Stories, Musings & The Vision Thing

Tag: childhood

Inti’s Images

Inti St. Clair’s images capture an emotional resonance that seems to vibrate from the very core of her subjects.  While working as a commercial photographer she decided to take on an assignment of her own – photographing two beautiful little girls as she spent a day with them, documenting their time together.

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all photographs copyright by Inti St. Clair

The result is a striking portfolio of work she calls The Sweet Life of Sisters. If you go to her site you’ll find other work that is equally wonderful, but I’d like to share a few of the sisters images because they are so filled with light.

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We often see childhood as blessed with innocence – and while there are plenty of difficult moments that can shadow a child’s days – their stalwart companions are pretend and play. Within those little moments of discovery are snatches of delight that are hard to recapture as adults. Children of a certain age are very Zen like in their approach to life’s wonders – totally in the moment and absorbed by whatever they are experiencing.

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Be Here Now was a very popular book back when Americans were re-discovering those Zen traits of meditation and mindfulness. Young children find it easy “be here now” – it’s the essence of play and that’s captured in Inti’s images  – a playful openness.

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Inti St. Clair, from her site

 

“I worked with two sisters, Naiya and Anandi, from the moment they woke up until they went to sleep that night. It being a late summer day in the Northwest made for an incredibly packed, intensely fun and utterly exhausting 15-hour shoot. Any day I’m taking pictures is wonderful for me, but this day was pure magic.”

 

The magic is clearly there, so much so that Inti St. Clair was recently named one of the American Society of Media Photographers Best of 2013.  There’s a great interview on the ASMP  site and her quotes come from there. So, what makes her work special?

625578_10151780242158121_707567041_aI feel one of my biggest strengths is my unbridled enthusiasm while photographing. It’s truly my “happy place”, and you’ll find me laughing all through a shoot. I love collaborating to get the right shot, as much as I enjoy capturing the random, unexpected moments. I feel as if my passion and energy is infectious, and this is reflected both in how much fun everyone has on set, and comes across in my imagery as well.

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You can see that Inti’s really connected with the sisters, too. In some of the images where they gaze into the camera, it feels like they’re looking right at us, but of course they are looking right at Inti – and there’s a lot of affection that comes across. I think that’s what makes the work so riveting – there’s so much energy and emotion.

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Of course, kids are photogenic and that lowers the odds of getting an interesting image, just by being in the right place at the right time. But Inti is a person with her own sense of joy and that beams right back at her in some of the moments she’s captured.

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My intention with this shoot was to give as little direction as possible; really just capture them as they were naturally throughout the day… Of course there’s magic in just capturing things as they naturally unfolded; and I believe that translates to an emotional intimacy in many of the images that wouldn’t have been there had I been directing them the whole time. 

 

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Her work feels very authentic. She claims the images weren’t posed, so we’ll take her word for that, they feel very true-to-life. But Inti was certainly there sharing their space and while the sisters know she’s there, after a while Inti was able to just blend into the moments, becoming fairly invisible. So the work allows us to feel we are there too – and we can just experience the sisters being children in all their exuberance and flights of fancy.

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I arrived the night before, and spent the night so I could start shooting first thing in the morning, so we did have dinner together and hung out that night, but otherwise I didn’t prepare at all. I really let them run the show; so wherever they happened to be was where I was shooting, and I just dealt with the lighting situations on the fly.

Inti has a great eye for composition, yes, but also a keen sense of light and how it plays in space. And speaking of space, look at how the background is working for her subject. Her work has a wonderfully natural but uncluttered feeling, as if a virtual art director went into each space to remove the cornucopia of debris that usually hovers around just behind our focus of attention. Her backgrounds are fairly sparse and don’t get in the way. Look at how one of the sisters is positioned in the photo below. The framing, angle and background work together beautifully – while the overall effect feels so natural and intimate. It’s a great reminder that an image has foreground and background and they have to work together to create a special moment.

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Inti shot 3000 images to arrive at a few hundred “finals.” Editing is so much a part of the creative process you have to say “no” to so many of your little darlings. There’s always so much left on the cutting room floor. So how did the girls respond to the experience?

They were definitely curious, and I showed them images throughout the day, which they loved. I generally do share images with models and clients throughout a shoot because I feel like it gives them a sense of confidence that they look good, and it builds enthusiasm and allows for them to relax and be more natural.

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Inti’s interview at the ASMP site  is full of information about her approach to photography and her image making. For me, when I experience her work I see all that enthusiasm and excitement about being alive reflected in her photographs.  It was such a joy discovering it. And as Thanksgiving is so closeby, seeing all the light that emanates from these images reminds me I have a lot to be thankful for.

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So, let me know what you think and if you find her work as joyful as I do.  The last word goes to Inti St. Clair:

I feel like my images are absolutely a reflection of my personality. I am happy, goofy, and full of passion and positive energy. The truth is I’m never happier than I am when I’m taking pictures! I think that can be infectious on shoots, which I think in turn is reflected in my imagery.

Search for Connection: A Father’s Story

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Self portrait. All photos by Reathel Geary

Photographer Reathel Geary is on a search for connection with his autistic son, Griffin. With the obvious paths to a close relationship blocked by the autism, Griffin is physically present but emotionally hidden.

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Reathel is using his photography to try to capture a sense of those internal moments – even as the essence of the boy inside seems so intangible. With an observer’s eye, he can see the person that autism keeps locked inside its walls.

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As a photographer, how do you capture something that you can only feel, not see? How do you photograph what’s so internal, it’s as tenuous as vapor… as fleeting as memory?

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I find Reathel’s work wistful and haunting but also filled with a father’s love for his son. There is a lot of emotion in his work and you can sense some of what Griffin is feeling, in his own search for connection.

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Reathel describes the experience of creating this photo collection he calls Waiting for Griffin.

Autism is a separation of experience, where one is unable to participate fully in our shared reality. My son Griffin is autistic. Much of our experience is fraught with difficulty punctuated by moments of intense emotion.

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In these photographs I share what I see as a father of a little boy struggling with autism. These photographs are sometimes beautiful, often difficult and always true. Not only to the moment, but also to my hopes and fears for the future.

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Each photograph is printed as a photogravure, a process that requires a high degree of physical manipulation. Each time I wipe the plate to remove the excess ink, I do so with a father’s hand.

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As I work the plate, my son is revealed to me anew, beautiful and frightening in all his future possibilities. I see him for who he truly could be and I find myself waiting for Griffin.

sqspace7 His photos also give you the sense that Griffin is waiting too. Waiting to find peace, to find a way to make sense of the world. Reathel has found a way through his abstract images of Griffin to show something of his son’s struggle as well as his own.

6036538839_6c659dbf77_sMy journey as an artist started as an escape from the stress of parenting an autistic child…  In time I started photographing my son. Now I use my camera to engage, not evade life.

I can’t say I know a lot about autism, but would like to talk a little more about Reathel’s images. Most of his work is not as distinct as the silhouette above – his photographs tend to be soft focus or hazy or a different kind of abstraction. But in the image above, the body language says so much. You can feel a sense of exhaustion, as if the weight of the world is on the little boy’s shoulders. There is also a deep feeling of separation – Reathel is using framing to separate Griffin from the rest of the world and exposure to separate him from us.

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According to Reathel’s statement above, all of his work is real and not posed. There is a kind of watchful waiting one would have to go through to capture these little reflective moments. In that, there’s a close connection to the street photographers I wrote about in my previous posts on street style and the decisive moment. It’s about finding that instant when something larger is revealed, when you can find that facial expression, gesture or body language that reveals something deeper about the person caught in the lens.

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This image is so evocative of Griffin’s autistic journey. The soft focus and grainy image make the photograph dreamlike and surreal as Griffin follows the white broken lines off to who knows where. This image seems to encapsulate all of Reathel’s fears for the future. And still, there is a quiet sense of watchfulness here too. You feel that someone is there in the background, tracking his son’s progress.  Griffin’s body language shows he’s totally relaxed… maybe a little curious… moving forward.  Yes, the picture is moody, but there’s something very recognizable there too. When I first gazed at it, I found myself smiling as I saw a curious child wondering what lays ahead. Then I realized he was carefully tracking the lines – that’s when I saw autism’s influence.

(14)with mama I find this image of Griffin and his mom very touching, especially after viewing all the other images of a boy so isolated and unhappy. There’s a peacefulness and sense of “normalcy” and it’s a relief to see the connection between two. Even though they both seem to be lost in their own worlds, they’re still together, holding hands at the beach. It’s the most hopeful image in the collection.

I find his work both moving and inspiring because Reathel has turned the challenge of parenting an autistic child into art. He’s captured Griffin’s spirt and his own connection to his son. I feel the work respects his son and treats him with a gentleness and love that’s very touching.

If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend Mark Haddon’s fictional portrayal of an autistic child’s effort to make sense of the world, The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-time. 

What do you think? Do you like Reathel’s work? What do you see there?  Let me know.