Sometimes we ask for something small but receive something greater than we could ever imagine.

`These are moments for which to be thankful and are worth celebrating. As such, I share this not because I want you to think I'm Mr Wonderful, but in recognition of the effort that some exceptional people put into how they live in the world. I think we could all strive to be a little more like them.

The Gift

The best gift I've ever gotten as a photographer was an email I received in response to asking for a simple reference from Victoria. For transparency's sake, she is the twin sister of my wife's friend, whom I know quite well. She lives far from where we do, and when she came to visit her sister, they asked to have a photo session. It was a fun session, and we had quite a good conversation before and afterwards.

It was important to me that I live up to my values of representing someone truthfully, how they might appear if you saw them in person. I do this without the use of photoshop or extensive image editing techniques. Instead, I rely on lighting, poses, and light editing that accentuates our best features, and diminishes our less favourable characteristics.

reality is beautiful

I also believe it is vital to provide people with the safe space they need to express themselves in ways they might not otherwise be able to. Perhaps society thinks they ought to appear and behave in a certain way that is incongruent with who they are as a person. These stifling societal forces can often leave them feeling pressured to conform; unfulfilled, unappreciated, and invisible. If I were to allow this oppressive societal presence in the studio, I would not be true to them or myself.

These values are something they both appreciate as well. So you could say that these women are my ideal clients, and while that added to our rapport, I never expected the gift she would give me. It goes to show the power of asking, I suppose. What follows is her words in Chinese, with the English translation plus clarification on the left. I apologise for the wall of text, and if you make it through to the end I'll give you a wi-five. =D

I never expected that taking a photo would become a conversation with myself.

I'm Victoria. I have an identical twin sister who lives in Zhuhai. Because of my sister's relationship, I have seen some of the [photos] taken by William. I feel that in his pictures, there is a pure and gentle side of the world. The space is full of depth and strength, and the composition is fascinating. As I grow older, I begin to understand and value time and good things. My sister and I wanted to take a unique set of photos, to record our lives and changes. I also hold the idea of trying new things, so [we contacted] William and asked him to help us to create some portraits that we have never taken before. I bought "self-style" photos from other photography studios before and I added my own elements and personality as much as possible. Still, I always felt [the images didn't quite represent me].

I personally believe that photos are [about creating] a timestamp of life and something to be experienced, rather than a one-size-fits-all photo session. [Sometimes people are] left unrecognizable due to excessive [photo manipulation]. 

In the days leading up to the shooting, William asked me to send him my favourite photo styles and some photo preferences. Then, he sent a detailed [preperation] list: including the dress recommendations for the day, the jewellery, the shooting ideas, emotions. As a photographer, he is very willing to listen and communicate patiently. Gosh, he took into account many details I never thought of. This kind of dedication and professionalism moved me and made me look forward to the next day's shooting.

On the shooting day, we met in the studio. [This was the first time we met in person]. We only knew that as a teacher, he had a sunny but serious disposition and [puts principles before profit.]

Probably because this was the first time I'd ever had a photoshoot with a foreigner, I was a little apprehensive. After a few words of introduction, William noticed [how I felt]. He went to the kitchen and made tea with a set of beautiful cups, brought it over, and everyone sat around the table chatting.

There are two cats and one dog at his home - they walk around freely and watch you quietly from the sofa. The cats jumped onto the table and joined our party, which naturally opened the topic. (Mimu is bold and opinionated. Big Man is a shy and curious cat. Lulu has always been docile and friendly.)

The chat with William was light-hearted. He was like an old friend, willing to listen and share, rather than a photographer who wanted to do his job as quickly as possible. This wasn't a cookie-cutter photoshoot for him. He's willing to take note of the customer's ideas.

I consider myself a cheerful and lively person, and I can have a good relationship with or without chat. It was not until the shooting was completed that I realized that proper communication and understanding was necessary for the creation of the portraits I chose. I felt William's distinctive side — his very sincere aura and his ability to build trust quickly.

After that, the shooting process was smooth and pleasant. After taking a few test photos, William tinkered with a bunch of equipment that I didn't know and was not familiar with, and guided me to pose freely. The purpose of my shooting this time is to show the deep, deep part of my "self" that I have been hiding (not me who [always feels she has to seem dignified or warm and lovely]). In the first 20 minutes of shooting, William didn't say much or instruct me to pose. Still, I felt completely his respect and understanding for my choices — a wonderful sense of security I feel so trusting that I was able to appear a little playful and awkward than I have for decades.

William's keen heart and insight made me confident to choose the songs that fit my current mood. Then we changed the background cloth and started a new round of shooting. My "persona" in front of the camera [felt ill at ease, I didn't know how to portray my feelings for the camera]. William, unbiased and full of tolerance, understanding and support (which I could really feel) of and tone of voice, encouraged me to show up. He taught me a lot of beautiful and natural small positions. Combined with a variety of photographic equipment, unique ideas and actions, eventually, my "persona" became natural, and I was able to show my real face comfortably.

It's tough to describe in words how I felt respected and understood during the shoot, and how I was supported to explore myself as much as possible. But it was so, and I think that's the spirit visible in this group of photos. What a wonderful journey of exploration.

万万没有想到,一次拍照会变成与自己对话的过程

我是Victoria,有一个同卵双胞胎的姐姐,常住北京。由于姐姐的关系,看过一些威廉老师拍的风景,觉得他的照片里,有世间纯真温柔的一面,空间充满纵深和力量,构图也很有趣。年岁渐长,开始懂得并且珍惜时光和美好的东西。一直想和姐姐拍一组有特色的照片—-记录自己的生活和变化。抱着尝试新事物的想法,找到威廉老师,请他帮我们拍一组从来没有拍过的肖像照。之前我在其他摄影工作室也拍过“自我风格”的照片,尽可能的加入自己的元素和个性,但总觉得不是真正我的样子。

私以为照片是将人生的时光印记下来,是场经历,而不是空留一张张千篇一律且被过度精修认不出自己的照片。 拍摄前一天,威廉让我把喜欢的照片风格以及自己的拍照喜好发给他,随后,他发了一篇详尽的拍照清单:包括当天的穿着建议,首饰的佩戴,拍摄的想法、情绪以及作为一个外国摄影师,他非常愿意随时耐心的倾听和沟通…等等。天哪,很多我从未想过的细节,他都考虑到了,这种用心和专业,打动了我,让我对第二天的拍摄充满期待。 

拍摄当天,我们在工作室见面,从前和威廉老师接触不多,只知道他是一个阳光、认真、宁肯少挣钱也要坚持原则的老师。大概因为第一次跟外国人拍照片,寒暄几句后,威廉察觉到我的局促,他去厨房用漂亮的杯子泡了茶,端过来,大家围坐在桌子边聊天。家中有两只猫咪和一只汪汪—它们在一旁自在的走来走去,趴沙发上静静的观察你。动物们间或跳上桌子,加入我们的聚会,很自然就打开了话题。(咪咪大胆有主见,Big man 是个害羞又充满好奇心的猫,露露一直很温顺友好。) 

和威廉的聊天轻松愉快,他像一位老友,愿意倾听和分享,而不是一位只想尽快用模式化的拍照方法完成自己工作,不愿意照顾顾客想法的摄影师。自认为自己是一个开朗活泼的人,有没有聊天都能处好关系,直到拍摄完毕,我才明白,恰如其分的沟通和了解对于我选择的静态纯人物像的拍摄,十分必要。我感受到了威廉与众不同的一面--他非常真诚的气场和迅速建立信任的能力。 

之后的拍摄过程轻松愉快,在拍了几张试光的大头照后, 威廉一边鼓捣一堆我不认识也不熟悉的器材,一边轻松自在的引导我随意摆pose。此次我拍摄的目的;就是想要展现我一直以来藏着的、藏的很深很深的那部分“本我”(不是永远或端庄或热情又可爱的微笑的我)。在最初拍摄的20分钟里,威廉并没有说太多的话,也没有过多指导我摆pose,但是,我完完全全感受到他内心对我选择的尊重和理解—这是一种奇妙的安全感,让人信任,让我得以把被深藏几十年的“本我”一点点害羞又别扭的出现在镜头里

威廉有敏锐的心和洞察力,让我选了符合当下自己心情的歌曲循环播放;更换了背景布,开始新一轮的拍摄。我的“本我”在镜头面前躲躲闪闪,别扭极了,自己都知道拍出来不够好看,威廉永远用不带偏见和预判的,充满包容、理解和支持(这真的能够感受到)的心态和口吻,鼓励我把她展现出来;他会教我很多漂亮又自然的小pose,结合各种摄影器材来满足我奇怪、独特的想法和动作,让光线和“本我”自然完美的印在脸上。

真的很难用文字描述如何在拍摄中体会到被尊重和理解以及支持你尽可能去发掘自身的这种感受,但是,真的有;而我认为,这正是拍好一组照片的灵魂所在。当我最终看到多么奇妙的探索之旅啊。



Thank You!

I can honestly say that this was one of the best gifts someone has ever giver me, and while I struggle with negative self talk a lot, I don't feel her words are untrue. So not only does this help my business, it also is helping combat my self doubt. I have a long way to go, but words like this encourage me to grow and see where this can lead.

Thank you again, V.