Last November I headed up to Ponden Hall in Bronte Country to meet up with Carolyn Mendelsohn for a days mentoring on Portraiture. Carolyn has been somebody I admire for her beautiful portraiture work, which i first came across at the same time as i met her up in the Lake District when a group of female photographers got together for a ‘day out of our busy schedules’ in December 2013. She had just won the National Portrait Photographer of the Year with a gorgeous image of her daughter and to talk to she was friendly, down to earth, giving and interesting. Since our day in the Lakes we have stayed in touch often virtually through the world of social media and when i saw she was offering 1-2-1 mentoring, I knew at some point i would go to spend a day with her.
I love my lifestyle photography and I love doing family photography but when i looked back through my favourite images and the ones that truly spoke to me they are often of a portrait – a single person and therefore I really wanted to build on that looking forward to 2015. During family shoots, I would often photograph the children individually in a way that was more considered – less happy smiley pictures doing jumps and races and piggy bags but in a more still and considered way. I really wanted to build on this and be able to attract clients who liked this style of images as well. In honesty I headed up to Bronte Country thinking there was some kind of formula, certain directions, poses and marketing to nail this. Instead what i found was that there is growth and you need to give yourself time and space to nurture how you see the world.
On what first looked like a bleak November day, during the mentoring we headed up on to the Moors with our beautiful model for the afternoon – who i have to say braved the cold weather and wind – and we played around with the landscape, the wind, the light and just slowed down. What was completely reassuring was that i wasn’t out of my comfort zone, there were a few aha moments where i realised that was i was doing was on the right track, i just needed the space and time to practise that. Often family shoots are so fast paced to keep up with little children who do not want to stand still for longer than 30 seconds. This was different – there was a stillness.
Previously I wrote about my last 5 years, which you can read here where i talked about there being a current shift now that i am in year 5 of my business, there feels an air of calmness and stillness in my personal life and as a result, i think that my portraiture will begin to reflect that. Of course I will still photograph those energetic families, encourage play and run around but within those sessions i would very much like to bring something more considered and compelling.
Coming away from my time with Carolyn, day to day life continued but i knew i wanted to push my photography to have this edge but as i have shared there is not a set of go to instructions – my focus, my way of seeing the world and my exploration needs nourishment, feeding and building up. Therefore whilst i may stop in the middle of a shoot or during your couple pictures at a wedding to slow things down a little and therefore incorporate some compelling portraiture – predominantly this is for me to explore personally.
I have Carolyn to thank for that – for re-igniting a motivation and a passion to look at art, really look at art for me and not just for the job. Therefore this is a side that will grow. I plan to visit galleries, look at books, research online and give myself one day a month to do those things. Photography still remains very much a focus for me despite being 5 years in but i am ready to jump off the treadmill and ensure i have some space to grow now. As if the Universe knew i needed this and to give me a boost – i was over the moon when Carolyn contacted me just last week to offer me the opportunity for ongoing mentoring in an informal way as and when i wanted any advice, support, encouragement, tips etc What a wonderful opportunity. I was speechless and knew in my heart that it was so very needed to keep me focused and inspired – a real gift.
So what are my plans for 2015 since doing this mentoring? I did think about launching a fine art teenage portrait collection, which was my first thought, however with consideration i would like to explore fine art and considered portraiture more for myself. I am going to visit galleries and i am going to do personal projects.
I have a personal project in the pipeline of ‘Life as a Teenage Parent in Rural Areas’, which i will share more about in my next blog post whereby i would like to visit parents where they had their child as teenagers, take their portrait and hear their story – putting words and pictures together. I have undertaken my first visit and I will be looking for volunteers to continue with this.
I am also inspired by where i have moved to, i know its not portraits but there is something compelling with the combination of nature, wild landscapes and people. There will be more images with using the wind instead of trying to shelter from it, rain, big skies and flat landscapes.
I am also doing a personal black and white project of everyday life with my son. He is not keen on having his picture taken so i am trying to just sneak them in when there is the chance. I will build the images up and share all together at the end of the year but for now here is a little preview ..
Thank You Carolyn for your belief in me and your ongoing support. Jo xx
This post is part of the sisterhood blog circle