October 22, 2012

Chasing the Magic

If you were to ask Justin how he first fell in love with photography, he would tell you that it all started with a magic kit.

You know the kind. Pulling rabbits out of hats, making coins disappear and such. The whole bit. Perhaps there was even a cape involved. Perhaps. I like to imagine that there was. But I can’t tell you for sure. Because I wasn’t there.

You see, he got this magic kit when he was a kid. Like the little tykes version of Houdini.

And from the way he tells it….he was pretty much terrible.

Apparently the rabbits preferred to wear the hats, and those darn coins just wouldn’t disappear. And no matter how hard he tried, a young Copperfield he was not.

Fast forward about ten years or so, when a fifteen year old Justin took his very first photography class in high school. I’m pretty sure it was called Darkroom 101 or something like that.

Because as he likes to tell it, the first time he stood in the darkness breathing in the smell of fixer and hearing the drip-drip-drip of the sink, he took this plain sheet of paper and he made an image appear out of nowhere on it.

And in that second and for the first time in his life….he felt like maybe, just maybe, he might be good at this magic thing after all.

And that right there my friends, was the moment he fell in love with photography.

For the past few weeks, we’ve been making a conscious effort to get back to that. That feeling of falling in love. And….that magic.

Because as you guys who have been shooting for a little while now know, at some point it’s really easy to start treating your camera like a briefcase: you only pick it up to go to work.

And that magic starts to fade. Photography becomes something that pays the bills. Something that gets you blog comments. And Facebook likes. Something that you do versus something that you are.

But I believe, to truly become the photographers that we were born to be…photography is something that has to get way down into our souls and become a very part of who we are. It has to become a lifelong love affair. One where we never stop learning. We never say it’s good enough. We never stop being amazed. And we never ever stop falling in love with that magic over and over and over again.

Last week when we were in San Francisco, we took one huge step forward in chasing that magic when we stopped in at the Photobooth SF to have our tin type’s made. This was true wet plate photography shot on a large format camera in a studio, and we even had to have our necks braced. Abraham Lincoln (Vampire Slayer) style :) It was amazing. After the pictures were taken, we got to go back into the darkroom and watch the magic of our images come to life.

And I’m going to be honest….it kinda made me feel like a top hat and cape were definitely in order.

Today, I want you to ask yourself this question: what was it really that made you fall in love with photography in the first place? Not why you thought it would be a good business or how you first got started. But when was it that you first felt that magic?

Now go do something like that today.

Rock it out,

**Be sure to check out these other amazing photographers doing wet plate work as well: Jody Dole & Ian Ruhter

  1. sarah mitchell

    gah! how stinking cool!!!!

  2. Amy

    The magic for me was making people so happy with something I loved to do and was passionate about! I never leave my full-time job with my jaw hurting from smiling the way it does after photographing a wedding! :)

  3. Melissa C

    Those are amazing !

  4. Christy Tyler

    I looooooooved learning about the early photography techniques in photo school. Those things just blew my mind! This brings me back to those days! Love it.

    But what made me first fall in love with photography was this obsession I had with capturing life. I carried a disposable camera with me everywhere as a child. Seeing those moments come back to life, saved forever in this printed image – made my heart so happy. I documented sunsets, my friends, my family, anything I could get my hands on & put all the photos in albums upon albums. Sadly, as I’ve gotten into doing it for a profession – the albums stopped. I haven’t printed & put photos in one since 2003. This just reminded me of that – and makes me want to get back to be a photographer for MY OWN LIFE as well – like I was as a middle schooler, high schooler, and college student. Thanks for the reminder!!

  5. sharon elizabeth

    love those photos!!! smokin’ hot

  6. Jakki

    OH SEE…THAT is what scares me about going into changing from photography being a hobby that I’ve loved since my first Kodak 110 to doing it professionally. I dont want to only pick up my camera when its a job. I love to capture THAT VERY MOMENT…even if that very moment is an everyday moment.

  7. rich

    wow the wet plate work images are so so so cool! we started feeling the magic seeing elizabeth create art in the darkroom with her film camera and photo paper – it was amazing to create works of art by capturing moments and places in the most beautiful ways possible. we’re inspired now to do the same with our couples – striving to show the connections they have with one another as beautifully as we possibly can and we hope that magic is what will continue inspiring us for the rest of our lives!

  8. Tiffany Bolk

    these are so amazing and nostalgic! I totally can relate to that darkroom feeling of magic and there’s something very romantic about being in a darkroom! And the smell! If you’re not a photographer, you might think it stinks real bad. But to a photographer, that smell just takes me back to the school daze… *sigh* :) I also fell in love with photography initially because I was very quite and taking photos allowed me to express myself without saying a word. Thank you for sharing these beautiful Tin Types!

  9. Sandra Fazzino

    : ) I loved reading this and love seeing the result of the gorgeous tin types!

  10. patricia takacs

    thank you for this post! I am glad I am not the only one who feels this way once in a while :) I have always been into images and I began photography because it allowed me to just be in nature and in the moment—and then in fact dwell on the moment later in time. Its nice to think that even when I am crazy at weddings–I am truly and completely present like I am no where else in space and time because all I am thinking about is the task at hand–or in other words the photo that is unfolding in front of my face. :) I might just go out and play today! thanks again

  11. Taylor

    Mary and Justin – this post is really touching and it is true there is a magic before the business, before the new gear or before you even knew what the gear did.

    For me I was in first year university and I actually remember it like it was yesterday I was down hating school, my program, everything, and I somehow came across this underwater photographers work online. I was literally mesmerized first by the photos and second by this amazing world I’d never been too. I sat at my computer for three hours going through every photo and promptly called my mother and told her I wanted to be an underwater photographer… she laughed at me because I was a student studying business at a prestigious school that got good grades and followed the rules. Underwater photography just didn’t fit.

    And it is timely that this post comes now because for the first time I’m looking for camera housings on ebay and I have another asian adventure planned to scuba dive. xx Thanks for making me remember.

  12. Regina Marie

    You two are so cute together!

  13. Katie Yuen

    As soon as I saw your preview image for this post I KNEW it was wet plate! I’m so in love with all of the different ways to make images, its incredible what people can do! So happy that you two got to feel like magicians! Beautiful portraits :)

  14. Kare

    Very cool!

  15. Lauren Wakefield

    So so cool.

  16. Adam Housley

    Too cool! I’ve always wanted to play with wet plate photography.

  17. Gino DeMaio

    It’s about connecting with people on a very personal emotional level, when that happens and you both feel the same emotions, then that’s the magic for me, it strikes a cord through your lens and into my heart, anything less then that is just not real ……Oh-love the "Guide"

  18. Urška

    Such a good post! When i started to become interested in photography it was because of that pretty bokeh on the photos. And the moment i got my first DSLR i had to try it out to get that nice bokeh and actually it worked, i shot with the 1.8 and the bokeh was beautiful and that was when i feel in love :)

  19. Alicia

    I love this post! I fell in love with photography when I was 13 (22 years ago) and got a 110 camera for my birthday. I still have the images that I took with that camera on that day and many more. I am now a part-time professional photographer and some of the magic is gone. For me it’s being "forced" to take pictures that I wouldn’t necessarily be inspired to take. The posed family portraits, etc. I’ve cut back recently on the amount of jobs I take because of this. I still love photography, but want to spend my time with it on my own terms.

  20. Abby Grace

    Oh I LOVE this post!! Film was what did it for me in the beginning, and returning to film now has me giddy and excited all over again. I’ve done a few shoots lately just for me- asking friends to model so that I can create something because I want to, not because someone’s paying me to do so. And at first I felt… guilty about it, guilty because of all the photographers I’ve ever heard tell me it’s wrong to give away a portrait session. But I’m not giving it away- I’m doing something that inspires me, purely for the sake of pleasing ME. And dang, it feels good.

  21. JC De La Cruz

    I actually started about a year and a half ago in this industry. At first, with the economy plunging, I wanted to find a way to bring in a little extra income for my growing family. After the first big event I had, I just knew my heart was calling me to change careers. Meeting new clients and seeing the expression when they get even just samples of their session or event, is really fulfilling to my life goals: bring a smile a day to someone new, and you will smile for ever.

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