I photographed this young soldier as part of my Home Town Heroes salute to returning soldiers from Iraq. He was serving as a cook in the Army, and plans to become a chef and open his own restaurant after his military service.
The photograph was taken in his mother’s kitchen. I remember it was a really small space, so I was wedged at a corner to make the shot. It wasn’t hard to get great expressions from my subject because he kept laughing at all the gymnastics I had to go through to get the camera positioned where I wanted it and then be able to see through it.
Portraits like these, taken on location where the subject is surrounded by his/her life’s achievements are way cool. While a portrait taken in the confines of a studio show off the photographer’s technical acumen, a portrait such as this, allows photographers to capture the subject’s life story. Both set-up has their own advantages and disadvantages. Photographers must be able to determine which one will best serve their client.
For tons of years, Joe Baldwin and Gerald Collier owned and operated Palm Court Restaurant. It was by far the finest restaurant in Brownsville, Texas. And even after being closed for many years upon Joe and Gerald’s retirement, it has never been equaled.
I loved taking clients there. They made you feel like you were the only one there. It was always a great experience. If only more businesses were like Palm Court, they would have no trouble getting clients and making sales.
I had wanted to photograph these two restaurateurs for years. It took me quite a while to work up the courage to ask them if they would sit for a portrait. They graciously agreed so one day after they had closed and everything was put back ship shape, I showed up with two assistants and a ton of gear.
I really wanted to go all out for this portrait. They were quite surprised with all the elaborate equipment and how long the preparation took. I remember being surprised by Joe’s comment that he thought photography was just coming in with a camera and making a few snaps.
I used a Sinar P2, 4X5 view camera and Tmax 100 film. We had two power paks running 6 light heads strategically placed around the restaurant. I wanted to pack some drama in the shot but also retain the look and feel of the natural lighting.
When I presented them with a perfectly printed beautifully framed 16X20 portrait they were really blown away. It hung in their restaurant right up until they retired.
I really love surprising people I deeply like and respect with gift portraits. I get as much joy out of their reaction to receiving the gift as they do receiving it. It also gives me the opportunity to take on a new challenge and broaden my portfolio.
I took this photograph while we were all together to celebrate his sister’s (my aunt’s) 105 birthday. I noticed this rather pensive and somewhat melancholy expression on his face, so I grabbed the shot. I wonder what was going through his mind, perhaps he was thinking of all those years ago when he and his brothers and sisters were kids at home and some of the hijinks they did. I don’t think he knew I took it. As it turned out the way he was sitting against the window provided the perfect light.
I can’t believe I didn’t get a shot of my aunt or of the two of them together. Well, I always find it extremely hard photographing family and close friends. I don’t really know why. If anyone else is in that position I’d like to hear from you.
Anyway, I always found my dad to be somewhat of a superman. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do and I have missed him dearly. I wish everyone could have the relationship with their mom and dad like I had with mine. I bet the world would be a much better place.
Several years ago Brownsville, made a bid to become the national training site for a lot of our young people with Olympic hopes.
At the time I owned a regional sized ad agency and we got the bid to conceive and execute the advertising campaign that was hoped to win the bid for the city.
We had several gold medal contenders flown in to use in the campaign. Landry was hoping to win the gold in the heavy weight division for Judo. He was a real gentleman, what a class. We worked together for about an hour making several photographs that we thought would work for the campaign. This one turned out to be the winner.
I never heard from Landry again. So I don’t know what happened in his life. But, he really deserved the best.
Nancy Schlight taught sculpting at the University of Texas. She also had a studio in Mexico where she worked and conducted workshops in the summer.
One year, I had taken on a self project of photographing all the artists in the Rio Grande Valley who were of a national caliber. I asked Nancy if she would allow me to photograph her in her Brownsville studio. She is quite private, so I had to ask several times before a got her to agree.
This photo was taken just a couple of years before she retired from teaching. She now devotes all her time to her art. She also closed her Brownsville Studio and is now living and working in Mexico.
This is Lisa with the unpronounceable last name. She came in to the studio and wanted to do some portraits that portrayed here lifestyle and personality.
She related that she was really into surfing. I asked where she surfed, because there aren’t any waves around here suitable for surfing. She said she and her husband would travel a lot every summer to different surfing meccas around the US.
So to try and pull off something even resembling surfing I photographed her with her surfboard in the studio then composites her into a photograph of the Jetties with the Gulf of Mexico and South Padre Resort Island in the background.
I think it turned out extremely realistic. The keys here are getting the color of Lisa to match the color of the outdoor scene, and to have her shadow fall correctly.
This is me going through my gritty editorial stage. For a while I wanted to photograph people in story situations that really had nothing to do with who they were or what they were about.
This young lady volunteered to spend a couple of hours with me as we went around Brownsville looking for rough looking backstreets, alleys, and vacant lots. The idea was to portray her as a hooker on the lookout for her next “client.” This concept couldn’t have been further from her life — an insurance salesperson and all around lady.
Any way, after doing a few of these types of sessions I came to my senses and figured out that style of photography was not for me.