Why do I do what I do? Well it is more a question of: Why did I ultimately choose to pursue portrait photography?
I remember the first time I realized the bug of photography had bitten me. It was a clear morning, the air was fresh, the horizon was aglow, and waves brushed upon the shore below. It was the spring of 1996 along the coast in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
I stood upon the balcony of our seaside hotel. I can’t remember if the other members of our high school band and orchestra had yet risen, but I was up. I had my top-of-the-line Kodak disposable camera and I pointed it out over the railing to capture the sunrise. A boring picture by most standards, but it caught my eye.
Later, when I had it developed, it caught my eye again and I decided I wanted to enlarge it. Unfortunately, the negative had fallen out of its pocket and had been shifting around the glove box of my 1965 Mustang for months before I finally got the chance to do so. But I took it to K-mart all the same.
Some days later, my order was in and I displayed it proudly on my bedroom wall, scratches and all. I cringe to think of letting a negative go unprotected in a dusty, gritty compartment nowadays, but that is another blog.
Over the next three years, the interest never faded and, in the fall of 1999, at Murray State, I began formal training in how to use a single lens reflex cameras.
Despite my initial interest in the sunrise picture, my interests in class shied away from landscape work and went more to still life with only the occasional human model. Of course, between my photography and journalism classes, I also learned how to capture the people moments that count for the front page. So, upon graduation, I put this to use at the Mason Valley News in Nevada.
But, like with any profession, you soon find that doing your job comes with a downside. With mine, I found most people do not like their picture taken on the fly. Unless it is the tried and true grip-n-grin or line-up photo, most people tried to avoid the lens.
I can’t count the number of times I was aiming to get the great picture (which usually required at least some people in the shot) only to have them see the camera at the last second and dive away, as if avoiding a furious bee. What made things worse was the fact I was both writer and photographer simultaneously, so capturing a “gotcha” moment (artsy or otherwise) while they were distracted by the reporter was not an option. The best way I found was to act like I was fiddling with the camera for a minute and then quickly taking aim. Even then, it was hit and miss.
So, this brings me to my current endeavor. I realized up front, like so many photographers do, that you have to have be submerged within a certain market and often live within certain areas to be able to sustain yourself strictly as an art photographer. While I still want to do this, and still will in spare time (look for some Abanathy Photography calendars in the near future), I realized I would need to round out my photographic repertoire with portrait photography. For that, I’m in luck! It just so happens I love taking pictures of happy people and people who want their picture taken. And people who come to you for portrait work typically fit both descriptions.
That is why I am thoroughly looking forward to the summer months. I’m looking forward to the senior portraits, the engagement portraits, the wedding sessions, and family shots. These are people at their best. People who smile. People who are happy. People who don’t mind posing for the camera. That energy brightens my world and, in turn allows me to further brighten theirs.
So, there you have it: That is why I do what I do!