School started this week and turns out the only one with homework this weekend is me. I have to sit down with pen and paper and write a letter to my 9 year old. A letter that will accompany a very unique portrait taken by Jason Watts and his 4 x 5 camera and 150 year old Petzval lens. The portrait will be included in a collection of photos taken by Jason called, Bearing Witness Project.
Well, I finally got up the courage to start my next personal project. It’s called Bearing Witness. It is an idea I have been wrestling with for some time. In an age where we snap thousands of images of our kids to capture those moments we want to cherish later on, we seldom sit down and put our thoughts to paper on what it all means; what it feels like to watch your most precious creation grow up, experience the world and the deep love we have for them. So I thought to myself, that would be a good price for a portrait session, a simple letter from parent to child. The letter could be anything. A story you feel is important for them to know more about, what the process of being their parent means to you, how has your life changed for the better because they are in it. It is completely up to you on what that looks like but hopefully it is heartfelt and honest. The second part are the portraits themselves. I wanted to really limit myself to a specific pace and set of equipment. All of the portraits will be shot with a 4×5 using a 150 year old Petzval lens. I wanted the photographic process to be a challenge in order to push myself creativity. The goal would be to publish a book with the children’s portrait(s) on one side and the parents letter on the other. A record of both child and parent in different forms. Each family would get an 8×10 of the portrait used in the book and all of the scanned negatives, free of charge. This project will run through the end of September. If you are interested in participating, and our in the Southern California area, please click the link in my profile and feel out a contact sheet on my site. I am excited to see where this project leads me… Thanks for the all the support and love. Cheers #bearingwitnessproject #film
I found out about this project on Instagram (isn’t that always the case now?) My good friend Tracey Clark shared her daughters portraits and I remember my jaw dropping, the depth to these photos were amazing.
I emailed Jason almost immediately after seeing this and although we were heading out of town to drop the oldest at college he was able to fit us in on days after our our return. I had never met Jason but I knew as a father of two he had the gene that makes kids instantly as ease when you are around them. Super A wasn’t feeling especially like herself and maybe that’s why she wasn’t smiling in her portraits, I don’t know. I think it was more because Jason doesn’t give any direction for expression and that’s exactly how I like portraits to be taken.
I don’t know what it is but I feel that most people want every capture to be at their best and that usually means a big glorious toothy grin, which don’t get me wrong I love looking back at but for a moment that is supposed to capture a slice of how the years have treated that person, a smile can sometimes distract what the eyes are saying. And when I look at this particular set of images I’m not dazzled by her would be smile (I have a million of those), I’m drawn in to those eyes with their depth of concern with a touch of fret. I have a worrier on my hands, a rule follower who is bound not only to societies rules but even stricter ones, her own. Ava and I have a long history in our short 9 years, one full of polar opposition and misunderstanding. We battled for six long years. When she started Kindergarten some if not most of those entanglements seemed to melt away and I began to see myself reflected back in her inflexibility and intensity. When I scrolled through my Instagram feed and this picture popped up, for a spit second it did not register that I was looking at my child. I smiled because I was so amused that I couldn’t “see” the familiar face my brain has hardwired into my memory. I leaned over and showed my husband, “who’s that” he said. I smiled as he took the phone out of my hand and sighed. “Its like looking into the future isn’t it” he replied. I shared the same thought. Here is your future.
I love the timing of this project as this is a very special moment in our lives with our oldest off to college. We are now a party of three and it feels odd. We’re trying our best to create new traditions with her and show her that the next nine will be all about her. I’m so excited to be a part of this journey, this chapter in her life and this project. If you live in the Orange County area you may still be able to participate in Jason’s project. Visit his Bearing Witness Project page Jason Watts Photography for more information.