My favorite portraits from 2012, and why I like them

It’s a good exercise to look back, periodically, at your work. The start of a new year seems to be the natural time for that, so here, in no particular order, are my 10 favorite portraits from 2012.

Judy DonovanI love photographing people in their own homes, because the home really is a reflection of its inhabitants. Many of the portraits in this post fit into that category, but this portrait of Judy Donovan is a particularly good example. Judy is the Vice President of the Beaverton Historical Society and a descendent of several of the city’s founding families. The assignment was to make some photographs in front of the “museum” she is building in her backyard, but as I walked through her house to get there, I saw this room filled with historical artifacts and knew it would be a good location. So, after we’d done some photos out back, I asked if we could do one in the living room. We made several nice frames here, but what made this one stand out is the Mona Lisa smile Judy gave.


Pepe RafaelPepe Rafael is such an outlandish character, it was hard to go wrong on this shoot. I had asked the singer/performer to wear whatever he might on stage. When I arrived at our meeting place in the Pearl District, he wasn’t hard to find. We just popped around the neighborhood, stopping to make pictures in a few locations. I didn’t have to work too hard to get good stuff, but I particularly like this picture because it shows how his outrageous character goes all the way down to his toes.


Jenna AlexanderThis is a bit of an odd shot of cooking/nutrition instructor Jenna Alexander. We did the shoot in her kitchen, which was in the midst of a remodel—the cooking area was finished, but the eating area was not. This was pretty much the only angle that was going to work. Most of the photos were “happy/fun” shots, which were what the assignment called for, but for this one, she just gave me this look that took the image in a different direction.


Laura NiemiLaura Niemi is the program coordinator for the City of Portland’s community gardens program, where people can pay a small fee to grow things in a plot at a city park. We shot this at one of the newest community gardens, in Ed Benedict Park, which has a series of raised-bed gardens intended for seniors or people in wheelchairs. What I like about this picture is what you can’t see—the grey, drizzly day we shot it on.


Marianne BuchwalterMy shoot with author Marianne Buchwalter might be my favorite of the year. In fact, there were two portraits from that shoot that I really love—the picture above and one of her in front of a large bookcase—and I could barely choose between them for this post. I’m still not sure I made the right choice. But this portrait just brings together a number of elements that just work: Marianne’s engaging pose, the books, the bust (of her as a child), the monochromatic background—and, by the way, more lighting than is obvious.


MilagresThis shot of the band Milagres was part of a personal project that is still a work in progress. I wish I could claim credit for dressing these guys in five different single-shade tops, but that was just what they were wearing at the time.


Jim TessierThis portrait of tin can artist Jim Tessier breaks just about every rule I know—the subject is centered, the background is cluttered, and the light comes almost directly in line with the lens. And yet, I think it reveals more about the man (or at least what I saw in the hour or so I had with him) than the action shots and portraits I made of him working in his spare bedroom.


embargoedI would dearly love to share this photo of musician Michelle McAfee shot for promo materials and cover art for her upcoming album. But it hasn’t been released yet, so I have to be patient. What I can tell you is that, after a couple hours of shooting (thankfully in sunshine where we expected rain), everything came together—concept, a found prop, lighting and pose—to capture the feeling we were looking for. I can’t wait to see how it looks!


Steve BerlinerThis portrait of bird photographer Steve Berliner was made early in the year, standing in a place where both of us would normally be up to our knees in water. I was a bit nervous trying to photograph a photographer, but his comfort with the process made allowed me to capture an image emblematic of the birder in his environment.


Carol JohnsonOne of the last portraits I shot in 2012, this picture of wheelchair-bound artist Carol Johnson made me sit forward in my chair as I downloaded the session from my camera. For me, it truly seems to capture the woman I met that day: the concentration and determination to make her art with her one useable hand, a bit of whimsy in the rainbow kite mounted on her wheelchair, and perhaps a sense of isolation in her condition. I couldn’t hope for more.

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