My approach to portraiture

February 27, 2015 | 10 Comments | Personal Work

Portrait photography scared me. Fifteen years ago, I studied fine art photography and was told time and time again by peers in my program and even mentors that commercial portrait photography was for those who had either “sold out” or lost their conceptual and artistic vision. The message I got was that this brand of photography was most certainly not art. If we were to use subject(s) in our work, it better have been overtly intentional or exactly the opposite, a photojournalistic coup.

Few photographers, and really fine artists of any medium for that matter, rarely make a living by only making art (defining art for art’s sake). I know a handful that do (fewer who practice in the medium of photography alone) and I think what sets them apart often is not usually talent or a point of view that is uniquely revolutionary. Rather, they put in a tremendous amount of hard work, are among the most tenacious human beings, and their craft is exceptionally sharp. And yes, their work is usually pretty good too.

More to the point of how this relates to my approach is that it only took me about a decade of traveling on the wrong path under the assumption that I was not good enough to be a practicing fine artist, so out of sorts with what I actually wanted at the confused age of 23 that I was in no position to put in all of that hard work, and I most definitely was not going to “sell out” by doing commercial photography work. For the record, I don’t believe fine art and commercial photography are mutually exclusive.

With the help of my son who was born this year and the heaping pile of loving encouragement that my husband has been serving me, year over year, I found a few shreds of bravery and left my job, decided to realign with the deeply buried creative self I left behind, and take on a new challenge.


{Jesse and August. My loves. My champions.}

And here is where we meet.

In deciding to make a go at being a photographer, of the commercial variety, there were a few intrinsic rules I just couldn’t bring myself to break. The main rule being that I had to find a way to just keep it real. My mother inspired this not through words, but instead through images of her mothering. As far as I know and can assume from these images, we were just captured on film living life in close parallel to one another, in both a loving and messy space. It has been three years since my mother passed away and these are the tangible relics I have of her, reminders of her realness and the togetherness that I was too young to remember. They are everything to me.




There are images where my mom looks just plain exhausted. As a mother, I can feel this depleted moment in my own body and relate. In other images, she appears renewed and adoring. All of these images are what inspired my approach to portraiture.


My hope is that you find the images I take of you now in a new season of your life and remember that moment as you actually lived it.


  1. Posted by Cris on

    In a tiny little way I can relate to missing my mother, and me too, take a lot of her lessons into photography.
    Lovely post, Clara! I am very confident that you will be successful in this new pathway, and very excited to see all your work!

    • Posted by clara on

      Thanks Cris! Being such a great distance from your mom must be so hard, knowing how close you are. Selfishly, I am glad you are here though!

  2. Posted by Joelle on

    Beautiful description of your approach to photography. Congratulations!

    • Posted by clara on

      Thanks Joelle!

  3. Posted by Nancy Johnson on

    Lots of goosebumps..

    • Posted by clara on

      Thank you!

  4. Lovely post. Makes we want to dust off the old family photo albums… and dust off my SLR camera. Very inspiring, thank you!

    • Posted by clara on

      I hope you do Derek! I’d love to see your perspective through the lens.

  5. Posted by Linnea on

    Clara, these images are such treasures. What an amazing memory for you to have these photographs of your mother caring for you so tenderly. I see so much of August in your baby photos – especially your eyes!

    You are on your way and I am so very happy for you!

    • Posted by clara on

      Thank you so much for the support Linnea!!

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