When I was in college, National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore lived in an old farmhouse nearby. When he wasn’t trotting around the globe on assignment, occasionally he’d stop by and give a presentation to my photojournalism class or our photo staff at the campus newspaper. Mostly what I remember are his photographs. How could I not. The man is amazing. I don’t recall a whole lot of what he said, but there is one piece of his advice I use every day. Joel believes there are three things required to create an amazing photograph: composition, light, and emotion. You can have one or two of these and still have a good photo. Yet, if you want to cross the line into breathtaking, you need all three.
I think about this every time I pick up a camera, and this is forever my goal with each photo I take. I don’t profess to share the wisdom of Joel Sartore, but there is one element I might add: history. When I head out the door to a portrait assignment I am prepared for anything. Like a good former Girl Scout, I have a small arsenal of props, lights, and tools. Yet no matter what I bring, often what I find when I get there is even cooler than I could ever imagine.
Perfect examples of this came from the two newborn sessions I did this week. Little Cole was the first one, and you can see a few of his pictures below. His wonderful parents had many amazing pieces of their personal history, and I couldn’t pull out my camera fast enough. The cradle and blanket his mom used when she was a baby, an elaborately carved rocking chair, old suitcases, and a beautiful basket are all parts of Cole’s history traced through his parents. Using the pieces that have meaning to the families I am photographing always trumps whatever I have in my bag. It is their history, and what better way to show it than by using it to photograph their future.