portraits

The face of health: environmental portraits of nutritionist/media personality Stacy Kennedy

Stacy Kennedy is a board-certified specialist in oncology nutrition and an integrative nutritionist. Featured in the award-winning documentary films, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead and Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2, Stacy is a senior clinical nutritionist at the Dana-Farber/Brigham & Women’s Cancer Center Hospital, and is an adjunct professor in wellness and health coaching at William James College. She, along with her husband, Dr. Russell Kennedy, PsyD, run a private practice, Wellness Guides, LLC,  in Wellesley, MA, creating individualized plans for optimizing weight management, disease prevention and management, and promoting longevity.

Stacy, regularly featured in TV, radio, and print media, came to me looking for a series of environmental portraits that supported her private practice and media work. A lively and personable woman, Stacy was looking for compelling imagery that conveyed both her approachability and deep professional knowledge. In additional to her nutrition background, Stacy is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Health Fitness Specialist as well as a yoga teacher, and it was important to us both to create portraits that also touched on her fitness background as well.








BNY Mellon | PFLAG Pride Portrait Project

Last week, I blogged about Manuel and Joe, two men I photographed for BNY Mellon and PFLAG, to showcase portraits of members of the LGBTQ community in order to raise awareness about Pride Month. Peter Tenggren, my contact at BNY Mellon who asked me to create this small group of work, sent me the below picture of the portraits, (printed by Bob Korn Imaging) now settled in the first of its four traveling stops throughout the Boston area for the month of June. I thought I'd share with you all the images, and very importantly, the words behind each person photographed, below.

 

The Pride Project
Artist’s Statement

I’m delighted to work with BNY Mellon and PFLAG, as a proud ally, to present this collection of five portraits of vibrant members of the LGBT community in honor of Pride Month. With each photograph, I worked to display the humanity, warmth, and intelligence of the person pictured; to show both their inner world as well as to document each person’s features, relationships, and character. Part of the process to create these images was to get to know what was important to each person, and to create a safe and warm environment so that each man and woman pictured would feel at ease to truly be themselves. My goal with each person photographed was to foster a genuine friendship and alliance enabling the viewer of the portrait to feel as though they had somehow already known the person in the photograph. As a portrait photographer, storyteller, and former psychotherapist, it is vital to me that each portrait creates a narrative and sense of recognition between the viewer and the viewed.

- Sharona Jacobs, June 4, 2015 www.sharonaphoto.com

Sharona Jacobs
The Pride Project
Amy and Lori, 2012
Archival Digital Pigment Print
20 x 30 inches

Amy:

“This portrait was taken hours before I married my best friend. It was amazing to have one of the best days of my life documented in such intimate and lovely detail. To me Pride is confidently walking down the street, holding hands with my wife while pushing our 18-month-old twins in their stroller. In the past 20 years my Prideful life has shifted from bar-fueled weekends to Saturday Gymboree outings. What hasn’t changed is me going about my out life in the most honest way possible.”

Lori:

"Pride is raising our children to know that Different doesn't mean Lesser. Differences are a good thing and we should always try to embrace what is different about ourselves and others. Our family might look a little different to some people, but it is full of love and laughter and both the family we were born with AND the family we chose." 

Sharona Jacobs
The Pride Project
Mark, 2012
Archival Digital Pigment Print
20 x 30 inches

This portrait of Mark was taken the day Lori and Amy were married, and he and his partner hosted their celebration. Amy: "There’s the family you’re born with and the family you choose. Our chosen family includes two of the kindest, most generous people on the planet who opened their home to host our fabulous wedding.”

Sharona Jacobs
The Pride Project
Robin Lippincott, 2015
Archival Digital Pigment Print
20 x 27.4 inches

Robin: "I am a writer of literary fiction and nonfiction. I have two books coming out: Blue Territory: A Mediation on the Life and Work of Joan Mitchell (November 2015), and Rufus + Syd, a young adult novel co-written with Julia Watts (Spring 2016). I am also the author of the novels In the Meantime, Our Arcadia, and Mr. Dalloway, and the short story collection The 'I' Rejected. My fiction/nonfiction has appeared in over 30 journals, including "The Paris Review," "American Short Fiction," "Fence," "Memorious," "The Literary Review," "The New York Times Book Review," and others. I teach in the low-residency MFA Program at Spalding University. Simply put, pride means having the self-respect to be fully myself.”

Manuel and Joseph, Pride Portrait Project, BNY Mellon and PFLAG
Manuel and Joseph, Pride Portrait Project, BNY Mellon and PFLAG

Sharona Jacobs
The Pride Project
Manuel and Joseph, 2015
Archival Digital Pigment Print
20 x 26.5 inches

Manuel: "We are constantly making each other laugh. A common scene would include me talking about my day, but in Sofia Vergara's voice, followed by Joe bursting out laughing with his eyes shut, probably thinking to himself, "I hope this is only part of today's show, and not what I actually signed up for!" The roles reverse when Joe starts walking around the kitchen imitating a praying mantis while re-enacting a scene from Isabella Rossellini’s, "Green Porno" (which we went to see on our first Valentine). But life is not all about laughter and smiles. With our highly sensitive and introspective personalities, we often find ourseleves having to support and uplift each other, especially after reading one article too many about some form of injustice in the world. In this higly curated society driven by selfies and social media, we are proud to show all sides of our love, from laughter to tears. And as Milennials, we are thankful that we can safely show this connection outside of our private spaces (even if Joe sometimes shrugs off one too many of my PDAs)."

Sharona Jacobs
The Pride Project Joseph, 2012
Archival Digital Pigment Print
20 x 30 inches

Joe: "I have an innate fear of photographs. Perhaps it's from a youth deeply concerned with judgement and being misunderstood. Or perhaps it's because I've spent my life seeking out difference and broadening my knowledge, skills, experiences, and connections into the multi-faceted person I am today; I feared a portrait could not distill this. Yet Pride, for me, is an inversion of that fear. It is acceptance, celebration, and love for the diversity both within and outside ourselves. And it is in this light that I couldn't be more proud to show--at least an aspect of--our selves and our love.”

Pride Portraits: Joseph and Manuel

Joseph Manuel portrait header-3823
Joseph Manuel portrait header-3823

Recently, I was asked by a friend at BNY Mellon to showcase some of my portraits of individuals and couples from the LGBT community in conjunction with their partnership with PFLAG in honor of Pride Month. My friend, Peter, biked with my husband and I across Europe in 2002 in the European AIDS Vaccine Ride - 575 miles in seven days with a $5k minimum fundraising goal to help fund research for an AIDS vaccine  - and we had kept in touch ever since; it was a pretty intense bonding experience! Peter had seen my Boston Authors Project show at GrubStreet, and asked if I could do something similar for BNY Mellon's partnership with PFLAG (Parents, Families, Friends and Allies united with LGBTQ people to move equality forward) - of course I said yes.

For this project, I photographed Joseph, an architect, and Manuel, one of my former students at MIT, now a scientist, along with a few others - I could only choose a couple of these for the show, so I'm expanding a bit here. Both Manuel and Joe are incredibly funny guys, smart, and a joy to be around - Manuel has a particular touch for interacting with kids of all ages (my daughter snagged him as I took Joe to the studio first), and Joe has a wicked collection of expressions that were just a joy to shoot, as well as similar literary tastes - everything from mindfulness to Orson Scott Card (we both enjoy the fiction, though neither of us share that author's politics). My goal with this collection of photographs was not only to reveal each man's loveliness and character but to also to describe the warmth and joy of their relationship.

Portraits of an Oxford professor in Boston, MA

Nicholas Cole and I first met in 1997 when we were both studying in England, and we immediately struck up a fast friendship. I joke that Nick never left school, as he is now a professor of American history at Pembroke College, Oxford University. I generally try to avoid discussing local politics with Nicholas because it gets a bit embarrassing to be regularly schooled on your own country's current politics and history by a foreigner :-).

Nicholas Cole of Pembroke College, Oxford
Nicholas Cole of Pembroke College, Oxford

Nicholas came to Boston this past week, and we were both delighted that we had time to work together in the studio. Photographing him was a joy on so many levels - good-humored banter alternating with gently poking fun of the other, as old friends do. Even though it had been almost a decade since I'd seen him last, we immediately relaxed into working together in the studio while amiably chatting away.

Boston MA academic portrait
Boston MA academic portrait

My goal with Nicholas' portraits was to capture his intelligence, warmth, kindness, and dry humor. In a few of the shots, I included his beautifully crafted titanium and leather crutches to create some environmental context. Yet front and center, I focused on Nick's expressive face and the intelligence and dry amusement that lights his eyes. As a photographer, capturing the life of the mind - and what a great mind I had to work with! - is a never-ending joy.

Starting over for grownups

Rocky DiRico, a 10th degree black belt in Kenpo karate, started competing after age 35 and went on to over 700 first place finishes and 100 grand championship wins, making him the most awarded senior competitor in the history of sport karate. He, and my own joyful/humbling/frustrating/wonderful experience coming back to karate training as an adult learner, inspired this post. He is pictured here with his wife, Shihan Wendy DiRico.

Rocky DiRico, now a 10th degree black belt in Kenpo karate, started his karate training after age 35 and went on to over 700 first place finishes and 100 grand championship wins. He, and my own experience coming back to karate as an adult learner, inspired this post.

Rocky DiRico, now a 10th degree black belt in Kenpo karate, started his karate training after age 35 and went on to over 700 first place finishes and 100 grand championship wins. He, and my own experience coming back to karate as an adult learner, inspired this post.

 One of the things I most admire about children is that they're not afraid to fall down on their butts when they try something new.

They'll just keep trying new approaches, sometimes clever, sometimes awkward, to achieve what they want. No one expects children to be particularly good at anything. Figuring out how to pull life's strings is what childhood is all about, and kids, on the whole, think its really fun to learn new things. They grow creatively when they try to solve problems, and at least in the first few years, don't care how they are perceived while trying out new ideas.

Karate blog-9431
Karate blog-9431

Fast forward to adulthood and self-awareness and the need for basic competency in front of others. We've spent most of our formative years training to do something, whether it is singing, acting, or accountancy. Adults are proud of the skills we've gained and these are generally the ones we use in front of company (unless it's karaoke, and then, all bets are off as there's generally alcohol involved). Starting something new as an adult feels especially awkward, because our brains aren't as malleable, we're resistant to change, and don't want to look silly or incapable in front of others as we figure out our next new skill.

So what happens when we're forced to change and learn something new? Either because of circumstance, or because we're stifled and need to do something differently, the game changes and it's time to upgrade our skills. With the exception of some open-minded, driven, and adventurous souls, most adults react by feeling uncomfortable, perhaps even a bit scared. Some of us even get paralyzed, and don't know what to do next. So we sit and grind our wheels, using our energy to feel anxious, rather than harnessing the angst into something productive. We tend to cling to what we know, even though it is time to grow or change. Do any of these sound familiar?

- I want to start a new project that's different than my current work but I'm not sure where to start - I have an idea, but I just need motivation - I'm afraid I'm going to look like an idiot trying something new

So what should you do to kick yourself out of your paralysis? Shakespeare would say, "To thine own self be true." The ancient Greeks would say, "Know thyself". Francis Bacon would say, "Knowledge is power." And Nike would say, "Just do it."

When you don't know where to start in a new endeavor (career, project, hobby), start with your interests and daydreams, perhaps even document your current problems. Did you daydream about being an astronaut as a kid? Take a night course in astronomy, create a beautiful portrait series of local astronomy professors in the moonlight, or get a second-hand telescope and start a basic blog about your own discoveries as a new star seeker.

What are your favorite holidays and celebrations? What is on your bucket list, and you always hoped to do someday? Combine those interests into a new project. For example, if you're a autumn-loving, adrenaline-seeking photographer feeling stale, do a skydiving shoot on Halloween with models in full costume at sunset - mix, match, see what happens. Juxtaposition is your friend; combine bits of who you are to create something no one has seen before.

But most important is the mental game of getting out of our own way. I have a few suggestions from back when I worked in vocational psychology, which I'll write in layperson's terms so you don't fall asleep at your computer.

1. Write a worry journal

The basis of cognitive psychology is, "You are what you think." I'd add, "If it's on paper, it's not in your noggin." Write down all your worst fears, then counter each fear with a more positive likely scenario. E.g.:

Negative thought I will never learn how to use off-camera lighting because I'm not technical

Rational thought I can learn how to use off-camera lighting by taking a workshop that is aimed at lighting for beginners

2. Talk to a friend

Sometimes you need a sympathetic friend to kindly listen to you, and then kick you in the behind once you've unloaded your concerns. Better yet, create an accountability partnership so you both have someone to check in with about your new ventures.

Karate blog-2368
Karate blog-2368

3. Find a mentor

For some people, it really helps to find an advisor who has more knowledge and experience. Some mentors are volunteer professional contacts, others are coaches, and another source of great advisors are mental health professionals, for when you're truly feeling stuck. I currently advise a few photographers looking for both technical advice, portfolio reviews, and accountability - it can be a useful tool in your professional arsenal to get unstuck. But for many, all that is needed is someone who they meet with on a regular basis who has more experience than they do.

4. Let go of perfect

It's better to do something, anything, and get it out there than to create the most perfect creation that never sees the light of day. This is when you bring out the Nike slogan!

5. Make a date

Mark in your calendar the date you are going to have accomplished your goal of a new skill. Tell your accountability buddy.

6. Reward yourself

Whether it's a big box of chocolate, a marathon tv-watching session, or a weekend trip, make sure you promise and deliver a big reward for getting out of your comfort zone.

Light Work with Gregory Heisler at the Maine Media Workshops – Part Two

Various lighting setups being tweaked by Greg inside the studio/barn that was our home base for the week. I used my iPhone to take visual notes throughout the week - my memory works better through images than words.
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The third day, like all the following days, began with a critique of the previous day’s work. Sometimes it would be just the class, and sometimes we’d have a few models or actors join us. By the end of the week, they were all familiar faces, some of whom we’d hang out with at meals or after class. Many people would drift in and out throughout the day, and it was very friendly indeed; we all were teasing buddies by the end of the week. Speaking of meals, the food at Maine Media was AMAZING. The main chef, David Coyle, was an absolute delight, and was so solicitous of my food allergies; his goal was not only to have stuff I could eat, but to have absolutely delicious stuff I could eat not only at meals but in between. They had a whole shelf full of gluten-free goodies for my fellow celiacs, and it was unbelievably thoughtful. Usually, I’m just happy if I can eat something, anything, but the food for the whole week was wonderful.
Overpowering the sun with strobes, as the rest of we photographers (Jeannine,  and an actor - hi Amanda!, TJ, me) trying not to burn in the sun.
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In the afternoon, we had a demo that involved overpowering the sun with strobes outdoors using the shipyard next to our studio and classroom. We also learned about how the color of the light mirrors the position of the sun in the sky, and how to imitate that information while creating our own light in the studio or mixing light sources while outdoors.
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We then drove about a half-hour to an vintage hardware store (full of bits and bobs and books and taxidermy) and used some strobes that the Workshops had provided us with to create light indoors, Sadly, this was the one place that we felt frustrated, because the order that had been placed by Greg to the rental agency (MAC Group - boo hiss) that provided lights for the workshop had never come through, despite Greg, teaching assistants, and MMW's photo manager asking multiple times. We had to use old lights that we couldn’t adjust ratios from the battery pack, which was pretty challenging, and didn’t want to spend a lot of time figuring out a new lighting system instead of shooting within the limited window of time we had at the hardware store. We also interspersed the strobes with a Speedlite. Luckily, Chris Reis, our teacher’s assistant, helped us make the best of the equipment we had, and we got a few nice shots in before the end of the day. I really liked one of the images in particular I took of Sam, top left of the below set of images.
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The fourth day was spent in the studio, primarily, with several demos of lighting techniques which we then played around with in our groups of three. We worked with a couple of wonderful actor/models, Juliette and Stuart, and with multiple lights, including an absolutely enormous light source; I swear the umbrella was about 12 feet in diameter.
Greg showing me, TJ, and actor Heidi Hackney an image. Our 12-foot light source is behind us, camera right, which was used as part of the actor headshot lighting setup below. Photo credit: Stuart Green.
Heisler class snapshot by Stuart Green
The lovely Juliette
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The dashing Stuart. The goal of this assignment was to create actor headshots; each image portrays a different character that Stuart can portray - the first, more leading man, the second, more character actor.
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The final day was also spent much of the day in the studio, after the crit, and we went through more lighting setups including mimicking high daylight in the studio, and some outdoor lighting techniques with the models and actors. We took a look through Greg’s traveling kit, and he answered lots of questions about which lights and modifiers he can’t live without. He also photographed the entire class individually, to great amusement, capturing each of our personalities wonderfully. He had to take a couple of me because I tended to crack up when I was supposed to be holding a pose. But almost everyone else he completely captured on the first shot.
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Greg was kind enough to allow us a couple of extra hours of class on Saturday, right before we left, so that we could see a set up that he’d be using to photograph a client the following day. Again, he photographed many of us using a continuous light setup. At the end of the day, I gave Greg and enormous hug and thanked him for all he’d taught us, before traveling down the east coast, and catching a ride home with Sam and TJ.
All in all, a wonderful week, barring the hitch with equipment rentals, and I would definitely come back to Maine Media Workshops. I highly recommend Greg Heisler as a teacher, and am very glad for the experiences I had, all that I learned, and the warm relationships formed with colleagues and other creative folks formed while there.
Goodbye, beautiful Rockport, and thank you Greg Heisler and Maine Media Workshops...
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Meyer Psychology: Photographing psychologist and psychotherapist headshots in Arlington MA

Wynne Meyer blog-8157 As both a trained psychotherapist and photographer, it gives me great joy to receive a phone call from anyone in the mental health field who is looking to commission photography. Wynne and Cary Meyer are a husband-and-wife team who have a joint psychology and counseling practice in Arlington, MA. They are warm and kind people, really delightful to work with and get to know, and I wanted to make sure that potential clients would get a great first impression from seeing their headshots on their practice's webpage.

Wynne, a psychotherapist, is a lovely and insightful person who integrates mindfulness training into her cognitive-behavioral work. Many of her clients are women, parents, and couples, and she wanted to make sure her clients would get a sense of her personality and could also relate to her when we discussed how we could best approach her portrait. I took a very honest approach to photographing her, and I think the image she chose really captures her thoughtfulness.Cary Meyer blog-

Cary, a sharply intelligent psychologist with a warm sense of humor, specializes in working with men as they transition between life stages. He works with clients on both relationship and career issues, and is also a staff psychologist at McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA. His image is a bit more business-like, but we also both wanted to capture his approachability as well.

It was wonderful to work with Cary and Wynne, and even with the few hours I spent with them, I could tell that their clients would be in good hands.

Portrait of an Executive Director of a nonprofit: Donna Smith Sharff of the Children's Room

2014-03-18_0002 Donna Smith Sharff is the Executive Director of the Children's Room, of Arlington, MA, which provides support for grieving children, teens, and families. She is a lovely woman, inside and out, and I wanted to capture her warmth and depth of character for this shoot.

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Behind the photo shoot: Tracie Thoms, film and stage actress

In late April, I photographed actress and singer Tracie Thoms, who's probably best known for her work in RentCold Case, and The Devil Wears Prada.

Tracie was preparing for a gala for her alma mater, the Baltimore School for the Arts (the performing arts high school which inspired the movie Step Up), and the school kindly allowed us our photo shoot in their auditorium prior to her rehearsal. Part of the high school was converted from a grand old hotel from the turn of the century, and the auditorium was located in a beautiful old ballroom with gorgeous architectural details.

In the below images prior to the shoot, Tracie is touching up her make-up. In college, she acquired the nickname of "Tink Tink" for her ability to quickly and flawlessly attach her false eyelashes, and she still knows her way around a make-up brush.

We began by shooting on stage, using strobes and reflectors to create the warm glow and illuminate the highlights of her dark hair from the blackness of the stage.

Above, Tracie is chatting with her former musical theater teacher, Becky Mossing, while I adjust my lighting to my satisfaction. Milk crates are a photographer's best friend - you can use them to carry gear, to stand on if you're short like me, and of course, as seating for your clients. I feel like I should write a post just about the distinguished behinds that have sat on my various milk crates.

 

After shooting on stage, I moved Tracie into the audience seating area, and backlit her curls. We multi-tasked by having her sing with her former teacher, to prepare for the following day's gala.

Periodically, students would come by the auditorium in order to meet Tracie, and we'd take a moment from the shoot in order for her to say hello and pose for a few photographs. I couldn't resist this girl's hair - she and Tracie excitedly admired each other's hairstyles while they waited for another student to line them up for a photo.

After finishing up our shoot, I shot for a few minutes while Tracie rehearsed for the following day's gala with Becky and pianist Michael Sheppard. After enjoying the private concert, I quietly packed up, content with the day's events.

 

The faceless portrait: author, illustrator, and sculptor Adam J. B. Lane

When I interview artists and authors before I photograph their portraits, the first question I ask is whether the person I'm photographing has any special requests, ideas, or preferences, far before I take out my camera. Children's book author/illustrator/sculptor (narrowing this fellow into a category is a challenging task) Adam J. B. Lane's request was a creative stretch for this portrait photographer: he asked if I could take his photograph without the viewer really knowing what he looked like, so that he could be passed by unrecognized by someone seeing his portrait the moment before.

Curious, I asked why. Adam said he was influenced both by the legendary radio producer Ira Glass and also the author Daniel Handler ("Lemony Snicket") who felt that viewing the physical appearance of a formerly faceless narrator robbed a story of some abstraction and potency.  Adam had always personally found the difference between the impression created by the work and the author in reality a bit of a disappointment, and preferred to be photographed in a way that left something to the imagination.

So I took the approach of letting the images reveal the author primarily through his activities and the wonderful textured environment of his home studio, rather than the entirety of his face. I lit enough of Adam to pull him away from his background, but not enough to define his features. His illustration work is dark and contrasty, and I mirrored some of that feeling through to the photographs.

Adam recently published Stop Thief, a story of a little boy who takes off after a stuffed animal snatcher. His illustrated books are aimed at children, but have a chiaroscuro palette often associated with darker themes. The Lemony Snicket influence shines though Adam's color choices.

The product of both a British and American upbringing, Adam was heavily influenced by comics throughout his childhood and maintains that his success communicating with children comes through a strong case of arrested development. As a child, he remembers not being able to conceive of adulthood and was terrified that life would end after his bar mitzvah, around the age of thirteen.

Later, Adam went on to write and illustrate for the Harvard Lampoon, and upon graduation, moved to Los Angeles to work on Disney feature films.

While at Disney, Adam started going to book stores to do research on what kids wanted in their favorite stories, and fell in love with picture books. He delved into creating stories because he wanted to do something for kids and parents to actively do together, and to be part of the magical relationship of a parent reading a story to a child.

Tango Noir shoot

In June, I partnered with Arlington's Orange Hanger Boutique and The Regent Theatre to create a fashion-based editorial shoot based on the Argentine Tango, specifically the Tango Nuevo movement (new Tango) and film noir. It was inspired by music by the amazing Gotan Project. The goal: to work with other Arlington businesses to create dramatic, sexy, and beautiful editorial work, and to pull from my own dance background to create photography that represents the movement of dance and the drama of film noir. This Milonga de amor video with a Gotan Project soundtrack was distributed to everyone participating in the shoot to help them gain a feel for the mood we were going to create at the Regent Theatre.

Emerson faculty member C.E. Courtney helped hugely with the lighting design and also documented the behind-the-scenes action.

Here I am teaching Manuel, one of our models (and an MIT graduate), how to do the Argentine Tango hold, instructing as to how close the faces of partners should lean together - reeeeally close. The beginning of the shoot involved having the models gain familiarity with both the dance and the embrace required to convey the emotion of the tango. I did not expect the models, most of whom are not dancers, to get the technique exactly right, but to approximate the mood and the hold, which they did splendidly. Image by C.E. Courtney.

 

Hair and makeup was by Jayne Riot and Maura Traniello of Scarlet Artist Management. Here's our model Elizabeth (another MIT graduate) getting pin-curled. Image by C.E. Courtney. As some of the five models waited for hair and make-up, others began getting into wardrobe and were subject to lighting tests by my assistant, Elizabeth M.

We began with portraits of the men, as the women finished with hair and make-up.

And as Elizabeth came out of make-up, the gentlemen were happy to bring her into the picture.

Introducing Elizabeth to some tango steps, image courtesy of C.E. Courtney.

And then the dance began.

 

And then they all danced together.

And then it was time, as they say, to powder the nose.

Many thanks to all the models: Elizabeth O, Greg, Jenn, Manuel, and Zach - you were all a blast to work with, beautiful inside and out. Thank you to Leland and Ryan from the Regent, and Natalie from the Orange Hanger - you made everything gorgeous! Huge thanks to C.E. and Elizabeth M for all your assistance lighting everything indoors, and schlepping everything in from the outdoors despite the pouring rain. I owe ya.

Ladies Rock Camp

I had the great pleasure of photographing the bands of Boston's Ladies Rock Camp in Jamaica Plain on May 20th. The camp provides an opportunity for women who are 19 and older to let loose and learn to play rock together with similarly strong and awesome women. Ladies learn and/or practice bass, guitar, drums, vocals, or keyboard, form a band, and at the end of the experience, play live at TT the Bears in Central Square, Cambridge. The participants also take a variety of workshops relating to being a lady rocker - I happened to observe an inspiring workshop by Model Mugging Self-Defense right after I photographed the bands. Super cool! It was amazing walking into the building in which the camp was housed - you could feel the vibration of the drums throbbing up through your feet, and the excited "Yows!" and cheers of the participants charged everyone with a wonderfully contagious energy! I want to join next year (and I grew up playing classical piano and viola) - what an incredible group of women, what a great experience.

Here are a few of the bands I photographed.

 

Boston's artists and authors, featuring Bradford Johnson

I'm embarking on a new project to create portraits of some of Boston's most talented artists and authors. Each artist is interviewed and then documented in the space that they work in, or a space inspired by their work. The goal of the project is to reveal through the photographs a real sense of the artist, to tell their stories visually and through narrative, and to gain an understanding of where their work comes from. The first artist I'm featuring is Somerville, MA-based artist Bradford Johnson. Brad's wonderful warm intelligence, wry wit, and good humor was a joy to be around, and spending time with him in his studio was delightful. His work is based on painting the people and places first captured by distant photographers (hmm, wonder why I like this guy?). One of his projects that I find most intriguing is entitled, "Tangible Dreams of a Dying Explorer", and it is based upon the real-life experiences of an Arctic explorer who perished more than one hundred years ago, but whose photographic film was discovered 30 years after the expedition's demise.

As Brad explains: "In 1897, on a barren Arctic island, photographer Nils Strindberg finally escapes the brutal cold when he slips into hypothermia. Shortly thereafter, he becomes the first member of S.A. Andree's Polar Expedition to perish. As Strindberg loses consciousness, he cannot know if his human remains or exposed film will ever be returned to civilization. His compatriots bury him in a rocky grave, and their demise soon follows his. Months earlier, in a daring attempt to explore the North Pole, Strindberg, Knut Fraenkel and Andree pilot a hydrogen balloon into the polar region under the flag of Sweden. Strindberg conscientiously documents key moments even when they crash far short of the pole and are forced to trek for months across the pack ice in an attempt to return home. The remnants of their final camp are discovered over 30 years after their deaths. Among the detritus returned to civilization are detailed diaries and 5 rolls of Strindberg's exposed film. 93 viable negatives are miraculously salvaged."

I photographed Brad in his studio, after chatting with him about how he was drawn to art, what he studied, how he defined himself as an artist, and how he combined his work with being a dad to two kids.

The moment he started to feel like an artist: Brad fell into art in high school - it was his sanctuary. Like many, high school was kind of a drag for him - he didn't really have any energy for the academics, but painting was something that drew him in. During his senior year when thinking about his future, Brad felt kind of lost, but his art teacher suggested that after graduation, he apply to RISD - the Rhode Island School of Design (one of the nation's top art schools) -  and he got in.

Three words that describe Brad's work: "Narrative, material, hand-rendered."

But it wasn't easy: Sometimes its easy to doubt your own abilities. While at RISD, Brad felt like an imposter, despite his abilities, surrounded by other talented artists who were Artists with a capital A. He transferred to a small, vigorously academic liberal arts school, where he enrolled in the drama department, and found like-minded souls. But eventually, the visual arts kept calling, and he switched back to studying fine art, continuing his studies with a MFA from Hunter College in New York, where he lived for five years before moving to Boston to be with his wife.

Finally: "I'm an artist, finally, because I'm unsatisfied with any given answer."

Artist as adult: Artists are often considered solitary creatures, huddled in a garret somewhere, but artists merge into adulthood like those of us in more traditional professions, with all the responsibilities that entails. Brad has two children and a wonderful, supportive wife, Jackie. I asked Brad how the balance works for him, and how difficult it is to pursue his vocation while wrangling pre-schoolers. His response - "it's a whole lot harder, but doable", thanks to great childcare, and a wife with a more traditional employment situation. He also credits a network of fellow creative friends who bounce ideas and provide support for each others' ventures.

Steampunk: Take two

Lots of requests for more Steampunk photographs from the Watch City Festival aka Steampunk Festival in Waltham, MA! Here they are. Steampunkers, please keep in touch via my blog and via www.facebook.com/sharonajacobsphotography. I had so many amazing people who were photographed - thank you all for being so wonderfully interesting to photograph.

Steampunk Festival, Waltham, MA: corsets, goggles, and gorgeousness

I was recently asked how I wanted to spend my Mother's Day - my answer: photograph portraits of amazingly costumed people at Waltham's Steampunk Festival. Assisted by the author Jon Papernick and my family (it was Mother's Day, after all), I had the most amazing time photographing some incredible faces and outfits. Enjoy the gallery, and thank you to everyone who participated!

 

Portraits of a dancer

Audrey is a dream to work with as a photographer. As a modern dancer and a dance therapist, she is lovely, inside and out. We worked together both outdoors and in the studio, playing with lights and modifiers, moods and movement.