It was a regular day in May. The kids were finally off to school and leaned forward in my office chair, hot steam from the coffee fogged my glasses slightly as I took a sip and opened up my email to start the day.
I received a message that I had missed a live broadcast regarding a photography conference coming up in September. Months earlier I had considered buying a ticket to the 3rd Annual Portrait Masters Conference in Phoenix. They already had an amazing lineup of speakers, including none other than the fashion photography icon, Peter Lindbergh! But, it was an expensive endeavour and was planned for the first week of school - something I had never missed.
I had to know what else they were announcing - it sounded like something big.
Indeed, it was big news!
You may not know the name, but you've seen his work. Mark Seliger had been added to the list of speakers!
This was the straw that broke the camel's back for me - now I HAD to go to this conference! It wasn't yet sold out and I could make this work!
The Portrait Masters conference is put on by my longtime mentor, Sue Bryce and her team.
For those who aren't familiar with famous photographers, I always describe Sue Bryce as "the Oprah of the photography world". And that is the understatement of the year.
Sue is known to overdeliver in everything that she does and has a cult-like following that spans the globe. Not only do people attend her conferences and events from the US and Canada, but also from around the world. There were people coming from Australia, India, Europe - and I thought MY trip was expensive!
So, I bought my ticket, made all the arrangements that I needed to and prepared for the event of my life.
In the end, I didn't see Peter Lindbergh or Mark Seliger speak. Mark backed out two weeks prior to the conference and Peter Lindbergh tragically died the day before we were supposed to hear him speak - mere hours before his 9am presentation to open the event.
Two major names gone - you'd think the conference would be ruined.
Quite the opposite!
It was even more amazing than I could ever dream possible. There was a beautiful tribute to Peter, a moment of silence and then the "replacement" photographer took to the stage to start the conference off with the high energy that was originally intended.
It was none other than Joel Grimes - someone who has made his own mark in the world of commercial photography for the last 30 years. He has an amazing energy that is contagious and uplifting.
The next speaker was supposed to be Mark Seliger, but instead we were wowed and inspired by Kara Marie! A black and white specializing boudoir photographer who one year prior had been sitting in the audience at this very event and dreamed about being on that stage. Her work was already inspiring my own and I loved her emotionally moving presentation about having a life that you love and producing work that fills your soul.
There were no regrets and things only got better from there. It was a highlight of my year to attend this conference.
I got to meet photographers that I've admired for years, hang out with them on the dancefloor and get hands-on advice in the shooting bays. My work was critiqued by huge names and I even had my headshot taken by Lenka Jones! It was 4 days of jam-packed amazingness that I will never forget!
One of the perks of being there was a free print from Canon. All you needed was a thumb drive with your favourite photo and they would print it off for you!
I decided to have them print a portrait of my son that I had taken years earlier.
It was awkwardly large and I didn’t want to bend it, so I carried it by hand on the journey back home to Calgary.
Surprisingly, this large print acted as an oversized business card throughout the airport and on the plane. People were stopping me to comment on how stunning it was and wanted to know more about me.
It got me thinking, I'm not the only one who loves portraits like this.
Maybe I'm not the only one who thinks that child portraits could be so much more than what we usually settle for. School photos with the same blue muslin backdrops they used when I was a kid, cheesy smiles and static poses.
I get the nostalgia of it, but if we are going to go back in time, let's go further. Go back to the time of master painters, like Rembrandt and Degas.
Let's go beyond capturing just what a child looks like and bring in story and emotion.
Hence, I put out a call for a new series: Fine Art Child Portraits.
My goal with this series is to have each portrait tell a story and evoke feeling from the viewer. To have the parents proudly display their children as art that will be treasured for generations.
I had submitted six such portraits to the Portrait Masters competition and received a bronze for each of them. This time, I will push my creativity and use the things I learned in Phoenix to perhaps score even higher next time.
I hope that at the same time my work will inspire parents to want fine art portraiture on their walls.
Permanent artwork that will be treasured and admired for decades as their family's legacy.