Donald Blake holds Cayus, Deidre Dean’s new baby. Shot on July 27th, 2013.
I understand a popular phenomenon is the concept, or game, of degrees of separation. It posits that in this ever-shrinking world, we are all connected in surprisingly close ways. True enough, I imagine. But, as a weary photog, I rejoice in the simpler connections that pictures I’ve made of people along the way provide. A lifelong family photo album, if you will.
I started photographing Deidre and Donald years ago. Unlike many photogs, who understandably search for the new face, I am often content with those who are familiar to me. The trust that has built over time is not to be ignored. Nor is the ongoing inspiration that can fill my imagination, and my lens, with people I know and love.
“D,” as I refer to her, is a one woman Cirque du Soleil, a performance artist who has regularly been able to physicalize my somewhat bent imagination. (I wrote the Cirque comment once about her in a book, and she has embraced that as a wonderful compliment.) Donald, the Moses of the Southwest, has become my lifelong friend. On the occasion of my recent birthday, he and his honey Mary Jo gave me a necklace with a silver eagle, with embedded Arizona turquoise. Donald said to me, “Joe, you have the eye of an eagle, and I want you to have this.” It instantly became one of the treasures of my life.
So it goes. I started making demo portraits of these two when I started teaching at the Santa Fe Photo Workshops. Over time, I became fast friends with the model community there, and, in between teaching stints, they’ve become a staple when I have some measure of commercial work, an idea for a book picture, or a wacky portrait notion I might want to experiment with. In turn, they would call me. D once rang me up and said, “Hey, wanna shoot me? I shaved my head!” Those sessions, with D having been cast as a prisoner of war in a small indie, became part of a book project.
Donald ended up on the cover of a book, Sketching Light, after a five minute demo portrait session in pre-storm conditions in New Mexico.
D and I wandered through the New Mexican forest, after the fires a couple years ago. One of the things you don’t worry about when she is in front of your lens is range of expression.
Donald, aka Moses, helped me engage in a bit of whimsy with a speed light.
And now Deidre’s a mom. And, as luck would have it, she knows this photog who’s always up for doing a baby portrait.
Technically, the pictures above are simplicity itself. Virtually all of them are one light portraits. The B&W baby portraits are done with a 74″ Elinchrom, with a D800E setup for monochrome and a 5×4 aspect ratio. Donald with the church, and D as a prisoner are both done with an Elinchrom beauty dish. D in the forest is lit with a shoot through version of a Lastolite 8 in 1 umbrella, on a paint pole, with speed lights. And the wind whipped portrait of Donald is a small Elinchrom strip light.
Neither of these folks would have ever come in front of my lens were it not for the friendship of Nerissa Escanlar, who has, for many years, been the liaison between the workshops and the model community in Santa Fe. She is moving on now, to Washington DC, where no doubt her tireless energy and decency will straighten the whole mess there out.
Friends, and pictures. A family album, built over time. More tk…..