In my last post, I shared my new love affair with black and white film. The affair is still in full bloom with no signs of fading. I also hinted about a photo shoot with my Tribe sister, Melissa. For her amazing, year-long Project Adventure, Melissa decided she wanted portraits of herself taken in an intimate photo shoot. I was flattered and humbled when she asked me to be the photographer behind the lens. Before meeting up in Oregon for our retreat and the backdrop for this photo shoot, we compared notes about ideas for shots and made our respective packing lists: Melissa’s for wardrobe and mine for photo gear. I knew I wanted to primarily shoot film for these photos of Melissa, so I brought along three film cameras — Polaroid 195, Polaroid SLR680, and Canon AE-1 — and lots of film for each.
Rather than do the photo shoot all at one time, Melissa and I found ourselves allowing some space and freedom for these photos to emerge over the few days we had together. This gave us room to experiment with different locations, various lighting, and divergent moods. It also let us have some fun with costume changes. More importantly, giving ourselves the time to spread the shoot over a few days let us learn that pushing or forcing a photo session when something feels off or isn’t quite vibe-ing does not make for good portraits.
Since I’ve been immersed in self-portraiture for the past year, taking portraits of Melissa also let me hone skills I haven’t used in quite some time. I got to work through posing Melissa and positioning myself for good angles. This included working collaboratively to find the sweet spot of what I wanted as a photographer and what felt good to Melissa in her body.
I practiced how to talk with Melissa during the photo shoot. This might sound odd — she’s one of my best friends, after all — but making someone feel at ease while having her portrait taken is harder than it seems. It’s especially hard when using a rangefinder or other manually-focused cameras, as the process of shooting a photo becomes more of an ordeal, taking longer to get proper focus. Additionally, I became more aware of my own discomfort when taking the time to focus properly with these old-school cameras. I noticed how I start to rush myself out of concern that the person I’m shooting is getting annoyed or uncomfortable waiting for me to get my focus and position settled. This rushing is definitely not good for my process, and I was able to recognize and begin to work it out during our time together.
Best of all, I learned how totally fun a portrait session can be! I’m so used to shooting self-portraits and being alone during the process, I had forgotten the joy it brings me to create photos of someone else who is equally invested and into the session. Despite me being behind the lens and she in front of it, Melissa and I felt like a team. I think that collaborative spirit comes through in these images and makes these photos that much better.
Melissa was so open, so vulnerable, allowing me to really see her. I feel like I was able to capture her beauty — inside and out — in an authentic way. I hope she feels the same. I’m so grateful Melissa wanted to do a portrait session and that she selected me from the many talented photographers with whom she works in the wedding and film industry. It was truly my pleasure and honor.
All of the photos shown here were shot with my Polaroid 195 camera and Fuji 3000B film. This last photo makes me swoon. Shooting this film and seeing these portrait results breaks my heart that this film was recently discontinued. Melissa is sharing many more photos and her experience of being on the other side of the lens over at The Long Haul Project. Check it out HERE.
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