In my universe this is about as big as it gets. For the past couple of years I have been working towards mastering my craft and earning accreditation through the Portrait Masters awards program, started by my mentor Sue Bryce. Her education platform is second to none, and I’ve grown so much – technically as a photographer, and personally through embracing self-love, confidence and courage to face my self-perceived faults and embrace my creativity. To rise above my physical and mental challenges and not only become my best self but to inspire and empower others through my craft.
During the most recent accreditation and awards I have received numerous bronze, a silver and that one thing I never dreamed I could achieve at this point in my career…a gold merit. Not only did I win the pet portrait category, but my image of Gus the Goldfish was awarded one of the only 6 gold merits ever awarded from the panel of international judges in the history of this accreditation and awards program. Being a category winner is rewarding in itself, but meriting gold with this image is so special for a few reasons.
Why should photographers enter awards and competitions?
Why do photography awards matter? That is a question I have contemplated over the past few years. For me, entering photography competitions is an opportunity to have my images seen across the industry and within the photography community as well as featured in press and online. Entering competitions allows me to really engage myself in the creative process and push my limits with both creativity and technique. Some photography competitions offer cash prizes or gear to winners, which is always nice, but what I benefit most from is receiving valuable feedback about my submitted images that I can learn from and improve my craft.
Port Hope Photographer wins honorable mentions in the 2018 International Monochrome Awards
As my photography journey continues I have set a goal to enter International Photography Awards. By participating in these competitions a photographer gains international exposure and recognition among their peers and within the photography industry. It is also an opportunity to gauge where I am among my peers and assess how I am progressing in my goal to master my craft.
Recently I entered four images into the 2018 Monocrhrome Awards and was delighted to learn that three of my entries placed with honorable mentions in the professional categories of Portrait, Fine Art, and Photomanipulation.
Monochrome Photography Awards conducts an annual international competition for professional and amateur photographers honoring black and white photography. Their mission is to celebrate monochrome visions and discover the most amazing photographers from around the world.
Just One Photo: An authentic portrait session for every woman
Early one morning in late December I received a phone call from Jennifer. She was turning 41 and wished to be photographed on that very same day. It was last minute and unplanned but I could tell just from the urgency and conviction in her voice that it was very, very important to her. After moving a few things around in my schedule I was able to fit her in…”Just one photograph”, she said. “I just need one photograph of ME, on THIS day”.
Typically, my portrait and headshot sessions begin with a consultation to carefully plan and style the perfect photography experience for each client. But my heart told me Jennifer needed something different. No makeup. No hair styling. No wardrobe. Just Jennifer.
Through the course of our hour session we talked. About life. About death. About the highs and lows we all face on our journey. We all have our own unique paths, yet underneath it all we all have commonalities that tie us together through our humanity. Our fears. What brings us joy. Our regrets, challenges and our hopes for the future.
Together Jennifer and I explored what she was feeling on this day, her 41st birthday. We laughed and cried together while creating the most perfectly imperfect portraits of her. Stretch marks, wrinkles, scars, laugh lines and all.
In the end we captured much more than “just one photograph”. In addition to a collection of portraits that Jennifer will treasure forever we captured her humanity. Her beautiful soul. And these prints will become part of her legacy to be passed down, along with her story, through generations to come.
I believe EVERY woman should have the experience of a portrait session that captures her authentic self.
Here is what Jennifer wrote about her experience:
“I had been discharged from the hospital a day before these pictures were taken of me. Attempting to heal from multiple infections, I was physically and mentally exhausted. I often take pride in being fit, perhaps taking my health for granted, but after multiple trips to and from the hospital with each one not resulting in recovery, I found the whole experience to be a humbling one. Culminating weeks of stress from work, school, and at home, my body finally gave out on me. I went from running 15 to 20 kilometers daily to struggling trying to get out of bed. Reflecting on 2018 that morning, I realized I wanted to document how fourty-one years looked on me. I was in a vulnerable place, but also recognized that if I could make it through, I would experience brighter moments ahead. I am after all a fighter. I have survived and am still surviving severe depression and crippling anxiety as a result of trying to cope with the loss of our first child and more recently, the possibility of losing our youngest. Yet I am still alive and functioning. I wanted to document this pain and vulnerability I had endured and been enduring through photographs, as a reminder for me – that I have faced some very dark chapters in my life, lived through them and I can do it again. Because for every dark moment that makes me pause to reflect if I can continue to endure the pain, there has been, so far wonderful moments that follow reminding me life is worth living. That I am loved, and that I have strength, and that I am still capable of fighting for something meaningful. My life like many others, I imagine, has not been without its challenges. And I don’t necessarily want it to be. It is colourful because of everything I`ve been so blessed to have experienced. In my fourty-one years, I’ve lived in an orphanage, had wealth and disparity, been adopted and disowned, traveled, endured physical and mental pain, survived abusive relationships, and also embraced in loving relationships. I’ve met individuals that I fear, hated, respect, admired, Love and worshipped. I have let myself be vulnerable and deeply hurt, but also learned valuable lessons from it – Like who deserves my passion and heart, and who doesn’t. I’ve been faced with ethical conundrums and am still working through them hoping to one day rejoin my son in heaven instead of looking up from a much less desirable place. Over all, I don’t have regrets. I lived a full life. I have scars to show for it: my stretch marks on my belly, and the wrinkles and laugh lines on my face tell many stories. My stories. And I hope to have many more to share”.
Retouching: Erin O’Connor @retouchingnyc and Alana Lee @photographybyalanalee
Lighting: Stella Pro Lights @stellaprolights
Music: “Charge” by Gerson Lopes @_gersonlopes_
If you are ready to start planning the photography experience of a lifetime, contact Alana Lee today for your no obligation complimentary consultation.
Have you ever made something wonderful but were too afraid to share it? This is the question our friends at Apple ask in their 2018 Holiday ad. The short film created by Pixar features music by 16 year old Billie Eilish (“Come out and Play”) and follows a young girl who keeps her creations a secret until her dog accidentally opens a window, releasing the papers into the community where they are seen and enjoyed by everyone.
I’m often asked how do I create my backgrounds for studio portraits. An easy way to add interest to images is by using a digital texture or overlay with Photoshop or your favorite photo editing software. By using digital textures I can avoid purchasing expensive canvas, fabric or paper backgrounds thus saving money and space in my studio. This keeps my photo shoot production costs down and enables me to offer more variety and pass along savings to my clients.
My fantasy image of a young girl exploring the dark woods was recently featured by the online photography forum Photography Talk as the Inspirational Photo of the Day. Recently I’ve been exploring ways to tell stories with my images and it has been such a rewarding experience and enabled me to express so much more with my photography. Photography Talk is an amazing resource for photographers around the world that helps photographers tell amazing stories with their cameras. Followed by over 3 million photographers around the world, they are the “everything” resource for photographers and it is such an honor to be featured on their website.
For the past few years I’ve been volunteering to photograph Santa and his friends at the Canadian Fire Fighters Museum in Port Hope, Ontario. After enjoying the annual Santa Claus parade in downtown Port Hope everyone (including pets!) is invited to join Santa for hot chocolate, cookies and have a photo taken with Santa himself. This year the Santa meet and greet, and photos will be held at the former Canadian Tire building at 100 Henderson Street, just across from the end of the parade route. Donations to the Canadian Fire Fighters Museum are welcome.