With Kinfolk – Tribe Making and Christmas trees

Where has November gone? Thanksgiving has already come and left and it’s pretty hard to believe that Christmas is almost upon us. But hurrah! Because Christmas is without a doubt, the most awesome time of year (unless you live in Australia (or South America), then it is summer and hot and gross — I am truly sorry about that). For the rest of us up north, though, it’s tea and cocoa and cookies and carols and lights and presents and snow. The best.

And, once again, it is my distinct pleasure to share with you work from the most recent Kinfolk Magazine. I had the honor this time around of contributing to a number of stories, which posed the unique dilemma of having to figure out which ones to blog about and in what order. After much hemming and hawing, I decided to start with the following story if for no other reason than because I love Christmas trees.

First, a word about process. As I’ve noted before, Kinfolk is shot roughly four months before it is published. That means that the holiday issue was shot in June and July. For those who are wondering, the only thing harder than trying to wrangle a three-year-old into pretending to chop down a Christmas tree is trying to wrangle a three-year-old dressed in a heavy jacket in Summer. It turns out that the key here is bribery. Hot chocolate and axes, to be exact (it also helps, I suppose, to bring along an enforcer, i.e. the boy’s dad). In any case, three-year-olds aside, it’s a bit of a task to make it look wintery when it is 87 degrees out. Ultimately, we were blessed with what may have been the only partially cloudy day that western Oregon got this last summer (which ended up being our saving grace).

On a deeper note, this particular story is meaningful to me for a number of reasons. Firstly, the words that accompany the article in Kinfolk were written by a certain Rebecca Payne. Months after we shot these photos, I was able to go on a three week work trip through Europe with her and her husband (Chris) in order to shoot for a Kinfolk book. It was during that trip that we realized we’d already contributed to each others’ work. And it was something special, after having shared that time with them so closely, to sit down and read through the article in print for the first time. They are fantastic people and that was a trip I will never forget.

Secondly, being able to shoot with Josh and Shep (the father and son in the photos) was particularly fulfilling. Josh Garrels is an accomplished artist in his own right, and also a mainstay in my church’s musical staff. I’d wanted to meet with him for a long while before we got a chance to shoot together, but for whatever reason, I never made it happen. In the weeks leading up to this shoot, we were searching high and low for a good father/son pair to use for the story. At the last second, a friend suggested Josh and his son — a suggestion that, to me, now seems Providential. Or conversely, perhaps it just goes to show that if it weren’t for photography, I might never make any friends.

Lastly, I always love getting the chance to work together with my brother. Shoots like these afford me those chances.

I should here note that I was helped in great part by Melisa Sibley and her ability to produce. She was invaluable in pulling this thing off; not to mention helping keep the younger talent in good spirits! All in all, this story has become one of my favorites for the year. I hadn’t quite done anything like it and therefore it was a challenge. I think it turned out pretty great.

On a final note, as has become standard, all shots were taken with Kodak Portra 160 using either a Contax 645 or a Zeiss Ikon.

And now, as we head into the Advent season, I hope you all find time in these colder, darker days to enjoy the warm company of friends and family. And that you have more than one opportunity to sit inside by a tree and a fire in order to do some quiet contemplation. Or, if not contemplation, at least bust out the Charlie Brown video tapes. Either way, I wish you all a most Merry Christmas and happy holidays!