Philadelphia Weekly: Divine Vision

Photographs aren’t the truth. They are a point of view. Photos, no matter which way you point the camera, are self portraits, and only become more so as you learn more about photography. The more I understand about light, composition, framing a subject, the more I can convey to you though an image. This is particularly true with my photo of Caryn Kunkle.

In the past couple months I’ve done three covers for Philadelphia Weekly, one of a taxi, one of an amazing artistic family, and one of Caryn Kunkle, who is trying to fix the Divine Lorraine Hotel. I thought Caryn’s idea of turning the Divine Lorraine (a building I’ve often looked at with a photographer-desire) into an art museum was interesting. When I met her, and talked to her about her plans, my interest built into admiration.

Caryn is charismatic, passionate, and beautiful. But I don’t need to write these words for you to know that’s what I think. You only need to look at my picture of her. In this photo I am kneeling, looking up to her, like she is a giant. The light hits her hair like she is an angel – and behind her, I extend her halo with the building itself. I connect her and the building together.

Using light and the environment to express a character-trait of a person isn’t something I learned on my own. I learned it by watching the White House Flickr feed. Whatever your political beliefs, the work of the White House photographers, particularly Pete Souza, is worth looking at for any photographer that needs to use an environment to convey a message. Souza’s work, particularly with framing his subjects, has made me think about photography in an entirely different way.

I’ve always understood that one must pay close attention to lighting and composition, but Souza finds frames in  every environment. When I started looking for frames, it opened up another dimension for photography – not just in the images I create, but what I can say with these images. As a freelance photojournalist here in Philadelphia, Souza is a huge inspiration for me. I can’t always control the environment or the people when I’m out photographing events, but I can decide what I’d like to say, and then look at the environment and see what I can use to frame that story.

(Comments that are about political beliefs based on the people mentioned in this post will be deleted. Comments about photography, and just about everything else, are welcomed.)