A Fresh Perspective
Photography is more than just a vehicle for capturing the world around me; it provides me with a palette and a set of brushes, with which I paint not only what I see, but also look to express the emotions that are evoked by the scene in front of me in that moment.
Growing up in the Netherlands exposed me to a wide cross-section of visual arts that laid the foundation of my photographic view of all that surrounds me. Early influences were the Dutch Masters of the 17th century, to whom I was introduced by my grandfather during museum explorations; favorites among them are the scenes of quotidian life depicted by Jan Steen and Frans Hals and the vivid landscapes of Jacob van Ruisdael.
My classical high school education was supplemented by the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum, where I spent many a lunch hour exploring its great collection. Here I was introduced to surrealism with a particular love for the approach taken by Salvador Dali; Dali also rekindled my appreciation for the work of Hieronymus Bosch, who often showed the folly of us mortals.
My approach to any photographic subject is to look for understanding first; in this I look to establish either a connection between the viewer and the subject or capture the connection of the subject with its surroundings. The captured image then aims to portray this connection from a perspective that is part of my personal interpretation.
This interpretation is often a form of externalized introspection, which may alternately display the connection of isolated beings and items with their environment or highlight the whimsy of the profound world, in which we find ourselves. The universe is full of connections, many of which are waiting to be discovered; part of my journey as a photographer is to document these connections.
Any assignment, be it an event, a product shoot or a portrait session is always approached through communication with the client; this is where the first connection is established. Ideas are exchanged and a collaborative plan of action forms, ultimately resulting in a set of images that aim to exceed the expectations of each client.
And, lest we forget, it is important to have fun while practicing the serious business of photography!
When Chelsea’s mother approached me about doing a portrait shoot for Chelsea’s Senior Yearbook, she remarked that she had seen lots of wonderful photos done by me, but not a lot of people. It certainly is true that people tend to know me either for my dog agility photography, my landscape photography or my HDR photography, but not many are familiar with the other sides of my photography. Yes, I do enjoy portrait photography and have been known to capture the occasional portrait, and perform various other people photography, such as model shoots and documenting weddings. In a future blog post, I will provide more detail on the range of my photographic services.
I sat down with Chelsea and her family to discuss my ideas for doing a senior portrait shoot, which diverge from the standard studio shots approach that is done by many school and senior portrait photographers. I suggested that we use some outdoor locations that would either be meaningful to Chelsea or provide an environment that she really enjoys. I explained that what I want to achieve in a portrait photo shoot is to have the images tell something meaningful about the subject. We looked at a number of images to come up with some inspirations for this shoot. The ideas of bringing a book and guitar into the shoot were generated, as well as using the Old Stone Church on the shore of the Wachusett Reservoir in West Boylston as one of the sites. We agreed to hold off until weather started getting a little better, as it was early April.
Over the next number of weeks, we also added Purgatory Chasm in Sutton, MA, to the list of sites and I was still hunting for a third site that would work well. A friend suggested that I check out Waters Farm in Sutton, MA, as a possible site. As the weather started getting better, I checked the light conditions in Purgatory Chasm, which is rather deep and required mid-day sun to get light in. While there, I went over to Waters Farm and was blown away by the wonderful possibilities of the site.
Over Memorial Day weekend, we did the shoot in just over two hours in all three locations. Chelsea’s mother and her cousin helped out during the shoot keeping an eye on Chelsea’s hair and holding a reflector for me to get the light just right. Everyone had a great time and we couldn’t help but produce a fantastic set of images to choose from for the yearbook photo and many more for the family and relatives! More images can be seen in the album on the Frank Jansen Photography FB page.
Apple orchards are an integral part of the New England landscape and give a sense of communicating part of the psyche of region. The gnarled, almost grotesque shapes of the apple trees convey a struggle against the elements, with which many New Englanders are familiar. There are moments of beauty that are short-lived followed by a lengthy, quiet production of a fruit that is not flashy, but whose taste is pure, refreshing and satisfying. While there may be more visually appealing apples from other parts of the globe, nothing compares to biting into a New England apple and relishing that first taste as it invades the senses.
As I enjoy photographing the New England landscape, apple trees and orchards have always held a special draw for me. The rugged trees give a feeling of strength and indomitability as they are contrasted with the forces of nature around them; as such, they represent hope and permanence in a world that rapidly changes around us. Incorporating the wondrous, sometimes almost other-worldly shapes presented by apple trees in my photography has given these trees a special place in my heart, as I try to establish a connection between the trees and their surroundings in each image.
This year, I have decided to extend my photography of apple trees beyond merely incorporating them into my work, but rather to document their life. From the beginning of the year, I have started tracking the trees in a single orchard in Harvard, Massachusetts. Thus far, the trees have come out of the winter and developed their leaves and blossoms, which are now fading fast. The next phase to track is that steady growth of those delicious apples.
Every month or so, I will post an update on this project and share some of the images from it. I hope you enjoy the images and think ahead toward those delicious apples at the end of the process.
This Thursday, my wife and I had the pleasure of seeing Teegan’s photography at the opening of an exhibit titled Unguarded held at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. The exhibit covers the work of the photography, written word, audio and multimedia created by the students at Salt during the past semester. It is the culmination of 15 intensive weeks of work going out into Maine to document various projects and people. Teegan’s projects included documenting a team of high school students competing in Maine’s Science Olympiad, students working the oyster hatchery at the Herring Gut Learning Center and a working goat farm.
The opening included multimedia presentations of the work done by a number of the students; these presentations were collaborations between the audio and visual branches of Salt’s students, where the visual is videography or photography. Each of these presentations was a short documentary on the topic that they covered, which ranged from a mustache pageant to a jazz singer and pigeon racing. It was delightful to see the quality of the work produced by all the students in such a short timeframe.
The exhibit will run through July 15 and can be seen at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, 561 Congress Street, Portland, ME; gallery hours are 12-4:30 Tuesday – Friday.