Photo of the Week 26 November 2013
Congratulations to Joel Maisonet from Chicago, IL for this heartwarming portrait of his grandmother “Gloria.” We had the chance to speak with Joel about how he became involved in portrait photography and the way he is able to set his subjects at ease and effortlessly capture their human spirit. See more of Joel’s work on his website www.joelmaisonet.com and follow him on Twitter @joel_maisonet to stay up to date on his latest photography projects.
What type of camera, gear and equipment did you use to capture the shot?
Where was the image taken? Who is the individual in the portrait?
This portrait of my grandmother, “Gloria,” was taken in her kitchen at the kitchen table. She was sitting in her favorite chair while we were chatting and I asked if I could take her portrait. This was the night before a major open heart surgery and she was really nervous. She felt like this was a pivotal point in her life and I felt I had to capture her right then. I asked her to think about giving her grandchildren a big hug when she got out of surgery and that’s what I captured. Her road to recovery has been really hard and she’s not out of it yet. She really hasn’t been the same since the surgery. Having this portrait has meant a lot to me. Gloria means Glory in Spanish and at that moment when my grandmother was out of surgery and embracing us was glory for her and us.
How did you create your DIY mini-beauty dish for this shot?
The “beauty dish” was made from a clip light reflector I had sprayed white. I used a clear CD tower case and a sun shade for the center reflector. This was one of my “need to create” insomnia builds. I never really thought I’d use it. I’m really green to portraiture and don’t have sage advice, but I will say that what appeals to me is a portrait that looks like the subject is looking at me and not a camera. I think that because we were talking and hanging out while I had the camera there, my grandmother was able to relax and find a position that was comfortable for her. Rather than move her when she was comfortable and being herself, I moved the lights and camera while we were talking and started shooting.
What is your best advice for portrait photography?
The best advice I would give to anyone learning something new is, once you’ve made gains or learned something WORK IT! Repeat it till it’s second nature, then push the boundaries of where you can take it before you move on. I know that’s generic, but that’s where I am with my photography.
Who are some photographers that inspire you?
I was lucky enough to latch on to Peter Hurley and have him as a mentor when I made the decision that I wanted to dive into photography full time. The fact that he roots his portraiture in human connection rather than camera and lighting techniques made sense to me as I jumped into this and it was a solid base I could build off of. I have high respect for anyone creating and inventing with a camera and those who push the boundaries, but I am really attracted to the work of photographers like Joey L., Gregory Heisler, Richard Avedon and Joel Grimes. I could stare at Avdeon’s portraiture and some of his editorial work for hours. I also love what John David Pittman has been doing. If you don’t know his work, check him out!
What type of photography do you enjoy most for personal and professional projects?
I’m still finding what rings true to me, but headshot photography is where my heart is right now. I’m feeling a pull to stretch out and try other things and push myself. I’m planning a combat sports portrait series that I’d like to start in January and just have as much fun as I can with it. See where it takes me.
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