While my parents were firm in their discipline, my memories of growing up are filled with laughter and love. I can remember playing street football until it was so dark you couldn't see the ball and spending hours riding sleds in the winter. And my dad was a Lansing grocery store's produce manager, so I have memories of him bringing boxes of popsicles and ice cream bars home for the neighborhood kids (when the store had freezer problems). He was everybody's favorite dad that day!
Lori and I have been blessed with three great kids of our own--each with their own personalities and dreams, but all with wonderful hearts. Whenever we sit around as a family, our children now tell stories of their childhood memories.
As you can probably tell, this month's magazine focus is children's photography. It's the type of photography I enjoy the most, and it's the one I feel most privileged to do. But when I opened my business in 1979, I was an unmarried 24-year-old and children scared me, especially babies. I dreaded those sessions. I remember going along with my staff when they indicated we needed to build a children's photography market, though I thought it would never happen. What did happen was the opposite: the more children I photographed, the more I grew to love spending time with them.
I could go on a long time about what I have learned from such kids over the years, but I'll just highlight a few. First, their unconditional love is incredible. Children are born with the nature of forgiveness and love, and my own children have taught me this often. Secondly, their simple outlook on life is eye-opening. Kids don't care about status or material things; they care about the relationship.
I am so fortunate to have the privilege of photographing children. I hope I can give back to them as they have given to me.
Friends Met Along the Way
I think most people can be trained to take pictures of children, but not many can open a child's world and show it in their photography.
While attending the Southwest PPA Convention in Arlington, Texas, I had the opportunity to visit Kim Wylie's studio with Ron Nichols. We spent a few hours with Kim and Jessica Sikes, talking and looking around a studio filled with beautiful children's photography. Kim has a unique style of photographing children, which I'm sure her clients cherish. What I noticed the most, though, was the life that was captured in each child's eyes. That is a gift that Kim has, and her clients are blessed to have her.
There are two other photographers with similar talents who come to mind: J. Michael McBride and Mark Garber. Early in my career, I had the opportunity to enjoy their work. For years, their images inspired me to learn more and grow. I marveled at how they took a simple child and created images that reached out and demanded emotion from me. When I consider who has had an influence on me and my photography, these two are at the top of the list.
We are fortunate to have people from whom we can learn...photographers who take photography past "taking pictures" and into a level were we capture the inner person.
Dennis Craft, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, API, F-ASP
2008-2009 PPA President
image copyright Rod Gleason