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 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.
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。）
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.