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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

JUMP TO SECTION: 1. Are you his father? 2. High Maintenance 3. Joanna Tillman 4. Class is in Session


FAVE PHOTO: “Are you his father?”

My good friend and neighbor, Joy, hosted a holiday party for her clients. I was lucky enough to get an invite to help chow down on the extra food (including a chef-made omelette). Technically, Joy is a client of mine, but perhaps I’ll be one of hers someday. She’s a realtor who I made a series of “How-to” videos for her to share with her buyers and sellers.

But the story of the photo is the reason for this post. It was towards the end of the party, and I stumbled into the front room where the real Santa was chatting with a boy. The image begs a story to be told. What did the boy ask? Who is Santa talking to off-camera? Why does the boy look like something has gone terribly wrong?

In my goal of capturing in-the-moment photos, I hope that there are questions the viewer will ask themselves. That curiosity is poked when encountering the image. Sometimes the story of the photograph is obvious and others, like this, deserve an explanation, or at least a caption.

What came to mind when you looked at this photo? Any guesses on what was happening? Please share with me,

Here’s what’s happening...the boy asked for a soccer ball which wound up being the perfect soap box for this Santa who has 45 years experience coaching soccer! Who knew the old guy has that much spare time when not checking his list and shimmying down chimneys?

Off to Santa’s left was the boy’s father, who had an equally confused look on his face (see below) as Santa lectured them on what skills and drills the young man should be working on. Santa was adamant that even though he never saw the boy play, he was absolutely ready for the specific tips he was providing. My favorite was, “Don’t ever kick a soccer ball,” and after an intentional pause, “kick a spot on the ball.”




Intensity: 😮 Comedy: 🤣🤣🤣 Drama: 😢😢

Writing: 🤔🤔🤔 Originality: 🧐🧐🧐🧐 Cinematography: 😍😍😍

High Maintenance started out as a short video series on Vimeo and then got picked up by HBO. It’s sort of a “Humans of New York” style TV series. Each episode follows a weed dealer who travels NYC on bike delivering his goodies to all sorts of interesting and odd fellows. Sometimes the show reveals more about “The Guy” (we don’t get to know his name until the last episode of the last season). Mostly the show is about the characters he interacts with and occasionally there are some repeat personalities.

Season 1: Episode 3 (Grandpa)

This episode has a ton of originality which I love. The focus is a dog. And in keeping with this blog’s theme, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” the episode relies heavily on unspoken story telling. Images of the dog interacting with his dog walker tell you so much without hearing a single word from Gatsby (this dog should win an Emmy). About ten minutes into the episode, we see his dog walker in slow motion drinking from a water fountain, and it’s in this moment, we see Gatsby’s response and know he’s in love with her.

The camera angles alternate from the typical view of observer of the scene from the outside to revealing the perspective from Gatsby’s point of view. It’s a great method for seeing the world from within the character’s eyes. Developing scenes slowly with subtle looks are the key to making this episode stand out. You don’t even have to smoke weed to enjoy this charming show.


VIDEO PROJECT: Joanna Tillman

Artists are my favorite folks to capture and tell their stories. Joanna Tillman is a portrait and editorial photographer in Baltimore that has a painterly vibe. Before I brought the camera gear in to record her interview, we spent a couple of hours sipping tea and eating homemade biscuits while we talked art, photography, business ownership, and the love of using visuals to share someone’s story.

I learn so much in the work I do. I get the privilege of interviewing many different people. Absorbing their experiences and knowledge is one of the many perks to being a visual storyteller. Joanna is a quiet creative force.

One of the lasting ideas she shared with me was the emphasis she puts into planning with her clients. Before the shoot even happens, the concepts, feelings, colors, etc. are blended into a mood board that provides clear direction for the photo making. By the time the client arrives at the space, there’s a comfort on everyone’s part knowing what they are aiming to create.

I’m often capturing events in a documentary style, which means I’m winging a lot of it. The idea of planning ahead, knowing the space, the lighting, the goal of the shoot, all sounds wonderful to me. You can see the amazing results in Joanna’s images.

I’m hoping to gain more experience in 2023 shooting with a plan. The goal is to do some more fine art portraiture photos. I’m looking for models. Let me know if you’re game to participate!

JUMP TO SECTION: 1. Are you his father? 2. High Maintenance 3. Joanna Tillman 4. Class is in Session


EDUCATION: Class is in Session

I’ve been itching to find ways to share my knowledge and experiences. One way I’m doing this is by offering consulting help for folks running their own small businesses - especially those in the arts. I’m partnering with my friend, Scott Burkholder who has been growing a talent agency. I’ll be sharing more about that in the future. But, if you’ve got questions, let me know.

Another way I’m hopping on a soap box is by teaching a photography class for friends and fans. I took a great course during the first year of the pandemic with a seasoned professional photographer who specializes in environmental photography. I really appreciated learning from Rania Matar about our craft, but I also absorbed how to conduct a productive online class in this field. Or so I think. Time to test this theory out!

I’m offering an intro course to documentary style photography. There will be four 90-minute sessions on Zoom. I’ll keep the class to 10 or less folks and give assignments each week which will be used to offer feedback on your photos each session. I found listening to feedback on your own images and others in a class is a great way to learn.

Session ideas include: getting to know your camera, how to engage in shooting photos of strangers, common mistakes, tips on how to frame your subject, using photo editing tools, etc. The class will be held virtually on Wednesday nights Jan 18 - Feb 8 from 7-8:30pm. Cost is $99 for all four sessions. If you’re interested, please connect with me ASAP at:


If you dig what you’ve read...please subscribe (at the top of the page) and send a link to folks you think might enjoy it. Contact me at with any questions, comments, or if you’d like to have me produce a video or photo for you. Check out my instagram and website.

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