Life is like a rocket. Only the pictures show us the parts we forgot or glossed over on our way to somewhere else.

Kirk And Belinda 1988.

Somewhere in the mid 1980's I just gave up and kept the gray seamless background paper permanently set up in my studio. It seemed like every day there was someone I knew who I wanted to photograph. Part of it was my enthusiasm for making portraits but I'm convinced that an equal part had to do with the fact that we were so much younger and nearly all of our circle of friends and acquaintances were young and beautiful and living with health and vigor. Every image was a "best case" scenario of what it meant to be alive and affluent in the bosom of youth culture.

Now (with the exception of Belinda and my swimming, running, triathlon-ing, marathoning, competitive biking friends) everyone around us has grown older and larger. Entropy is circling over us like Texas Buzzards over roadkill. When I put my friends in front of a camera I see that one eye droops more than the other, that the bags under those eyes are more obvious and less fashonable than those of Louis Vuitton; that, through some quirk of human construction chins have become more plentiful and, that everyone seems to occupy more and more of the frame...

C'est la vie. I'm certain that twenty years from now the portraits I'm making of my friends right now will seem filled with sprightly and agile people....by comparison. I imagine that I'll cherish my own image at 57 far more than I'll look forward to seeing how I fare at 87.

I'm re-committing myself to an ongoing documentation of everyone around me. I'm bringing them into the solemn confines of the studio and aiming lights at them and I'm documenting the war wounds of everyday travail as well as the hard won trophies of accomplishment that shine in their eyes. I'm discovering a new topology that's more interesting than hard abs and air brushed complexions. I'm discovering real people with real stories. And they've done their "time in the water." They are now full fledged sharks. Who knew that raw experience could be so intoxicating?

This is a project I can do for the rest of my life.


  1. Oh wow - 25 years, and what a handsome and cute couple you were! But you're right about Belinda, and it's also interesting to see that even 25 years ago, you had practically the same lighting preferences that you still have now. Maybe not as perfect as it is now, but interesting.

    By the way, this documenting of our lives, that's my project as well. Plus of some things around which might be shot today, and gone tomorrow. Even if it's "only" the portrait of that cat who decided that we should be her feeders (and family?). For us, she's your studio dog ;-)

    I have Salgado's "Genesis" on order. That was quite a project as well... nothing better than a photo which reminds us of the beauty of it all.

    Thanks for sharing yours.

  2. By the way - still some of my favourite photos taken by you:

    - the second one in http://visualsciencelab.blogspot.de/2011/02/street-shooting-with-abandon-joy-of.html and
    - both story and all of your photos in http://visualsciencelab.blogspot.de/2011/08/saying-hello-to-strangers-in-public.html

    Keep up that good work of yours, and enjoy your new-found project!

  3. OMG it's wonderful. You're right about Belinda, she hasn't changed ONE bit, and it's wonderful to see your younger self. It's a gorgeous portrait, one of the favorites I ever saw from you, and that says a LOT.
    Thanks for sharing, it's just, just beautiful.


  4. Those portraits are a priceless treasure.
    That's any photographer's duty to make such a documentation. Who would otherwise ?

  5. Really enjoy your portraits, but it is the writing that grabs and illuminates. "Life is like a rocket." is so true.

    Your comments hit a respondent chord, and also a nerve. I am encouraged to spend more time and effort in the labor of love that is recording the people in my life who are dear to me. The exposed nerve is the fact that future memories have been lost because I was too preoccupied with relatively trivial matters to record the really important events and people that were right in front of me. But that is water under the bridge, a mistake not to be repeated thanks to your reminder.

    Really enjoyed the early portrait of you and Belinda. My wife and I had a snapshot taken nearly 40 years ago with the exact same pose. She was pretty then. Now she is beautiful. I have less hair and more body mass, but she loves me just the same. What great memories. What great prospects for our future together.

    Please continue to write whatever your want whenever you want.

  6. 1988. Wait a minute -- wasn't that just a couple of years ago? Hmmm. How'd that happen?

  7. When I took up photography 'seriously' about 6 or so years ago, I made it a point to get candid shots of my family, and especially my grandparents. These were not the well light, smooth studio portraits that they had relied upon for the last decade or two, but current photographs that captured them as they were when I had them over for dinner, or visited them in their tiny apartment. They reflect the people I knew, not the more youthful avatars that sat in their children's picture frames. Droopy eyes, wispy hair, wrinkles, spots, smiles and pensive looks.

    And now, most of them have passed on. I'm the youngest in my generation, and these photos are all I'll have to share with the children I may have. But at least now I have something that shows these people as I knew them. I think there's a connection in that - recording people as they are and not as they were. Even if we prefer more youthful representations of ourselves as time goes one, those that know (and love) us probably identify more with portraits of who we are today.

    Well, that's my take on why I'm on board with photographing those around me, regardless of beauty, age, etc.

    Sorry for the scrambled thoughts, but I thought I'd try and squeeze my comment in before starting work.

  8. This resonates strongly and loudly with me. This past weekend put me into two situations that match this story and message very closely.

    On Saturday, I attended one of my best friend's mother's funeral. My friend's brothers' families all flew in from around the country. They are rarely all together. My friend asked if I could take a family photo of them all, and I did not hesitate to do so. Death had brought them all together, yet this somehow helped turn it into a celebration of life.

    On Sunday, my wife and I went to her family's annual family reunion. At last year's event, I was "volunteered" to take group photos at this year's event. It was indoors, under fluorescent lights, and I stressed about this for weeks ahead of time. In the end, my 5 Speedlites were just enough to overpower the fluorescent lights. The largest group had 28 people in it. The last group photo had only 6 people in it. All 6 were sitting down. All 6 got to their chairs under their own power. All 6 were over the age of 90. I am sure that they little great-grandchildren will never remember their great-grandparent, but they will have a photo of themselves together.

    I couldn't think of a better gift for me to give to both of these groups. I feel very good for using what skills and equipment that I do have to capture priceless family memories like that.

  9. Hey, Kirk, you got kind of a Will Ferrell thing happening there.

  10. Twenty years from now the photos of family and friends will mean so much more than that fine art photo that you were so proud of. I emphasis to my grown children that cell phone pictures are great but where will they be in 20 years. We may have a whole generation that have no pictures of their youth. If I have any one regret from my photography that I did not take more (and better) pictures of the family and friends.

  11. Wonderful portrait. If we did nothing else with our cameras other than point them at our loved ones...well, really, what else is there that matters?

  12. No, Kirk looks like Tom Selleck here! (Magnum PI) Excellent portrait work as always.


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