Sunday, May 23, 2010

My Aunt Lori's Influence

If I were to trace out how my interest in photography begun, it would all stem back to the summer I turned eight, and my Aunt Lori introduced me to her dark room. She had set up a corner of my grandparent’s dark basement to function as her developing lab by stringing curtains around it and installing a red light. I was just tall enough to watch the black and white images gradually appear on the photography paper as she swished them around under the clear chemical fluids with plastic tongs. Then I’d watch her hang them up to dry, like my mother did clothes on a clothesline. To my childhood mind, the process of turning negatives into prints was pure magic! And I wished to be the same kind of magician.

I especially recall the day we developed the series of black and white portraits my aunt created of my great-grandmother. Aunt Lori had my old Nana sit in her rocking chair by the open window and photographed her wrinkly face in the natural light, as she impressed upon me the value of engaging natural light in portraiture. In my own explorations in self-portraiture I have also come to favor natural light, and often set up my tripod by the most ample windows, drawing from that memorable day.

One bright morning that same summer I stepped out onto the back porch to find my aunt draping sheets up to serve as a back drop. She had strategically hung them to reflect the most sunlight, and left them deliberately wrinkly and creased to catch shadows. My Aunt Lori positioned her camera on her tripod and aimed it at the backdrop. Then she set the timer on her camera and rushed in front of it. Too excited to sit, I stood and watched her pose as the sun reflected off her curly brown hair and into her green eyes. Her dancer limbs moved gracefully as her eight year old niece was instantly enchanted. It was the first time I had ever seen anyone create an artistic portrait of themselves and it created quite an impression in me.

Three years later, on my eleventh birthday, my Aunt Lori gave me my first camera. I carried it around with me the entire summer and shot several rolls of film. It wasn’t until recently, however, that I chose to engage a camera again as an instrument of my personal expression. And I haven’t put it down since!

My aunt was the survivor of a near fatal car accident in which she nearly lost her leg. Her whole life as a photography major in college was derailed and it took her months to walk again. Although no one died that day, I feel my aunts passion for photography did not survive the experience, as she eventually chose another career. Today, many years later, I delight in knowing that my Aunt Lori is resuscitating her passion for photography. What I would give to have her invite me up to her attic and look at her old, artistic photographs! The very same ones that fueled my desire to create some of my own. I have a dream that perhaps one day my Aunt Lori and I will exhibit our photographs together.

(Thank you to my photographer friend Jearvi for making the inquiry that led to my writing this blog. You may also ask me a question if you wish at:, and I may write a blog to answer it!)


  1. Wow! I'm thrilled that a question of mine led you to writing this great blog entry about how your passion for photography was born. =)

  2. What a wonderful history you’ve shared here with us. Thank you so much for it. There’s no doubt in my mind at all that every artist, or every artistic endeavor, stands on the inspirational shoulders of an Aunt Lori. What a blessing she must be- and, man, what an influence she must have been, for you’re one of the best photographers I’ve ever come across. A true and marvelously unique artist you are. What a pleasure it is to have Providentially come across your path!

  3. enchanting... love to hear how such a wonderful woman/ artist was your photography inspiration! yes, the sweet magic of the dark room - beauty created from the darkness... love XO