No Worse… Thoughts on photographing people.

Yoga, City of Rocks, Idaho.
Yoga, City of Rocks, Idaho.

A few years back I attended a presentation by Dave Stoecklein. (If you are not familiar with his work you should check it out.) As a photographer of western lifestyle Dave has thousands of authentic images of people living their country ways. Wrangler jeans to handlebar mustaches he’s got images of beautiful people and full-on characters. Somewhere in the presentation the subject of model releases came up and he pulled up a slide of a “photographer agreement” that he had been asked to sign by some the folks at a ranch he was shooting. It was humorous, something about not making them look any dirtier or more ugly than they already were. Once the laughter quieted Dave explained. As a photographer you have a responsibility to represent the people you are shooting in the correct light. Most if not all of the folks he shoots are real-life ranchers, cowboys, cowgirls, horse people, etc. Being allowed into their lives he explained it would be in poor taste to show the awkward images that are part of the job. (We’re talking about the shots where their eyes are closed, mouth mid-word, weird stride, or the stuff between that makes you look off. He wasn’t talking humor.) For Dave it’s about building trust.

Mike Kaserman climbs Center Trinity, LIttle Cottonwood Canyon, Utah.
Mike Kaserman climbs Center Trinity, LIttle Cottonwood Canyon, Utah.

This is a subjective guideline, but it’s something I constantly consider in my work. From portraits to skiing I recall Dave and try not to make anyone look any worse than they really are.

Eddee Johanson, Murray, Utah.
Eddee Johanson, Murray, Utah.
Story Von Holzhausen running in Plattsburgh, NY.
Story Von Holzhausen running in Plattsburgh, NY.
WWII Vet, Ted Olson, wraps up lunch at Big Apple Pizza, Salt Lake City, Utah.
WWII Vet, Ted Olson, wraps up lunch at Big Apple Pizza, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Amanda Fox practices yoga in Chatauqua Park, Boulder, CO.
Amanda Fox practices yoga in Chatauqua Park, Boulder, CO.