interview that is.
We are thrilled to bring you the first interview in our Cleverness section. We will be using this space to bring you features on people we admire and think are doing extraordinary things in the children’s industry…parents, photographers, designers, artists and so much more.
It is so exciting that we are able to start it all off with a piece on the stunning photography of Jamie Goodridge. While Jamie is an accomplished portrait artist doing smashing work with musicians, photographers and other artists, we are privileged to share with you all here her gorgeous series of portraits featuring her stunning daughter, Bunny.
Known as Dockmaster online, Rachel first encountered Jamie’s work on flickr back in 2005 and was immediately hooked by the mysteriously striking portraits and honesty with which Jamie shared her life. Rachel even had the chance to meet with Jamie and her family when they lived in Brooklyn and both Bunny and Gemma were small and much quieter. Following her work for the last 5 years has been and continues to be a great source of inspiration to both of us.
Having an undeniably painterly quality, her work is like that of a modern day master, but it is as Bunny’s mother that we want to introduce you to the most wonderful Jamie Goodridge!
Tell us a few things about your life…
Hmmm….where to start? Bunny’s the most charismatic seven year old I’ve ever met. I know most parents would say that about their kids, but there’s just something about her that sets her apart from other kids her age. She’s incredibly generous and shockingly selfless. She’s always conscious of the people around her and their needs. She likes to talk about mortality and about what the planet will be like when we eventually become extinct a la going the way of the dinosaur. Initially people are a little weirded out when she tells them her predictions, but she always brings them around. She’s very curious about what people have to say regarding this particular topic.
She’s determined to be a fashion designer when she grows up. She’s got it all planned out, F.I.T. in NY, then L.A., and then Paris. I believe she’ll pull it off, too. This kid was tearing the shoe page out of the J.Crew catalog at two years old and sleeping with it. Around the time that she was learning her alphabet she could easily classify fifteen different styles of shoe!
We recently moved from Brooklyn, NY to beautiful Portland, OR. It’s been a massive adjustment. For years Bunny, her Poppi, Rob; our vicious cat, Baby Nim; and I lived in a 500 square foot apartment. Our tiny apartment was always overflowing with friends and family. Our life felt like it was stuck in a permanent fast forward. Since moving to Portland we’ve become accustomed to living in a house (a few days after moving in Bunny and I were in the backyard and she pointed to the back windows and said, “That place looks pretty nice, who lives there?”. It took a while for her to understand that we were the only family living in our house). We’ve since added a dog named Zeke to the family. We’re learning how to live at a slower pace. It’s growing on us.
What was the first photograph that you did of Bunny?
I first photographed Bunny just hours after she was born. We like to joke that she’s been in front of the camera ever since. She was born just two days before my Mother’s birthday and the photo is of my mom holding her for the very first time. It’s a very special shot for me. I’ll always cherish it. This is it:
How has your photography changed since the first photograph you posted on flickr of Bunny?
The first photograph of Bunny that I posted on Flickr was one of the first I’d ever taken with a digital SLR…actually with a digital camera period! Before Bunny was born I worked as a Darkroom Technician and was adamantly opposed to digital photography. I loved being in the darkroom and couldn’t see the point of taking photos if I couldn’t develop and process them on my own. It’s hard though to find a custom R4 lab to print in and so my Mom sent me my first digital camera, a Nikon D70. She said…”Take some shots with it, see what you think…if you hate it, send it back and use the money to buy a new lens or something.” I took it out of the box, pointed it at Bunny, took a picture of her eating at the table and was completely amazed by the result. I’ve spent the past five years tweaking my photoshop skills. My goal is to blur the line between digital and film photography. I’m striving for the look of film with the benefits of digital. I feel like I’m getting closer to my goal.
The images of Bunny seem to have progressed from much softer and lighter to a harder light…what are your thoughts on that?
You know…I hadn’t realized this until you’d pointed it out. I honestly feel like it has little to do with Bunny, and more to do with a shift in my technique. When we lived in NY there were literally two windows in our entire apartment. There was a LOT of flash bouncing going on. Now that we are in Portland, our house is filled with available light. I’m always looking for pockets of light now, both indoors and outside. I think that’s the big difference.
What has been the hardest age to work with bunny and what has been the easiest?
From the day Bunny was born up until she was about five she was a happy and willing model. Around fiveish she started to be annoyed by having to sit still. She was tired of having a camera in her face and I tried to be understanding. I hate being photographed so I could certainly relate. There are times too, when I have to remind myself to put down the camera. I don’t think you can be fully present in the moment and operate a camera at the same time. You take yourself out of the moment when you start to document it. You become an observer and not a participant. I don’t take as many holiday/birthday/big family event photos as I used to for this reason. Lately though she seems to be coming around. I think she was happy for the little break, but she’s starting to enjoy modeling once again. I’m glad. It’s just not fun to take a picture of someone who’s not into it.
What do you think you have learned about shooting portraits from photographing Bunny?
I’ve learned to take my time with it. I’ve learned that people actually prefer to be given a little direction in the shot. I can tell Bunny to relax her mouth, or tilt her chin down without feeling uncomfortable. Before Bunny, I felt flustered by giving people that kind of direction. I felt like they’d feel criticized or squeamish which was the opposite of how I wanted people to feel while I was shooting them. Turns out, it actually gives them a bit more confidence that you might just know what you’re doing..and hey, this photo shoot might turn out alright after all.
I’ve also learned that I really do love doing portraiture work. I’ve never had a thing for landscapes or dilapidated buildings. I can enjoy other people’s photos of those kinds of things, but I just don’t have the passion to shoot them myself. When you get the perfect shot…when you know you just captured that special glance forever…that’s my favorite part about photography.
Do you think having a relationship with Bunny outside of being her photographer affects how you take pictures of her and what pictures you take? Do you find it easier or harder to shoot someone who you know personally?
Yes, absolutely. She tends to know what I’m looking for in a shot and usually gives it to me. Well…after much taunting and cheesing around and such. The other day she kept sneaking Zeke’s tail into the photo and laughing maniacally. I’d get this amazing shot…great eye contact…perfect exposure…delicate composition and BAM there’d be Zeke’s tail in her hand. She likes to pull these kinds of pranks often.
When other people take her picture she’s a lot more casual. She doesn’t get that serious look about her. She reserves all that modely type stuff for me.
I find it extremely difficult to photograph people I don’t know. I can do it…I mean I can take a decent photo…but I’ll know the difference. So far the only person who blows this theory out of the water is my Mom. I’ve been shooting her for years and years and years and I still don’t feel like I’ve taken an great portrait of my Mom. We’re working on it though.
How much direction do you give Bunny? Are any of the shots set up beforehand or are they as you find the scene?
I almost never set up a shot. I consider myself more of a documentary style photographer. I don’t usually know what I want a shot to look like until I’m actually seeing it in front of me. On occasion there will be an incredible pocket of light and I’ll grab my camera and say, “Hurry! Get in that light!!! This could be amazing!”, but that’s as close to a set up as I get.
As I discussed previously, I give her bits of direction…but usually it’s just me asking her to tilt her face a bit so that it catches the light, or some other minor detail. The rest is all Bunny.
The light in your pictures always seems to be this twilight/golden hour/magic kind of light…do you tend to shoot more during a certain time of a day (I noticed a lot of shots taken during the ‘gloaming) or do you shoot whenever and edit things later on?
I’m an absolute slave to the light. I wait for it and then shoot. The light during the gloam is my favorite light of all. When else does the world look so magical and full of possibility?
Bunny’s favorite time of day is sunrise. She calls it “night morning” I’ve been thinking for a while that we should take some shots during the night morning. I bet we’d get something incredible.
Your color palette is very consistent…is that purposeful?
I think my color palette in life is pretty consistent. I’m certainly drawn to blues and greens, but I like to have some kind of contrast color in a photograph to really make it pop. I love color in photography. When I post a black and white photo it’s almost always because I couldn’t get the color pop I really wanted.
Where do you find inspiration?
Gregory Crewdson, Sally Mann, and Larry Clark are my heroes. I absolutely pore over their images. They amaze me. I also find lots of inspiration from my talented friends, Noah Kalina, Phil Sharp, and Elizabeth Weinburg. Jeremy and Claire Weiss ASTOUND me, as does a young Portland photographer I’ve just recently become aware of named Megan McIssac.
Besides staring at images taken by other photographers and trying to absorb their talent through osmosis, I’d have to just say the light. The moment I understood that the literal definition of photography was ‘writing with light’ the world looked different to me. It sounds dramatic, but it’s true. I’ve spent about fifteen years now taking note of they way light reflects off of walls, it’s temperature, and the way certain colors absorb it. I’m a light junky.
Can you pick three favorite photos of Bunny and tell me why they stand out to you?
This is really hard, but I’ll take a whack at it.
I love this shot because I love those baby cheeks:
I love this one because ..I’m not sure i can explain why… Maybe because it blurs that digital versus film line, maybe because it’s a moment taken so out of context. We were laughing like maniacs moments before the shutter click, but she looks so serious here. That’s another one of my favorite aspects of photography. It doesn’t matter what was happening when you took the shot, what matters is how that moment looks. It’s a trick. It’s a twist of perception.
I love this one because of the light. I love that her hair is a wreck. I love the contrast…not just the contrast in the light, but the contrast in her expression. This is Bunny actually modeling. She became a character for this shot. I’m amazed every time I look at this photo.
Finally, what does Bunny think about being photographed? How aware is she of the popularity of her photos online?
Sometimes she loves to be photographed and sometimes she’s not that into it. When I work up a photo of her she’s almost never interested until a bit of time passes. My computer plays a slideshow of every photo I’ve shot and edited over the past five years as a screen saver and she’ll sit and watch it for hours. She loves to talk about what was happening around the time certain photos were taken. She also gets really nostalgic for old clothes, toys, friends, and family members.
I’d have to say that she’s well aware of her popularity in the flickrverse. It’s afforded her quite a few opportunities. Last summer she starred in a short film entitled ‘Still Life’, written and directed by Joy Andrews. Joy followed Bunny’s set on Flickr and asked if I thought she’d like to take a whack at acting. I’ve seen a few unfinished clips of the film and it looks absolutely beautiful. Joy and her D.P., Mike Ragen are so talented. I can’t express enough how thrilled I am that Bunny was able to be a part of their project.
We also can’t forget her first video debut in the Les Savy Fav music video for the song ‘The Equestrian’. The band created a contest entitled, ‘Make Our Video’. Fans were asked to make a video for the song and post it on You Tube. The video with the most views by a certain date would be the winner. Our good friend and video artist, B.A. Miale had a great time with Bunny shooting the video in Bunny’s bedroom. With the combination of B.A.’s vision and skill and flickr’s support, they won! Bunny was later invited to “play” the song on stage with Les Savy Fav at their cd release party. She played her Barbie guitar in front of a huuuuuge Brooklyn audience. It was hilarious! Soon after she started getting recognized on the streets of Brooklyn pretty regularly. That part was a little exciting, and a little unnerving. Since moving to Portland we’re back to our old anonymity. I’d have to say I prefer it this way, but she’d certainly disagree.
Thank you Jamie for sharing your images and words with us. It has been wonderful to get more insight on your work and to revisit the Bunny series.