Photo courtesy of Cary Wilton, IG: @cairv.

Joyfully practicing portrait photography

Photography wrapped its fingers around my heart strings a little more than two years ago. A half-assed assignment and some cool connections sucker punched a passion into my being.

I thought it was just a hobby, but 12 months later this passion evolved into Media by Lance Lee. That was fast.

As I sift through shoot requests and contemplate how far I want to go with my passion, I can’t help by try and figure out why photography’s punch has hit me so hard.

I want to know why it hurts. I want to know why I’m still sore. I want to know why a fleeting moment of, “Damn, I’m good at this,” didn’t settle at hobby and turned into a part-time career pursuit.

Right now, I can only come up with three reasons. They don’t explain the passion. But they do explain how I’ve changed as a result of the punch.

Photography has changed the way I cultivate professional skill sets, changed the way I connect with individuals, and changed the way I choose tools to create stories.

Photography is about connection, cultivation and creation.

CONNECTION

At Washington State University, two of my three major pursuits are multi-media journalism and public relations. For two and a half years, before ever setting foot in an upper division communication class, I received intense professional experience in a newsroom.

A good portion of that time was spent typing word documents, editing other word documents, and managing people who wrote even more word documents. All of those words were then placed by others in software that designed our newspaper for the day.

Never did I dream of producing the images we copy and paste across platforms.

Working for a newspaper connected me with a staff full of visually talented people. All of these people were videographers, coders, graphic designers and photographers.

Now, photography was always an art form I’ve respected. But up until I connected with photographers, I never fully comprehended the raw abilities possessed by the artist.

Our friendship and mutual respect for each other’s talents led to much of my work time spent having them teach me how to use dozens of industry standard equipment.
Each practice session was spent connecting with colleagues and earning their friendship. Alongside each practice session I connected with their friends and strangers alike.

Weeks into my season of practice I determined how I want to develop friendships and immerse myself in community. I want a circle of individuals brought close to me through photography.

CULTIVATION

Through the various test runs and practice sessions, one thing remained consistent. The conversations trailed off the beaten path of superficial niceties and onto a path of personal inquiry.

We messed up on each other’s names and made a lot of mistakes with our gear. We visited safe locations and explored off limits territories. We found out what made each other laugh and frown. We discovered how far we would go for one another. We learned about each other’s character and the depth of the world we were capturing. We lived both behind and in front of the lens.

If I can get a person to get in front of a camera placed in the hands of a beginner photographer, I can get a person to share things they would never in most other situations.

The personal, the uncomfortable, and the words lost behind their masks becomes visible and audible.

I enjoyed this so much while practicing, I began to spend more time taking pictures of people and less time taking pictures of my surroundings.

The world, while awesome by itself in so many ways, is gorgeous as the backdrop of someone else’s story, too.

Portraits are a bridge into full, intimate relationships with my community.

CREATION

The age-old and tiresome phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words” never resonated with me until I started capturing photos myself.

I spent two and a half wonderful years writing, editing and managing for a newspaper. But photography gave me a fresh avenue to continue accelerating my education at break-neck speeds.

With that education, my mindset that I am only capable of telling phenomenal stories with words was broken. I could now speak volumes with freeze-framed moments of time.
What’s more, those freeze-framed moments involve people both behind and in front of the lens.

I’m pretty sure that’s what excites me most about photography. And, possibly, that might be why it’s sucker punch leaves me so sore.

Through portrait photography I cultivate, connect, and create. The joy I find it is so powerful it hurts.


Originally published at www.mediabylancelee.com on February 10, 2016. Updated on July 14, 2017 for timeliness and accuracy.