I start off by asking Hannah to tell me about the first time she felt like she was falling in love. Sweetly enough, she immediately smiles, covers her face, and says “Oh, god! I’m going to blush!”
These are the moments I hang on to.
She starts talking about falling in love.
She smiles. Click. A memory. Click. A first kiss. Click. The first time she felt the butterflies of new love. Click. Holding hands on a Sunday morning. Click. She laughs. Click. A sly smile as she stands at the door looking at the man she loves. Click. Something she never wants to lose. Click.
I have such a deep appreciation for these moments, an appreciation that she shared such an intimate part of her life with me. She wouldn’t let theshoot continue until I told her about my first love. I laughed. I tell my story. We’re connected forever.
To keep the shoot moving, I increase the intimacy of the setting and ask her about her first heartbreak. She shifts a little and draws her knees up to her body. Her mood drops.
An old wound. Click. Two years together. Click. She sighs and lets herself smile. Click. All those nights spent together. Click.
Our series of questions continue.
Tell me about one of your favorite days in your life.
Tell me what inspires you.
Tell me about one of the worst days of your life.
When we left the shoot, we parted as friends. I felt refreshed. I felt happy. I felt connection with another human. When I see these shots, I see myself sitting with a friend, taking photos. No agenda other than to grow to love another person a little more.
The results are something you can’t fake. For so long I’ve been going through the motions, just trying to capture some kind of emotion in my photos without investing myself into the art. For the first time in a long time, I showed up to the shoot. I was present. I connected. And it felt good.
It’s a funny concept when you think about it. It’s something we all crave, it’s something we work to achieve, and as photographers, it’s something we want to show in our work. You want whomever views your work to feel something. You want emotion to come through, you want them to connect with your message, your subject, your work.
Connection isn’t an easy thing to create, and it’s definitely not something you can fake. It’s there or it’s not.
When I started, the shoot inevitably began in one way: me asking one thousand questions.
Where are you from?
What do you like to do?
What are your dreams in life?
Do you like peanut butter & jelly?
Who would win in a fight between a grilled cheese & a taco?
There are a lot of questions I used to use to break the ice. I still do, in fact. These are some of my favorite moments of shooting with a new model. You get to meet people, you get to see what makes their soul dance, and the best part is that you get to photograph it.
Sometimes, though, seeing a person’s soul dance about peanut butter & jelly isn’t what we need to feel fulfilled after a shoot. Sure, that delicious goodness is something you can bond over, but when your session is up, do you think that connection will last?
I shifted my process of shooting recently to a more intimate approach. I preface each session by letting my subject/couple know that if they feel uncomfortable about answering any question, they don’t have to, but for the sake of the shoot, I ask that they consider each question I ask. And this works with any of my subjects. If I am shooting a couple, I have them answer the questions to each other…
Tell me about the first time you ever fell in love?
The first time you saw her?
The moment you knew he was the one?
Tell him about a time you were incredibly proud of him.
What inspires you the most?
It’s one of those things if you take a bigger risk, you get something better.