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A Family Album, a While in the Making….

Jul 31

In Friends at 8:09am

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…..


Lewisw says:

on July 31, 2013 at 2:36 pm

What a stunning parting thought.

Win says:

on July 31, 2013 at 4:17 pm


Beautiful photos of Deidre, Donald, and Cayus! Thanks for introducing me to them last week. They’re great and talented people to work with!


Joe Howe says:

on July 31, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Hi Joe
Maybe you can explain why you set up your D800e for monochrome? I prefer to convert a colour RAW file to B/W and preserve a copy of the colour.

Joe Howe

Donnie Zimmerman says:

on July 31, 2013 at 10:50 pm

Thanks for sharing Joe…..

Ziggy says:

on August 1, 2013 at 8:12 am

GREAT post. Love the images, and it’s great to see RECENT images of people from your books.

Great stuff. Thanks for sharing.

Ziggy in 40C Cyprus!!

Ron Longwell says:

on August 1, 2013 at 9:29 am

Joe, I’ve read all your books and like many, think of you as a trusted and valued mentor, even though we’ve never met. What I appreciate most about you, though, is your heart, which you’ve given us a glimpse of in this post. Thank you, friend.

holly says:

on August 1, 2013 at 4:25 pm

those models are what first led to you and all of your great sharing of knowledge…You hae the eye of an eagle and an eye for models that trust and love you..

Bill Laramie says:

on August 1, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Inspirational blog Joe and such an important lesson in both friendship and rapport with your subject.

Thanks for sharing,

Bill Laramie

Carol J Watkins says:

on August 1, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Thank you for sharing your wonderful images. Your work is an inspiration.

Mick Stetson says:

on August 1, 2013 at 5:33 pm

I feel like I also know them, since I’ve seen their pictures over and over again. Great pictures…great thoughts!

Jazmin Miranda says:

on August 1, 2013 at 8:54 pm

I am always reading your posts and I never tire of your words nor your images. Lovely portraits.

Randy says:

on August 1, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Joe, its nice to see that you still make time to shoot for yourself and the ones you care about.

Thanks for sharing and all you’ve done.

Mark says:

on August 2, 2013 at 5:30 am

You writing is only exceeded by the quality of your shots which is only exceeded by your genuineness. What a huge source of knowledge and pleasure to visit your blog.

Michael says:

on August 2, 2013 at 10:43 am

These are some fantastic shots!

chad jaeckel says:

on August 2, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Such amazing images of Deidre, Donald, and Cayus. Hoping to meet you at Photoshop World in Sept. I have been a great fan for many years.


Roman says:

on August 2, 2013 at 8:35 pm

It is so inspiring to view your images. Loved that one with the old man and new born child!

John A. says:

on August 3, 2013 at 11:48 am

Awesome family album! I love the new portrait of D with her baby, it seems like an instant, timeless classic. Many of my favorite portraits you have taken are of D and Donald. Both of them are wonderful characters of expression and interest.

Also, I have to agree, I enjoy photographing folks I know and have worked with much more than new talent. Not only does it seem to work better, but also I seem to get more creative with those I have photographed before… and again as you alluded to, I really enjoy having the family album of pictures created over the years.

Beautiful photographs and writing as always!

Joe says:

on August 3, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Great photos as usual!
I love the Donald’s portrait!
I have just one technical question: in daylight is better to use a 1 or 2 stops diffuser panel for portrait?

Vinicius Meza says:

on August 3, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Great moment of colleagues union! The idea of showing Donald with the Dreide´s baby was fantastic!

John C. says:

on August 6, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Such beautiful pictures. The lighting in the photos are perfect!

Elizabeth Lord says:

on August 10, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Hi Joe
I had the pleasure of photographing both of the “D’s” when I attended a SF Workshop 2 years ago. Your writing added such dimension to each of them. Thank you for a rich story.

Charli says:

on August 15, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Love the last thought. your pictures are an inspiration to all photographers.

Adam says:

on August 22, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Wonderful set of images Joe. Especially the storm photos from New Mexico. What skys!

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