At some point it's really all about having fun with photography.

Renae (on the right) was my assistant back around the turn of the century.  She was amazing and brilliant.  And when we finished long shooting days on location she'd invite a friend or two over to the studio sometimes and we'd all share a bottle of good wine and set up lighting gear and make portraits.  Kinda weird when you consider that most days we'd just spent eight or nine hours setting up and taking down equipment somewhere in or around Austin in order to make portraits for work.

But shooting portraits of people like Amy and Renae was the perfect way to wind down a day and leave the studio on an art note.

We had just finished shooting an annual report for a dot com company whose stock had gone from a dollar a share to fifty four dollars a share, overnight.  (A few months later it made the round trip back to a dollar when the market popped...).  We invited Amy over, uncorked a St. Emillion Grande Cru Classé and started playing with cameras and lights.

I used a 35m Leica R8 film camera with a 90mm Summicron lens for this shot.  At the time I was happy using Ilford's Pan F, 50 ISO film.  The light of the day was a four foot by six foot softbox used in close and just to the left of camera. Powered by a Profoto box.  A small softbox slapped a little light on the gray, canvas background and we fired away.  We probably shot ten or twelve 36 exp. rolls of film that night and shipped it off to the lab the next day without a thought.

When the film and contact sheets came back I took a cursory look through and ordered a few favorite prints from some individual portraits we'd done.  Today I was looking through this work box of film and contact sheets and this time around it was the shots of Renae and Amy together that caught my attention.  I grabbed a strip of negatives that looked promising and put them on the scanner.  This is what we ended up with.

It's instructive to me that somewhere in the last five years we started doing just what we needed to do to survive.  And the art got lost.  But the magic is that with a little elbow grease, some heart and some imagination, we can get the art back.  It's a process of reaching out to people and fighting the entropy that whispers in your ear, "you've already done this.  Why do you need to do it again?"

But the reality is that even though I've made portraits before, each new person in front of the camera is different and interesting in their own way.  I'd forgotten for a while just how satisfying the process of making a portrait is.  Doesn't matter if you're playing for happiness or playing for the money.  The important thing is to play well.  And play often.

I saw that bumper sticker again yesterday.  It said, "Bark less. Wag more."  I like it.


  1. I enjoy so many of the pictures that you post here, but this one of the two beautiful people really moves me! Stunning. This is the first time I have used that term on-line. Ever.

    This is not a statement of absolute Truth, just a personal Truth.

    Thank you.

  2. I think this is my all time favorite Tuck shot.

  3. These are really beautiful people, yet I am trying to figure out what you added to it. I'd be asking myself the same question.

  4. HIrsute, I don't understand your question. What is it that you are trying to say? Do you think this is just a snap shot of two people? Do you not think it was lit? Or that choices were made? What? Do you think I walked down the street and snapped this. What in the world are you asking?

  5. It's Hirsute, damnit, and I really don't know. Or else, I wouldn't be asking myself the same question. Has anyone ever taken a bad photo of Ashley Judd?

    1. I would suggest that this wonderful photo is definitely in Kirk's "style". A very calm, unaffected mood, the subjects are in the moment, minimal ego involvement, if any. No "grimace for the camera, please."

      This atmosphere is "invited" by the photographer. He sets the tone and invites the subjects to just be who they are. Not every photographer can do this. There is a momentary relationship established during that photo session, and during that session, special moments manifest.

      I am being very presumptuous in thinking that I "understand" what goes on in Kirk's studio. This is just my guess, based upon the results and some of Kirk's writings in days past.

      Please keep in mind:

      Language is a pale reflection of the thought.
      Thought is a pale reflection of true understanding.
      True understanding, as wonderful as it is, is a pale reflection of reality.

  6. So beautiful. Both the portrait and the models.

  7. Let me acknowledge that it is just lovely. It makes me want to know how to spell chiarescuro.

  8. thanks for this post; it should really be always called 'the art of portrait', and it is really the same in photography as it used to be in painting - or sculpture.

    it takes real skills, passion, and tons of practice to perfection it.

  9. Your portraits of Amy are haunting, my favourite being the one shown on 3.28.2011... I am sure she is the reason I lurk here so assiduously! ;~)

  10. Wow. Just looked at the 1600-sized version on my monitor for a long time. This has something pencil, something oil and canvas, but no, it's one of Kirk's photos, and almost three-dimensional. Then look at the lights and shadows, that wool and what looks like silk, and finally lose yourself in those eyes - yes, this was done by an artist.

    Only thing where I don't understand the description: the catchlight in their eyes looks much more like an umbrella than like a squarish softbox...


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