If you know me well, you have undoubtedly heard me refer to something (or many things) within the scope of the particularities of western culture. Well, people and culture happen to be my big passions, and psychology and anthropology my primary backgrounds and what I do outside photography.
Implementing this into my life in the photography world, I will share my personal thoughts, and the answers to the questions I get regarding photography sets, newborn shoots, and Photoshop.
We, as a western culture, tend to be eager to manipulate the reality of our world to fit into a new idea of beauty. An idea that corners beauty into a very specific mold of ‘one size fits all’ perfection. We have forgotten that life itself, people, themselves,are beautiful. Real is beautiful.
I want to capture the real. Sure, a baby floating in a hammock is adorable, as is a Photoshopped sleepy newborn with his head ‘casually’ propped into his hands. But its not real life. Its not the actuality, its a manipulation (yes, these things are made possible by Photoshop). While I have nothing against these styles, its not necessarily MY style– not because its not adorable– simply because to me, beauty is the simplicity in life’s real moments. It doesn’t need to be Photoshopped. It doesn’t need to be fake or cookie cutter. I like to implement a few props, natural poses and actions, but I am seeking the real, the authenticity in people, places and moments. To me, many of the prop-heavy set designs take away from the most beautiful aspects of the reasons we want to capture moments in our lives– the people, the connections between people.
I occasionally enjoy a more staged shoot, and like to play around of course. And I certainly have nothing against anyone who prefers these styles or utilizes heavy photo-manipulation. But for what I do, I always come back to such a simple truth: nothing really beats real. Beauty really can’t be captured in same light, with the same eyes and given the same meaning that the world, as is, does.
And that is lifestyle photography. I will not Photoshop your newborn hanging from a tree branch, I won’t composite images so he is in the “froggy” pose. I won’t Photoshop the fat you think you have on your legs, or take the freckles off your face. Sure, I will help with a zit, or some temporary discomfort. But, consider how you define beautiful and real before you seek out family photos. Consider the future generations looking back at these, hoping to see real life, to relate, to understand beauty and the world. Themselves. Consider how you are shaping their perceptions of truth, beauty, love– of real life, of what we value. Consider that these will imprint on their expectations of the world.
Most of all, allow yourself to experience the simplicity of the real, to step away from societal standards that are often so heavily media fueled and largely fictitious. Photos are powerful. That is what I do, that is my goal in both my writing and photography. Find the real. Step back and marvel. It is the core and the heart. Undoubtedly beautiful, human, and inherently inter-connective.