I love to tell stories and create works of art that touch people's lives. The goal for my "Circle of Life" sessions is to establish a quick rapport with my subjects that enables me to capture their essence through my lens. Quite often, that lens is Craig Strong's remarkable invention, Lensbaby 3G.
My work communicates levels of emotion beyond the crystal-sharp technology of perfect focus. Lensbaby 3G makes my images look more like the pre-visualizations I have in mind. Every time I begin a "Circle of Life" session, I have a secret mantra for my clients: "Today I celebrate life, laughter, and light. Join me."
Inside the Circle of Life
Three factors shape the art and marketing of these sessions:
- I am invited into the most intimate moments of people's lives to capture and share their life experiences. To encourage a sense of play, moments in which I feel comfortable interacting with my clients, I sell a block of hours, divided among various life events over the course of a year, in which I document precious family time.
- I guide my clients in choosing quality time for creating their "Circle of Life" project. This does not only mean birthdays and holidays, but also dinner and bedtime rituals. These moments of daily life often go unseen, yet they are the moments that leave the deepest impressions.
- I encourage my clients to understand that my images are meant to portray how a day makes them feel, which is why I use the Lensbaby 3G. Lensbaby has a sweet spot of focus, and much like our memories, is a little blurry around the edges. I am fond of saying, "It's not about the focus; it's about the feeling."
All three factors were in play on July 8, 2006, when I spent an entire day shooting with my Lensbaby 3G and experienced the full Circle of Life in one day.
8:30 A.M. Studio Session: The Circle Begins
As I set up my Boulder, Colorado, studio, I pre-visualized the young family with whom I would begin my day. Tom and Tania are expecting their first baby. Part of my assignment was the unborn baby's first portrait—in Tania's belly. We created some normal angles and some nice skin-on-skin portraits. I directed the father-to-be to stand just outside the frame, waving my bright pink Italian silk scarf. Using a long exposure and my Lensbaby 3G, I combined the blur of the motion with the sweet spot of focus and came up with this image (Image 2).
11:00 A.M. Studio Session: The Circle Continues
My next session was a family with six-month-old Isabella, who has enjoyed sessions with me since she was three days old (Image 3). She had found her toes and was able to push up from her belly. Her mother, Barbara, is a professional model, comedian, and performer. I swear Isabella inherited all those genes. Every time I clicked the shutter, Isabella would change positions and expressions. In contrast to the quiet intimacy of the day's first shoot, I was impressed by how well the Lensbaby 3G performed when I trained it on the wiggles and giggles of the active baby in her mother's arms (Image 6).
1:00 P.M. Marriott Hotel, Cherry Creek, Denver: Rounding Out the Circle
I expected to have the afternoon free, but my friend Greg called with an urgent request for help at a wedding. I grabbed my trusty Lensbaby 3G and headed off to Denver to document the marriage preparations. The Lensbaby 3G is a great tool for isolating the subject. Using color, light, and the sweet spot of focus, I am able to direct the viewer's eye through the composition (Image 4 and 5). The wedding day is full of emotions, interactions, and intricate details.
5:00 P.M. Holly and Scott Bristol's Home, Arvada, CO: The Circle Closes
I arrive at the 90th birthday party of Mama Jo (Image 7). Previously, I documented baby Roxy's baptism, 3-year-old Ruby's birthday, and "together time" with great grandma. Mama Jo has six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, all of whom were at this celebration. Listening to Mama Jo tell stories about the ranch where she grew up, her horse "Curly," and the challenges of raising her kids, I realized why we, as photographers, become addicted to creating images.
10:00 P.M. Back at the Studio: The Circle Is Unending
Returning home, I download and archive images before going to sleep. As I drift off, I can hear Elton John's Lion King lyrics, "It's the circle of life and it moves us all, through despair and hope, through faith and love, till we find our place on the path, unwinding in the circle, the circle of life."
For more on Lensbaby 3G, visit www.lensbabies.com
Peggy Dyer (www.peggydyer.com) is an editorial and lifestyle photographer based in Boulder, Colorado. Her art is housed in private collections throughout the world and has been published in Life magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous trade publications.