Grace is the fourth subject in my current body of work Portraits of American Teens. She is a young woman who I met through my daughter Megan when they took classes together at the Fine Arts Center. Although Grace is the typical teen who loves to laugh and goof around with her friends, this is not the side of her that struck me most and what I really wanted to capture. Rather, it was her strength of character, work ethic and just like her name says, her grace.
I discovered these personality traits during our first chat session at Barnes and Noble where I sat down with Grace, her mom and her little sister. We talked about a number different things including school, dance, family and faith. I learned that she is a very dedicated dancer and has been dancing since a very early age. Dance was actually a family affair as she and her sisters spent hundreds of hours in the studio each year. It only made sense to do a photo shoot in this environment.
When we took the photographs, Grace’s little sister came along which helped immensely. Friends and family members sometimes assist me during these photo shoots as they can interact and engage the sitter in a more personal way allowing me to capture a more authentic view.
My biggest challenge during the shoot was the lighting. The studio was off campus from the main dance building where I originally thought we would be. The main studio, where I wasn’t allowed to shoot, had clerestory windows and white walls. This studio was dark, not very well lit and had some really weird yellow paint on the walls. So what do I do in these situations? I change my original thoughts and adapt. Even though the location was different than I originally intended, in the end, I really liked that strange yellow. It added some interesting contrasts to the cool color of her skin and leotard. Even though the location of the shoot changed, I was happy with the end result in the painting. I think I was successful in capturing what I was after in telling Grace’s story.