Sometimes it helps to know the people you photograph...sometimes it ruins it all across the board. Sometimes it is best to only know someone for the brief exchange of the photograph...the five minutes, the thirty minutes, whatever it may be. It allows you to engage with the visuals, make quick decisions, jump to conclusions, put together the pieces and exit with a competant photograph. Sometimes a great one. Well, not really a great one, but one that you think is great for a day or so.
I really can't make a good photograph of my wife Cheri. The relationship is too complex, it is too layered, and the picture making process creates some type of inequality that just doesn't pave the way to a great photograph. I suspect I start directing things and she just doesn't like to be my beta...being told what to do by me...even for the duration of the shoot. My parents, it's a similar situation: the relationship has gone on too long, it's meant too many things, and it just can't be summed up in a shot. Friends are different. TB has had me shoot him and his family for various interviews and I've kind of liked the shots I got each time. SZ and I have shot each other tons of times and have got some interesting stuff that we always seemed to have learned from.
But really there is nothing that seems to bring out the best in a person than having a kid set up a Hassleblad on a tripod and begin directing the portrait. Amidst all of the shooting of the Echolilia project Eli has embraced the Hassleblad 501c, uses it with a Poloroid back and then switches to film for the shot. The succession of rituals is second nature, he never misses a turn of a crank or the insertion of a dark slide. No one in this family cares about the technical stuff. He is the photographer who can make my wife look GREAT and my parents look just wonderful. Above he sees us as this easy breezy happy no stress couple in our sunny home. The body language on Cheri is just what I'd want in the shot. He makes me look at peace with life.
Then above he gets on the Echolilia chanel for a shot we were doing together with the previously seen broken gumball machine. He shot me, I shot him, we messed around and the shot evolved in all ways. I think I like his best...we'll see when the film comes back.
Elijah Archibald with Hassy 501 c, 7/09