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Entries in photographer (4)


Death and the chain studio salesman (Portland, Oregon family portrait photographer)

Getting our family portrait taken when I was a kid meant putting on my nicest clothes (usually silky shirts, floral skirts and pantyhose) and heading down to the mall. My family of five probably only did it four or five times my whole life, and it always went something like this: The photographer called me “Big Sis” and gave similar nicknames to each of my family members. He posed us in front of a brown or blue background, sometimes accentuated with texture like blinds or fabric. He put me in a pose that felt foreign to my body and I tried to sit perfectly still. Then he told us to smile. My mother never did. She has always refused to smile on command. After a few clicks of the shutter and a few variations of the pose, we were done. That's how it worked.

But for a lot of people, that in-and-out routine just doesn’t work anymore. Sears Portrait Studios and a few related chains suddenly closed their doors around the nation last week to the surprise of their customers and even their employees.While I'm sad to see any business close and people lose their jobs, the closure make sense to me. Today’s customers demand more out of their portrait experience. Their own cameras and even camera phones snap decent pictures, so they are searching for someone who can do more than just take a portrait. Many customers want to know their photographer, trust in her abilities and know that her style and aesthetic matches their own. They want their family to be treated like they are special. (Being called by name is a bare minimum.) And when it’s all said and done they want more than a few shots to choose from.

When it comes to family portraits, I think it’s an amazing privilege to capture a family’s real emotion, connection and love. I aspire to capture playfulness and fun. Sometimes my favorite photos are of people laughing, talking or making funny faces -- you know the kind of shot that a corporate studio might consider an outtake. I work hard to get a genuine smile out of everyone and I will be as goofy as need be to get there. I just love getting to know the families I photograph and have been so honored that many of my clients have become my friends. For those reasons and more big box, get-you-in-and-get-you-out, cookie-cutter photography is going out of style and custom lifestyle portraiture is becoming the new norm.

Below you'll find a few of my favorite recent family photos. I promise, no one in these photos was ever referred to as Big Sis.


Write as if no one is reading (Portland, Oregon portrait photographer)

For someone who is a trained writer, the decision to blog was surprisingly hard for me.  There’s always the fear that I don’t have anything interesting to say, but it was much more than that. For one thing, with jobs and kids, housework and errands, I couldn’t find the time and I didn’t want to commit to blogging if I couldn’t do it on a somewhat regular basis.

But anyone could say that.

Another hold up was about my day job. As a working journalist, I often felt guilty writing for myself because I always had something I should be writing for work.

But as sensitive as it may seem, I think the biggest part of my hesitance was because of the negativity that is often spewed from an anonymous audience. I wasn’t sure I wanted to defend my ramblings. In my career as a newspaper editor, I’ve gotten phone calls and emails and a very passive-aggressive letter or two (anonymous of course) from readers on those occasions when my articles were printed with (GASP!) grammatical errors. One woman wrote me a scrawling, hand-written letter about apostrophe use with a glued-on definition of its vs. it’s and told me I should be ashamed of myself. (For the record, when I see typos in print, I just gloat silently for a minute like most decent humans; contacting the person directly and telling them how stupid they are is super lame.)  Other than grammar and spelling errors, I’ve seen how icky internet trolls can twist comments from something totally innocent into something nasty. I have been amazed time and again how a perfectly benign article could solicit terrible comments. It's shocking to me how a story about a school play starring a kid with a foreign-sounding last name could spark an immigration debate. And that’s not all; sucky people love to rant about teachers, health care, the president, etc. in places where it doesn’t belong.

Then there’s photography, a completely subjective art form. Am I ready to have my work judged by the masses?

Despite my resesrvations, blogging is the best way I can think of to share my passion for portrait photography, my love of all things wedding-related and my joy for connecting with others through photos. And I’ve just had the urge for so long, I figured it’s time to do something about it.

I absolutely invite your comments, suggestions and thoughts. And if I spell something wrong, go ahead and point it out. How else am I going to learn?

So here goes nothing.


From Spain, with love (Portland, Oregon maternity photographer)

Cristy and Colin met while studying abroad in northern Spain. After six breathless months of cathedral tours, wine dates, jaunts to Italy and talks that lasted until the sun came up, it would have been impossible for them not to fall in love. They were married in the most intimate of ceremonies: Just the two of them on a beach with a clergyman and photographer.

A few years later they are pregnant with a baby girl that they wanted more than words can say. Here’s wishing you three a lifetime of happy travels and head-over-heels love.  


Everything I need to know about photography I learned by writing the news

Welcome amigos.

I’m Jessie Kirk and I’m a Portland-area wedding and portrait photographer. I’m overwhelmed with inspiration, I chase natural light and I get to work with amazing, funny, beautiful people. 

So how did I get here? Well it all started with a murder trial.

Just follow me here.

At my high school everyone had to go on a job shadow to learn about career possibilities. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I joined a group shadow with a lawyer. The day came and our group of a dozen or so students sat in on a real murder trial at the Oregon City Courthouse. As we sat listening to a witness regale us with a terrible story of a bar fight gone wrong, I took frantic notes. I didn’t know why I was doing it, but I felt compelled to write the story down so I wouldn’t forget it. When I looked around, my classmates were talking to each other or looking bored. No one else even had a piece of paper out.

It took me a little while to realize it, but I was a journalist. I wanted to capture every moment and tell everyone’s story.   

I went to journalism school and took on an internship as a reporter for a small-town weekly newspaper. My first editor sent me out to cover things like city council meetings, school plays and a beauty pageant for high school boys. Each time he asked me to take a camera and he praised me for the images I brought back. He’s the first one who told me I had “the eye” and I was thrilled. One day he asked me if I would be willing to photograph another reporter’s assignment. It turned out to be a burn-to-learn, where firefighters set fire to an abandoned structure to practice putting out the flames. The reporter and I crouched in the creaky, doomed house as fire lapped up around us and it got hotter and hotter.  I snapped away, more excited than scared at the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When it was time to get out, we got down on our hands and knees to crawl to safety until a fireman screamed, “GET DOWN!” and we realized we were going to have to army crawl the rest of the way to avoid smoke inhalation. I naively tried to keep shooting as I scooted to safety.  I was thrilled when my pictures made the front page that week.

After graduation, I got a full-time job at a small newspaper where I made up the entire staff. I did it all — wrote the articles, designed the pages and took all the photos. Each month I told people’s stories in words and pictures and I loved it.

At the same time, people around me started to notice my work and I became the go-to photographer for my friends and family: I shot weddings, band photos, pictures for Christmas cards and yearbook portraits for younger friends graduating from high school. I discovered a real passion for the way you can take control in portraiture through posing and lighting.

Several years, some photography classes, three cameras and a baby later, a stranger offered to pay me to take her pictures, and I was flattered enough to go for it. I have thrown myself into wedding and portrait photography ever since, and found myself inspired in new and exciting ways.

Just like writing articles, I have found that every click of my shutter is my way of freezing time and capturing a moment too important to be forgotten.

The journalist in me has found a new way of to tell a story — and I’d love to tell yours.