Portraits that measure the continuum of time together.

These are both portraits of Belinda.  The one on the top was taken today, in my studio.  The bottom one was taken over 30 years ago in a makeshift studio in the top part of a rambling old house I used to live in near the University.  Portraits shown one after the other catalog the changes life has made on peoples' faces.  But what do they say about, and to, the photographer who took them?

This morning I photographed a family in my little studio.  The studio is nestled next to our house, just a few steps from our front door.  The family are old friends.  I offered to photograph the kids and the parents and then the whole group in exchange for using some of the images in an upcoming book.  I also photographed them because I've been photographing them since their children were toddlers.  Now they are teens.  And, in a sense, I'm visually mapping the ever changing relationship between the kids and the world as manifested on their changing faces.  Much like I've done with my patient wife, Belinda.

When I finished photographing our friends and they pulled out of the driveway I walked into the house and was struck at how beautiful Belinda looked, just then.  I asked her to come out into the studio and pose for a few minutes.  I started the shoot with a couple lights on the white background and two lights in front.  One as a main light and the other as a fill.  One by one I extinguished each light until I ended up with just one thru a soft white scrim.  That was the distillation,  the look I wanted, and it's what I ended up with in the top photo.  But as I was processing the file I remembered the older photo, just below.  The image had the same resonance and the same style, connected, or disconnected over the thirty something years in between.

I rummaged thru the archive and pulled it up for comparison.  Two things struck me.  First is that in all my meanderings through all the technical adaptations of photography from the beginning of my career to now my basic style had remained the same and the way I like to light and look at people is consistent.  Amazingly consistent.  And secondly, to my way of thinking, Belinda has become more and more beautiful over the years.  She would complain about  her wrinkles and the unkindness of passing time but I only see her beautiful eyes.........

It's already a Happy New Year.  I wish the same for you.


In a moment of unclear thought I abandoned my twitter account.  Now I wish I hadn't.  If you are so disposed could you click on the link in my link list and "follow me"?  http://twitter.com/#!/kirktuckphoto


photovalve said...

That for me is the most important thing about photography: documenting the lives of those close to me as they grow and change. Just yesterday I was rummaging around and found a negative from more than 25 years ago, one of the first films I ever took. A photo of my Mum and her best friend, both sadly no longer here. Not a great photo artistically but full of wonderful memories nonetheless.

Keep up the good work for 2011 :)


Jessica said...

It's always nice to see some evidence of the permanence of human relationships in this fast-paced world.

Congratulations to the two of you for making it work well for so long.

Oh, and nice light, too. :)

Anonymous said...

Fun to see that you've made not only your photography but your marriage a marathon event instead of a sprint. Maybe that's why you are still relevant.

London People Photographer said...

Mr Tuck sometimes I curse you as I read your posts and sometimes I shout out loud at how wrong I think you are. And then you post this and I have to admit to shedding a tear.

I wish you a great 2011.

Wolfgang Lonien said...


you are right about Belinda - she's as beautiful as ever. And so is your lighting at about 10 o'clock. Interesting to see a grainy 30-year-old B&W and your shiny new sepia toned photograph beside/under each other. I like them both, and I wish I could take portraits half as good as yours.

Again, a very happy and successful 2011 to all of you. And keep on swimming...

kirk tuck said...

Wolfgang, Thanks. The top one (today's) was shot with an Olympus EP2 and the old 40mm 1.4 I wrote about a few days ago. The bottom photo was done with an ancient Canon TX camera and a 100mm f2.8 FD lens on Tri-X. The lighting? An ancient Novatron light in an umbrella for the older image and a 1000 bulb LED fixture thru a 4x4 foot scrim for the modern one.

Happy New Year to you!!!

Blake said...

Nice shots. At first, I felt today's shot was too sharp, but once you open it at full size it softens nicely. The default web size is not doing the picture justice - I definitely recommend your readers click on the image for a better view!

Debbi_in_California said...

I see youthful wonderment and anticipation for a beautiful life in the bottom image and mature knowing in the other
I love this kind of study
Great job

Wolfgang Lonien said...

Yeah Kirk, that 40mm is a winner, and would be my preferred focal length for 4/3rds. I have "only" the OM 1.8 50mm, and you can see a portrait attempt with it at http://www.flickr.com/photos/wjlonien/4604740390/in/set-72157623556196669/

Just bounced my flash over the ceiling for that one, so don't expect miracles...


Steve Weeks said...

The eyes have it.
She seemed happier to pose back in the day.
Congrats to both of you.
May there be many more happy New Years in your life together.

Patrick Snook said...


That's a movingly beautiful pair of pictures and essay. Bravo! The recent portrait has a renaissance . . . beauty . . . I'm stuck for any other word.

Happy New Year!


Anonymous said...


What this might say to the photographer is that rather than chasing the latest and greatest, stick to what makes your life and your work really sing. Although your wife is really lovely in both shots, the Tri-X portrait is packed with loads of warmth and soul. By comparison, the digital shot seems, well...digital.
All the best to you and your family in this new year and beyond.

Fraser Young said...

Great post, including image of a beautiful lady whose beauty increases with age (just like my wife of 28 years!).

Thanks also for the tip about shooting through a scrim.