Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Fire Breathing Bride at Mt Hood Bed and Breakfast

Elizabeth Kirk used to work in the circus. Willie Smith works in politics. Similar enough professions, I suppose, that it's no surprise that they got together. And when they get together, boy to the sparks fly! Literally.

Willie and Beth's wedding, was perhaps the most fun event I have ever photographed. Here's the lineup:

-A goofy, fun-loving couple (for further proof, see their engagement portraits, at Oaks Park);
-One of my favorite outdoor wedding locations (Mt Hood Bed and Breakfast, in Parkdale, Oregon);
-Willie's bosses: Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Congresswoman Darlene Hooley, and Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, and their staffs and families;
-Willie and Beth's fun Cheez-Whiz loving families;
-A groomsman with the funniest toast in the history of weddings. I was laughing so hard I could hardly take a photograph;
-Hoola Hoops in abundance;
-Guests who are in theater, are good dancers, and real pranksters;
-And a jug full of kerosene.

Ah, yes, the infamous jug full of kerosene at the wedding trick. Never seen that one? Neither had I. It was spectacular. I couldn't stop chuckling to myself.

Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Congresswoman Darlene Hooley, and Willie and Beth Smith.

Fritz Liedtke

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Trash That Dress

Earlier this week, one of my July brides wrote and asked me an interesting question. She said she was looking forward to portraits on the wedding day, but wondered if, after the wedding, we could take some photos that didn't treat the wedding dress like a precious object. She had found a website promoting such things, and I was intrigued. What a great idea. Usually people just stash their dresses away; instead of stash it, why not trash it, and have some fun along the way?

So I thought I'd get a little practice. Why not do the same thing for a high school senior's portraits? A dress is a dress, and usually you do everything you can to keep it clean and dry and looking great: avoid the Portland rain, the mud, the wine spills. Admire the water but don't get in past your toes. Forget all that. Let's have some fun...

So I did. My friend Natalie volunteered herself and her dresses, and we spent a couple hours pushing the envelope. What a good sport she was! She was cold in the water. But I think the results were worth it. (Of course, I can say that, since I wasn't the one in the sand, dirt, and water....)

I'm still not convinced that just getting a dress wet constitutes trashing it, although the water was cold and chlorinated and a little slimy. And the dress was custom made. But there's room for to push the trashing limits. Even though I already tend toward uncommon portraiture here in Portland, my high school senior portraits may never be the same. I hope so. If there's a category of sports titled Adventure Sports, then perhaps I'll start calling my portraits Adventure Ports.... I'm trademarking that.

Have any interest in a Trash the Dress photo shoot in the Portland, Oregon area? Wedding dresses, high school seniors, bored moms are all welcome. Give me a call. Could be fun.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Rose Festival's Queen Elizabeth

I have the very great honor of being a friend of Queen Elizabeth. Elizabeth Larson, that is. You know, the Centennial Rose Festival Queen, crowned on Saturday right before the big, wet parade?

I've known Elizabeth a few months now, as she's been working with me on a photographic project, and I helped her and a couple friends with an assembly at Lincoln High School, where she was a senior (and now a graduate). I have to say, the Rose Festival made an excellent choice; they couldn't have picked a sweeter queen.

She's super-involved in all kinds of things, which is partly what the above photograph illustrates: student assembly member, a superintendent student advisory council member and a student alternate to the Portland Public School Board. She's studied abroad in Costa Rica, works on the Save Darfur campaign, teaches Sunday School, plans to teach kindergarten in the future, etc etc. But what really sets her apart isn't all the good stuff she does, it's her attitude: she's caring, gentle, honest, has good friendships, cares about her classmates.

My congratulations to you, Elizabeth! May your reign be a blessing to this city.

See more of the best editorial photographer in Portland at www.fritzphotographic.com.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Campaign for Real Beauty

I was shown this video yesterday, a time-lapse that begins with a plain-looking, pimply young woman, and within about 30 seconds (time-lapse time), she's displayed on a billboard as a supermodel. And yet, the person on the billboard isn't the person we started with. It's revealing.

You need to see the video.

It's really quite disconcerting. The most troubling section is where you seen the woman's face--after the layers of makeup and the volume of hairstyling and the magic of lighting and the flattery of studio photography--her face is being touched up and distorted in a Photoshop-like program, until her proportions (eye size, neck length, etc) are supermodel-like. And that's disconcerting because I'm a photographer, and I use Photoshop. I have the power to do the same thing.

I have to hand it to the makers; it's from Dove, interestingly enough, and their Campaign for Real Beauty. Their point is that fashion models and extreme dieting don't make a perfect woman, that normal people of any age are beautiful, and that beauty isn't skin deep. The whole site (www.campaignforrealbeauty.com) is focused on this issue. It's impressive.

I heartily applaud their efforts, and hope that more and more corporations will follow suit. And more photographers, as well.

Like anyone, I'm attracted to physical beauty; it's in our nature to be so. Yet I find myself constantly fighting to remember that real beauty is not skin deep, is not artifice, is not sex appeal, is not the goods I'm being sold in the hundreds of images I see every week. It's tough work. I mostly fail. But I don't give in.

In my own photographic work, I made a decision long ago not to work with models, if I could avoid it. I don't generally shoot model cards, don't shoot fashion, try to avoid the risque. Not because I'm a prude, but because I don't want to be part of the problem. I don't want to lie. And I don't want to believe the lie. As the above video shows, much of what our culture calls beauty--and what we export and sell to the entire world as beautiful--is a lie.

I would rather photograph real people. Whether or not I'm trying to make them look good, normal people are pretty interesting. Making a normal person look good--drawing them out of their shell, helping them relax and have fun, and using the tools of my trade to show their best side--is usually fun work, and I enjoy it immensely. But I try to emphasize the fact that I'm creating a portrait of someone, not a glamor shot. It may not even be pretty, but it could be true. It's one thing to make a person look good; it's another to treat them like putty and mold them into a lie.

In my current documentary project about eating disorders, I work regularly with women and men who have been beat down and bought in to the lie that beauty has to do with their weight or sex appeal. Most of them hate themselves. Most of them are trying to kill themselves. I usually sit there, talking with or photographing them, and simply want to say: You are so beautiful. You have so much inside of you that is beautiful. You have so much going for you. It's not always appropriate or profitable to say such things, but I think them, I pray for them, I do what little I can with my words and photographs to encourage them.

It's not often I give a thumbs-up to a multinational corporation for much of anything. But thanks, Dove, for telling the truth.