Taking photos of my people is my favorite thing to do.
When I first began studying photography, seriously, portraits were a big part of the learning process. I talked a friends, one of my photographic mentors and his wife, Joe and Kathy into posing. Those shots turned out nicely. My next subject was Kady. She and the kids were visiting me in Izmir in the Summer of 1985. She is such an amazing beauty that taking a beautiful photo of her was super easy.
I prefer natural light. Though I have the equipment to do studio portraits, I rarely use it. My brother, the art professor, told me that if I wanted to perfect my technique and build a personal style, I should study The Dutch Masters. I like Vermeer, my standard, and the low-light paintings of Gerard van Honthorst.
Give me a window, soft morning light, a face that I find interesting, and I'm set!
Below are portraits I have taken over the years, choosing a few of my favorite photos of each person.
This is my son and one of the finest and most intelligent men I know.
I, of course, have taken photos of him all of his life . . . until recently. I just can't pin him down. The lad is busy.
Wearing my Patrol Cap, with his sister, returning from Iraq, Lexington after the military.
My daughter arrived as I was beginning to get serious about photography. She became one of my favorite subjects. Where once she loved for me to take her photo, now she refuses to let me. This is a battle I am willing to fight until she relents.
Here are a few from back in the day.
Church Crookham, UK
Silverwood, Lex Vegas
Charlottesville, VA, 2020
When my daughter-in-law said she needed photos, I envisioned something more grandeur than a profile photo for LinkedIn and her personal web page.
Nikon D850, 55-200 mm, f/ 1.4 - 5.6
Above is a photo I took at a wedding as she paints a portrait of the Bride and Groom during the ceremony and reception.
Taken during a session with KS for a badge photo.
My Scientist, Em, is always up for photos with Granddaddy.
I was very lucky on the action shot. I pretty much suck at sports photography, but I'm working on it. Above, she is helping me test out my new flash diffuser.
I hope I get to take photos of her for a good long time.
Charlotte, Lexington, and Charlottesville
No child has been more photographed. I took a ton, you know, first grandchild and all that goes with that. His Kady did too. Even the Cadets and VMI photographers got in the act.
He was a gorgeous child and is just as handsome in his mid-teens. Great Genetic material.
Maryland, 16 October 2021, after our Family Autumn Farm Trip
This may be the beginning of a fantastic collaboration between grandfather and granddaughter.
Taken in the afternoon sun, just before nap time with her Kady dazzling her with a squeaky-toy, SGM took her fingers out of her mouth just as I pushed the shutter release.
At left is Grandad's Christmas Photo.
Nikon D850, 50mm
Church Crookham, England, United Kingdom, 1989
I took this photo of Sally, our best friend, and my dancing and drinking partner, during a visit while we were station with the Paras. Sal is still as beautiful as she approaches her 70s.
Available light, Plus-X Pan, Canon AE-1 Program. The reticulation here was from rinsing with warm water. A really stupid mistake on my part. I took three 36-exposure rolls this day, and completely destroyed two of them. these two are what was left of the third roll.
I worked on them, HEAVILY, in Photoshop. The left photo, I colorized. I like how it turned out.
Close friend and Traveling Partner, SS, is rarely up for photos. He has, on a very few occasions allowed me to snap a few.
The shot above was taken at the Colorado National Monument. I shamed him. "What? You wanna come all the way out here and have no record of it? OK, maybe I just said, "Let me take a photo of you up here."
The shot on the left was taken in Savannah, GA (actually Pooler, but who wants to say that?) where he sat for me in Available light as I tested out my new D850 and 50mm Lens.
I need to take photos of him on his farm down in Tennessee; the man has a great face.
I am not in the habit of taking photos of people I don't know but this girl had to be an exception. Right? She caused quite a stir in London this day. She was posing for a person she knew, and a few people, including me, joined in. Everyone was looking at her and rightfully so. She was amazing.
I had just come out of a museum and had one exposure of 6400ASA film left in my Canon AE-1 Program. I took the shot.
The Girl at Kadifekale
While out "learning" with one of my Army photographers, Bob Ducette, I spotted this girl and told Bob that I would like to take her photo. Bob instructed, "Ask First . . . just point to your camera."
She nodded approval.
I spent the rest of the day pointing at my camera. I found that, unlike what I had been told, Turks love to have their photo taken . . . if you ask first.
The First Turkish phrase that I memorized was, lutfin, bir fotoğrafınızı çekebilir miyim . . . Please, may I take your photograph?
Pointing is easier.
I drove all the way to Maryland to take photos of this beautiful young woman. One of my Mary Baldwin Cadets, I once wrote her a negative counseling statement for leaving a note on my desk signed, "Your Favorite Cadet." In truth, she probably was.
We have kept up with each other through the years. Now out of the Army, she is back in Maryland. I hope to link up with her son.
I plan on taking my camera.
I got a text and photo from this lovely young lady saying, "This dress needs photos." I slipped out of the office and met her at McKethan Park. What else could I do?
Former cadet and young friend, Ryan, and I have had four photo sessions together. Every session has produced some pretty fabulous photos. I credit the Model!
I had to agree with her, the dress did, indeed, need photos.
As did the girl.
NIKON D5100, 40 mm
Taken with a Nikon D5100, a D850, and a Mamiya 6 with Portra 400.
Ryan using 400 TX in a Contax T2. I should have kept this camera.
In September of 2012, a young lady cme out to McKethan Park to tryout for the VMI Trap and Skeet Team. On her first round of skeet, she shot a twenty (out of 25). That was better than half my team, shooting cold, and with a borrowed gun.
She quickly fit in with the team, not by trying to out guy the guys, but by being a girl's girl, wearing pink and pearls, while out shooting them.
Word got out around Virginia and we had press and TV out to the range to interview her, the "First Woman on the VMI Trap and Skeet Team." She took it all in stride and laughed with the boys about it. The Institute loved it and my budget increased.
On her last shoot of her 1st Class (senior) year, she outshot all the guys on our team.
The Girls of Summer
Izmir Turkey, June - August 2001
Canon A-1, TMax 400 - I Think
Alsancak, Turkiye, 2001
One of the Girls of Summer 2001, Smiley, introduced herself to my friends and me by telling us we should buy her a beer. She became my closest friend that summer.
A math teacher by trade, her English was solid. She acted as my translator when out with my other Turk friends or visiting my favorite bars and clubs. She was, also, a favorite photographic subject among all of the other beautiful things to photograph in Turkiye.
Canon A-1 with Ektachrome
Izmir Turkey, Summer 2001
This lady owned Divas Ajans, a modeling agency in Izmir. She enlisted me to photograph her models at car shows and business openings around Izmir.
Tough Job (see below).
Of all the girls that I photographed at Divas, she was my favorite subject. She taught me more about photographing women than I could ever get from a book, in charge of every photo that I took, like here - she's wearing my glasses because, "a businesswoman should look professional."
Canon A-1, Ektachrome
The shot above was taken with a 1.3MP Sony Sure Shot, my first digital camera. Sit Down!
Sometimes, I mess up so badly that it takes me years to get over it. In the case of these photos, it took me 21.
Really! How often do old guys get to hang out with and then photograph someone who looks like this? You'd think I would have taken great care to get it all right.
This is Berna, Sevda's good friend, on the night I met the two of them That's my grandfather's rocking chair she's sitting in. We became good friends and still talk on Insta.
I took these with my trusty A-1 and Ektachrome. Either I flubbed the exposure badly or the Local Turkish developer messed up. Either way, they will never be great photos. I worked on them until they are passable.
I should have taken so many more.
The Girls of Divas Ajans
She was the girl across the street, working at my fave Coffee Shop, Matisse, and a more beautiful girl I have rarely seen. She was a sweet as she was beautiful, nothing at all like my first impression. When I finally took the time to walk over and sit down, she said, "We've been wondering why you didn't like us." I became a regular and knew the whole staff.
These photos are what happens when you don't ask.
I didn't, unnerved by her beauty, until the last few days I lived there. so I am left with only a half-dozen photos of her.
Now, Matisse is a Subway and Burçin is lost in time.
Be Bold; ask the pretty girl.
Turk Girls from the 1985 Tour
Two friends and I went photo-shooting around Izmir on a bright but cool Sunday morning. Walking through Kulture Park, we met a family resting by the central fountain. I stayed back, put my telephoto lens on my camera and took photos of each member of the family.
The eldest daughter was striking. She had the most incredible green eyes. Sadly, I was shooting Black and White. Not long after this, I bought another camera (Canon A-1) and a 50mm FD lens so that I could load one Camera with Black and White and the other with Color.
Digital Photography - so much easier.
The First Captains
Kahve Morning at 404
Virginia 2010- 2021
I have taken more photos of this young lady than any other person. She was a joy to work with, shy at first, but becoming more confident with each shoot. Then she moved away, joined the Marines, got married . . .
These were taken with various cameras over eleven years, all around Old Virginia
Morning Light at 404
Red Heels on the Blue Ridge
Battle reenactments are a great time for me as a photographer. The trick is to position yourself where there are no modern elements in your shots. Watch for civilians, cars, planes, modern farm equipment, and what reenactors call Farbs (people wearing anything not authentic).
Generally, they don't mind having their photo taken, but I always ask. A quick point to the camera usually suffices. They'll usually just nod to stay in character.
A Regimental Drummer from Ole Virginia
I recently discovered the negatives from a roll of film that I took of my niece, Summer, back in the mid-'90s. She was about twenty-five and living at her grandparent's house.
I under-exposed them and the Alabama mid-day son was bright. No matter what I tried in the darkroom, I couldn't make a decent print. Ah . . . but I kept the negatives and digital processing came along. I scanned them one at a time, adjusting each to give me the best file with which to work. Then, reviewing them all, I chose four to add here.
What a shame it would have been if these photos were lost.
Canon AE-1 Program, Kodak Plus X Pan 125
Lexington and Charleston 2010
I have only had two opportunities to photograph Cate. The first was for her dad's birthday. I never heard if he liked them, but I did.
The second was when I visited her in Charleston and she took me sightseeing.
Sony DSC - HX1
For the bargain price of "Pose with my Mustang," I took a series of photos for Erin for her College Senior Portraits. She was Sarah's "Big Sister" at Mary Baldwin and a frequent visitor to our house. I was very happy to take her photo. She is a lovely person through and through.
She's married to a Navy Aviator, a VMI Grad, and a great guy.
Yankee Horse Ridge, Blue Ridge Parkway 2012
My daughter's college roomie came to work at VMI after her time in the Army. I had taken her photo when she was in college, which produced some nice portraits, so we talked about doing another shoot.
During Exams, when there wasn't much for us to do, she and I went to the Blueridge. It turned out to be a perfect day. She liked these so much that she had me take photos with her little sister two weeks later. Those turned out well, too.
Working with Sarah was amazing. She moved seamlessly from pose to pose, pausing for the shutter, knowing what she wanted. I never had to say a word.
Sisters - Natalie and Sarah
2008 Lexington, VA
When my Brother Rat, Erica '04, called to ask if we could do photos, I, of course, said YES. She didn't mention that she was bringing her dogs. This was my first time working with animals, and, though I took over 200 photos that day, these are the only ones I would use. She was trying to control two dogs, I was frustrated, and the dogs controlled the shoot.
It was a good lesson.
I use what I learned this day whenever I take photos of friends or couples - the photographer must establish and maintain control. When working with animals, bring snacks and toys.
Still . . . I finally got to take photos of Erica; I love her look.
This is one of my high school friends, one of the prettiest girls in my class, and that is saying something. The class of 1971 at Woodlawn High School (yeah, the one from the movie) was populated with a bevy of gorgeous girls.
As you can see, Patti is still amazing in her 60s
I took this photo on my way through Mississippi, sitting among her things, a Southern Lady in Her Home.
A Lesson in Archiving - Be careful with those files.
Taken in 2000, this is the only photo I have of this lady. I took about two rolls over two separate occasions but they are gone. The Negatives, The Prints, and the Scans are all gone . . . somewhere.
I keep hoping that I'll find them on some thumb drive or disk though I also know it's hopeless. What an incredibly stupid mistake!
A mutual friend said, seeing this photo, "Wow, John, you've really captured her." High praise from a guy who, I know, has always been smitten with her.
We all were.
Silverwood, Lexington, 2000
On the other side of the coin, when faced with an opportunity to photograph someone, take your time. I took a series of photos of this beautiful girl just before leaving for Turkiye in 2000. I screwed up all of the shots but one . . . this one.
Of Course, I still have the scans of all of those photos, good and bad.
I can only guess that I was nervous. One of J's high school friends, I've always had an old-man crush on her. Still do. She remains a part of my family, living with J and KS.
Perhaps, one day, she will let me take more.
Canon A-1, Kodachrome
Nohe at the Bushong House, New Market Battlefield, wearing a period dress of her own creation, made of Cadet uniform items.
Bolivian beauty and former cadet, I got to know Nohe when she was the S-1 for New Cadet Military Training. She did an exceptional job keeping track of and sometimes tracking down the lost teams in the George Washington National Forest during the 4th Class FTX.
We did four Photo sessions together, though I don't think she ever became comfortable in front of the camera. She is one of those rare girls who do not know they are beautiful. Though a joy in life, they are sometimes hard to photograph.
New Market after Lunch 2018