His Guitar Gently Weeps

I have always thought that to be a great portrait photographer, you need create a rapport with the person to be photographed. That’s one reason why I include, in my preparations with my clients, a pre-session consultation here in my studio. This 30-minute time together, away from the client’s distractions of the day, gives me an opportunity to learn a little about them, their interests, their family, their passions, their lives.

I especially enjoy this time with my high school senior portrait clients because from them I hear about what they are doing at school, the classes they are taking, the activities they enjoy, the plans they have after they graduate and the dreams they hope to pursue.  This time allows me to become better acquainted with them and gives me a sense of their personality so as to help me to plan how to best photograph them. When you have only an hour, as I allow, in a senior session, you need to establish common ground and quickly be able to grasp the essence of their complex personality. Every one of them has a truly unique personality and that’s what I set out to capture when I work.

Marcus' eyes sparkled when we worked together during his senior portrait session.  I think he had as much fun that day as I did.
I tend to get pretty attached to the high school seniors I photograph, Marcus was no exception. His handsome dark eyes sparkled when we worked together during his senior portrait session. I think he had as much fun that day as I did.

As a journalist for TIME Magazine, I was very good at personal interviews. I knew how to ask questions to get the information I needed.  Of course, while this expertise is useful, I don’t use it in the same way in my studio consultations. My goal with my clients is to put them at ease with me as well as to learn about their life so that when they do step in front of my camera, we are working together in a way that ultimately produces the kind of results my clients have come to expect.

Consequently, I get pretty attached and close to the people with whom I work. This is true particularly with my high school seniors. Perhaps it’s because I listen carefully to what they tell me or because when photographing someone professionally, as I do,  I create a mutual trust in order for the person to comfortably reveal themselves to me.

I enjoy keeping up with the seniors even after they graduate. Sometimes I’ll bump into them at an event or somewhere they work and we’ll chat about what they’ve been doing. Sometimes I’ll hear from them on Facebook.  And sometimes they’ll drop by the studio if they are in town and in my area just to say ‘Hello.’ That’s the kind of relationship I pride myself and that I enjoy with my clients.

Marcus loved music and brought his blue guitar with him to his senior portrait session in Whatcom Falls Park
Marcus loved music and brought his blue guitar with him to his senior portrait session in Whatcom Falls Park

So when I received a phone call the other day from the father of one former senior client, telling me that his son, Marcus, had unexpectedly and tragically passed away, it hit hard. I saw Marcus several times after his graduation, mostly when  working at a local restaurant. I remember how much fun he was during his photo session. He chose Whatcom Falls Park as the location for his session because that’s where he spent a lot of his free time. When I learned during his consultation that he loved music, I asked him to bring his guitar too. It turned out to be a blue acoustic guitar that matched the blue plaid flannel shirt he wore that day.

His sisters, mother and father were also present on that day. The older of the two sisters had a great way of getting him to smile, although I don’t think it took much to squeak a smile from Marcus.  He also had this great little twinkle in his eyes that I feel I captured in his portrait. I can see why so he touched the lives of so many. He was personable, sincere and seemed to have a genuine concern for those around him. In fact, I read in his obituary, that he had just decided to study photojournalism at Western Washington University in order to expose the injustices he had seen in the places in the world he had visited. I’m sure he would have been a good one.

The park was a favorite place for Marcus to hang out and walk his dog so it was a natural location for his senior portrait.
The park was a favorite place for Marcus to hang out and walk his dog so it was a natural location for his senior portrait.

My heart goes out to Marcus’ family. I am honored to have been the photographer they chose to create his senior portrait. I’m happy that they have those photos, taken at a much happier time, to keep with them now. I hope they will help them through this tough time and bring them a smile or two, just as Marcus did to others in the 21 short years of his life.

You can read more about Marcus’s life by clicking on the link below and you can see more images of Marcus from his senior session on the Portfolio page of my blog.

Thanks for the wonderful memories, Marcus!




Author! Author!

It’s not everyday that someone I know publishes a book although I must admit, being a writer myself and having many friends and colleagues who are professional writers,  I do know several published authors.   Lately,  a few of those I know have new works out there so thought I’d call your attention to some of them.

First off, I must congratulate my own brother, Richard, for his first published book.  He’s been working on it off  and on for the past three years and finally completed it earlier this summer.  It’s just now available.  Richard is an ordained minister and Biblical scholar who has served as a college campus minister, taught college and seminary classes in addition to having been a full-time church pastor.  He currently lives in my hometown where he and his wife, Nola are of infinite help to my parents and where he works on his books.

I took Richard book jacket portrait this summer while visiting my family at home.

His book:  “Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce” is published by WestBow Press and is a daily devotional for individuals working through the emotions and difficulties of divorce.  This first volume, Autumn and Winter, deals with the early days of divorce, when so much of life is falling apart, becoming so difficult and uncertain.  As Richard says:  “The book helps readers learn how to cope and to see that they are not alone, that God does care, and that the struggles have been faced by others as well.”

The idea for the book came after his 1998 divorce, when opportunities for his ministering to divorcing individuals opened.  His has a keen awareness of the devastating impact divorce has on couples, children, and extended family .  His own struggles and experiences in ministry bring personal impact to these pages.

At a recent regional gathering of churches of his denomination, one minister who purchased a copy told Richard that he intends to use it as a discussion guide for his local ministers’ group, simply to help them understand better what parishioners getting divorced are experiencing, and how to better address their needs.

If you, or someone you know,  is divorced or in the process of divorcing, consider having a look at Richard’s book.  He also now has a blog that you
can follow with additional insights and words of encouragement for those experiencing this very emotional time.You can find the book on-line at: http://bookstore.westbowpress.com/Products/SKU-000593738/Finding-God-in-the-Seasons-of-Divorce.aspx or follow Richard on his blog at:  http://findinggodintheseasonsofdivorce.blogspot.com/2012/10/concerned-and-caring.html.  He’s also created a Facebook page for the book under its title.

I’m very proud of his accomplishment!

I’ll be featuring yet another new work written by colleague and client Nancy Keene, in an upcoming blog post so please, keep following!



In tribute to my uncle, Gilbert ‘Jiggs’ Crooks, August 1, 1911-August 21, 2012.

I made this portrait of my uncle, my cousin and his son during a visit to my family in Kansas last autumn. It will be a lasting memory of the joy he brought to all of us.

Love Connects Us

Part of the work of the Interfaith Coalition of Bellingham is keeping together families who are experiencing economic hardships with counseling, temporary housing and support services to help them get back on their own feet.

The Interfaith Coalition of Bellingham launched its capital campaign to build more temporary housing for Whatcom County families in economic crisis with a special presentation this evening
I was asked to make photographs for the campaign’s posters, brochures and presentation and was delighted and honored to do so.
The Coalition, which began in 1981, now has 47 congregations, of diverse faiths, represented in its partnerships.  You can learn more about the work of this coalition and its upcoming capital campaign here:  http://www.interfaith-coalition.org/index.php