Iconic Portraits: Part One

Pure Rock and Roll // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

In 1994 I got my first job as a photographer. I wasn’t hired because of my portfolio, or my education, or my skills – I was hired because of my enthusiasm and passion for the art. I REALLY wanted it, and luckily the person doing the hiring thought that was a big asset and took a chance on me. I got a little training – basically set the camera and the lights up like this, use these poses, and work as fast as you can, while making sure the client has a great time. It was a great job! But after a month or so I got bored with the standard poses, and I started to focus more on finding the perfect angle for each person I shot. I started looking for the beauty in that person. And my sales shot way up! I got used to having at least one person dissolve into tears each day – because they never thought they could look that beautiful. It was a very very cool time in my life!

But I started to get bored… I wanted more. I wanted to change the way the lights were set up, I wanted to move the camera, and I wanted to go outside and shoot. I wanted to actually understand how the camera and the film and lights worked. I didn’t want to just set it and forget it, and follow a standard set of poses anymore. Was that asking so much?

So I left that job and started to take photography classes, and then spent the next ten years in the darkroom. I loved everything about the darkroom – the smells, the chemicals, the way you work all day to get one perfect print. There’s just nothing else like a black and white darkroom…

During that first year of school I shot an image that still perfectly defines my style as a photographer. I consider it to be one of my iconic images. There are several very sweet shots on that same roll of film, but this one image, with the wet hair, and the thumb in the mouth, and the big dark eyes – it just says so much about me, as a photographer. I initially titled it “Pure Rock n’ Roll” and I still think that’s a very fitting title.

I’ve thought about retiring it – it was shot in 1995, so it’s nearly thirteen years old now – and I’ve shot thousands of other beautiful images. But something about this one is just so special, and so rock n’ roll, and so me.

For me, it’s an iconic image. It’s who I was at the time I shot it, and it’s still pretty much who I am now – all these years later.

One Reply to “Iconic Portraits: Part One”

  1. I love this photo! I had no idea it was from so long ago… Makes me kind of wonder what the person looks like now, lol… I agree…it is still you…I think there is something about an artists eye that is hard to define as an observer, call it point of view, call it style, whatever…I would know your photos anywhere…and I love each one…

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