, is about an Armenian immigrant that was a survivor of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and who worked as a photographer in the Bronx, NY for over 50 years. He documented generations of people through his photographs of weddings, bar mitzvahs, confirmations, local events, family portraits and other varied occurrences that were of importance to the people in his Bronx neighbourhood.

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The film constructs the world of this photographer, telling his life story through interviews of his family, past clients and historians who provide context for the time period and people in his life. I used an excerpt of photographs from the archive of photographs he left behind after his death in 1979 to show how the local photographer while often overlooked in the history of photography was quite important to the social history of America.

 

His daughter, Mimi Vang Olsen, who is a painter and longtime family friend, was an invaluable resource and source of encouragement to completing this film. Through the memories of her childhood and her father, I was able to construct a multi-dimensional look at both history and his life story.

 

The film is going to have a “sneak preview” showing at the Doc Now Festival in Toronto, Canada which is a student-organized festival for the graduates of the Documentary Media MFA program. It will be shown on June 5th and June 28th . For more information please go to: docnow.cadocnow.ca/artists/jamie-fleck

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Why Professional Photography?

I wanted to write this article because I hear a lot about the widespread use of cameras cheapening photography as a profession. I want to answer the burning question of some, “Why should I pay for professional photography?”

It is true that with digital photography and high-quality cameras becoming cheaper it is easier for amateurs to pass as professionals. You put it on auto and the camera does the work. But I ask myself the question how good is good and what is good enough. I see on Facebook streams of images every day and very few of them are “good photography”. A professional has years of experience and high technical standards. A professional photographer spends hours doing work on the images after they are taken: editing out the bad photos from the good ones, brightening the dark ones, darkening the bright ones, increasing or decreasing saturation, deepening blacks, and sometimes removing unsightly elements.

In the old days you had to have a pro or you didn’t have photos. But these days you will certainly have photos, it is a matter of quality. A professional thinks about and studies people’s faces. Having been a portrait photographer for many years, I look at someone’s face and study the features to best accentuate that individual’s strengths. I know how to minimize double chins, make a large nose look smaller, often people have one eye that is bigger than the other I can handle that too. I am also looking at posing. How is a person sitting or standing? Do they look comfortable? Are they slouching? Does that angle make their belly stick out? I am looking for all these things plus the general composition and setting of the photo.

But that’s my job. Most people with a camera don’t do that. They don’t even know they should and they don’t know how to correct mistakes of brightness/darkness, cropping etc. Photography is a subject and an art. It requires technical knowledge and creative vision. Within that technical knowledge there is a knowledge of: colour, composition, lighting, form, focus, symmetry, directing, printing, editing software and camera know-how. Using your camera is one component of all the things a photographer should master.

So when asking whether you need a pro, consider whether you can ever get those photos again and whether it is worth wasting an opportunity to capture a group of people, a place and a memory. Photographs are not just made for the people who are in the photo but for their children or even their children’s children. And sometimes it is to remember people who will not be with us forever.

When it is a major life event like a wedding, a Christening, a family reunion, or even an expanding family growing a year older, something that cannot be re-done, re-created or re-photographed, that’s when you invest in a pro. Because you need to make sure that it is captured well with all that technique, experience and vision. Photographers are artists that work with a tool called a camera. They are not robots clicking snapshots. They deserve to be respected, admired and compensated for work well executed.

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Sometimes the Second Time is Sweeter

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I was delighted to be chosen to shoot Jennifer and Robin’s wedding. It was a second wedding which thankfully lacked all the formalities of first weddings but lacked none of the joy, love or merrymaking. Robin had his proud son as his best man adding a certain poignancy to the ceremony. The ceremony took place at Christ Church Deer Park with its stunning wooded interior and high vaulted ceilings. Then the reception was at the Granite Club where the décor was brought in to give a comfortable lounge feel. Friends and family toasted the newlyweds with rounds of laughter and broad smiles.

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Love is in the Air

I am pleased to be able to offer engagement photographs and now wedding photo shoots to my clients. I find this area an exciting growing area of photography. I like it because I approach the shoot in very much the same way that I would do a magazine or other type of portraiture shoot.

I look at wedding photography as a mixture of event, fashion and portraiture so it helps when you are a photographer who is versed in all three areas.

I thoroughly enjoy watching a couple and figuring out how to best visualize their relationship. How are they different individually? What are their strengths as a couple? And then I am always pleased with the result because they look so in love and I feel that I am capturing them at a very important moment in their lives.

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