Since the age of seven a camera has been an integral part of my life. Through the lens I view, record and understand the world around me. I have always been a visual person and appreciate beauty everywhere and in everything. Photography allows me to totally occupy and honor the present moment.
I photograph across many genres but have always had an affinity for portraiture because it’s an interdependent and collaborative experience. There is a fundamental freshness, vulnerability and openness about it that I love. It’s also freeing to find myself more attached to the “dance” of it with the other person and less attached to the outcome. With this in mind the outcome takes care of itself. Both my subjects and I mutually surrender to the process of discovery during a session.
Sharon and Strider
In this photograph of Sharon and Strider the image does not fully reveal the interesting story within the story. Sharon and I were in the woods doing a study of her when Strider, a local dog unknown to us, appeared seemingly out of nowhere and in our frame. His size and bigger-than-life presence frightened Sharon but as he relaxed and got comfortable in our little space, so did she. It was a beautiful thing to behold. She went from being tense and uneasy to totally letting go. It just unfolded in front of me. They worked it out with each other and this image transpired. Viewers often think it’s a portrait of a woman and her beloved dog.
For decades I processed and printed my own black and white film and prints. There’s nothing quite like the aroma of Dektol to keep you happily absorbed and firmly rooted making magic, hour upon hour, in the darkroom!
Then, the emerging digital revolution hit hard and it was a very humbling experience. It hijacked photography as I knew it. I felt like I was accomplished in the medium and resented that I had to start all over again: new equipment, post production programs and classes, lots of classes. It was like learning to speak a new language. I was slow to embrace it but for the past 12 to 15 years I have been exclusively a digital photographer.
Typically I allow myself at least 35 to 50 exposures before I feel a session is anywhere near complete. On occasion my favorite image is the first spontaneous photo made in a study, as in this portrait of Paule. But sometimes it’s the last photo, signaling the session has concluded.
I’ve had formal training in both photography and video production and they each inform the other in delicious ways. I am keenly aware of composition when shooting video and have always loved the sense of motion in photographs. My portraits sometimes feel like stills from a film, a small slice of the continuum of my subjects’ lives. I often find the images that remain in my mind’s eye after seeing a beautiful film are the faces, portraits that reveal the inner world of the characters.
Mother and daughter
I enjoyed a very rewarding 30 year career in K-12 public education with Fairfax County Public Schools in Northern Virginia, just outside Washington, DC. The years spent with my high school photojournalism students were some of my most rewarding. After retiring I went on to work with individuals who were blind or had low vision. As an Orientation and Mobility Instructor I taught safe and independent travel skills to adults and children.
Brandon and Kristina
In this photograph of Brandon and Kristina, I was touched by how totally present they were in this moment, appreciating the warmth of the sun’s radiating energy on their bodies and sidewalk. They are both totally blind. Vision is certainly a sense associated with our eyes, but it’s also felt and perceived on many differing pathways to the brain.
Thank you, Brenda Smoak, for featuring me in your stimulating Artists Tell Their Stories blog. I have found much inspiration in your weekly features.
My photographic muses are many: Judy Dater, Imogene Cunningham, Emmit Gowin, Mary Ellen Mark, Diane Arbus, Joyce Tenneson, Ruth Bernhard and so many others who have come before.
Lin lives in Bradenton, Florida and can be reached through Facebook (Lin Oakerson) or Loakerson@verizon.net.
This is Week 28 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Lin's story today!