Category Inspirational

The Decisive Portrait Moment

Maine Deputy

 

Photography is all about light, of course—the literal meaning of the word in Greek is ‘drawing with light’.  Without light, there can be no photography.

But what makes photography remarkable and powerful is something else. While video and film are all about the story—how all the individual parts contribute to the narrative, the still image is all about moment.

Of the thousands of images you’ve seen or created in your lifetime, what makes the relatively few images stand out as special?

I’d bet it’s that these images capture a fleeting, authentic, remarkable moment. Moments can be a shared interaction between mother and daughter; they can be a simple expression in the eyes or on the lips. A moment can be a gesture, but it can also be a ray of sunlight hitting the perfect spot. It’s a person caught in mid-leap over a puddle, ala Bresson. It’s that peak moment of joy, of anguish, or of maximum exertion during a sporting event.

It can be hard to define in words what a photographic moment is, but you undoubtedly know it when you see it. Moments can be momentous or quiet and subtle. The impact of a true visual moment, however, is immediate and profound. It connects with the viewer and pulls them in.

If you want your images to be remembered, be attuned to what photography great Henri Cartier-Bresson termed the ‘Decisive Moment’. Don’t take photos: capture moments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fighting Cancer with a Warrior Spirit

Trevor Maxwell
Trevor Maxwell, founder of Man Up to Cancer.  Cape Elizabeth, ME.
© Brian Fitzgerald.

Mostly we experience all three in succession—phases, rather than permanent states. That certainly seems to be true of my friend Trevor Maxwell, the founder of Man Up to Cancer, a support network to connect men dealing with the disease.

I’ve known Trevor since we both worked as journalists at the Portland Press Herald, now officially a Long Time Ago. At different points in time and independent of each other we both ended up leaving the paper, and our journalism careers, deciding to strike out on our own—me as a commercial photographer; Trevor as a communications and media consultant.

He discovered, like me, that with age comes inevitable physical changes and health challenges. Unlike me, he was faced with a true monster—a stage IV colon cancer diagnosis in 2018 at the age of 41.

As he related later, the diagnosis hit him hard, with depression so strong on top of the physical sickness that confined him to bed on most days. Eventually, he made a promise to his family that he would get the help he needed to regain his mental and physical health.

Trevor Maxwell
© Brian Fitzgerald

Two years later—and despite the Covid-19 pandemic, no less, Trevor launched Man Up To Cancer, along with a podcast that continues to grow and support men who, like Trevor, once felt isolated and alone in their struggle. The company’s howling wolf logo and tagline, “Open Heart, Warrior Spirit” speaks to Trevor’s approach, somewhat unique among cancer support groups that tend to be softer, more feminine and involve pink ribbons.

Clearly, Trevor has decisively moved into a phase of purposeful action, even as he continues treatment for his own cancer. 

I photographed Trevor this summer near the grand oak tree that has stood on his family’s Cape Elizabeth property for decades (check out the moving, beautiful tribute created by Roger McCord). I’m inspired by seeing how far Trevor has come and how he’s made it his mission to help others using his own unique talents and voice.

In normal times that would be something special. In 2020, it seems downright heroic.

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Read more about Man Up to Cancer or  subscribe to the Man Up to Cancer podcast.

 

Enjoy it While it Lasts

Lake Kayak

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we’re already in mid-August and those of us in Maine know that means cooler days are not far away.

This summer of the pandemic has been strangely busy.   Busy,  primarily, because the work of a commercial photographer doesn’t just stop when things get slow; but also because I’ve been taking advantage of more time to start creative projects, edit my work and learn some new skills.  

Taking control of my own creativity, and reassessing the direction and trajectory of my business and my creative efforts, has been an unexpected benefit of these past few months.  


In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting some new images, along with updates on a brand-new portfolio of work that I’m pretty excited about sharing. In the meantime, as summer winds down I’m enjoying getting out and doing what I love—kayaking, hiking, and spending time with my family.

So here’s to using well the summer we have left to us, and being ready to create meaningful work when we all return. 


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Five Clicks: Your Blursday Playlist

The last few months have been a long, strange trip indeed. My teenage daughter came upstairs last weekend and asked when I was going to work, then seemed confused when I told her, “It’s Saturday.” 2020—since March, at least—has been that kind of year. It’s hard to know when one day begins and another ends, with the actual day of the week ceasing to be relevant.  As my filmmaker friend Jonathan puts it, “Every day is Blursday”.

I’d like to share what I’m listening to this week in the studio: call it my Blursday Playlist. Five things I’m listening to, reading and watching that inspire and inform and serve to remind me that I’m actually connected to a bigger world out there. I may not always know what day it is, but I can still use my time well.

1619“, New York Times (Podcast)
Hands down the favorite thing I’ve listened to in a while. The six-episode series takes us back to the very beginning of slavery in America, when a pirate ship called the White Lion landed at the British Jamestown Colony near present-day Hampton Roads, Virgina and traded between 20 and 30 African prisoners for supplies. This small group of Angolans were the first of the multitude of African slaves to follow. 1619 is long-form audio journalism at its best.

The Jordan Harbinger Show” (Podcast)
I’m sure I’m late to this particular party, but I only started listening to Jordan’s podcast post-pandemic, when I was looking for something I could do while taking walks. His long-running show (currently with 378 episodes) consists of interviews from interesting and inspiring people as varied as Bill Nye (the Science Guy) and Frank Abignale Sr. (the real-life subject of the movie Catch Me if You Can). Very entertaining and always interesting–you’ll definitely learn a thing or two.

ChilledCow (Livestream)
My daughter Maggie is the source of this lo-fi playlist, available on Youtube and Spotify. The creator, ChilledCow, started a 24/7 livestream on Youtube featuring this music back in 2017 and just…never stopped. By the time Youtube mistakenly shut it down temporarily earlier this year, it had chugged on for some 13,000 hours, churning out mellow hip hop beats that somehow are that perfect white noise when you have to study or chill.


Shadow Country” by Peter Matthiessen (Novel)
Matthiessen’s sprawling historical epic is actually three books in one: “Killing Mr. Watson” (1990), “Lost Man’s River” (1997) and “Bone by Bone” (1999). At over 900 pages, it’s perfect for these socially isolating days. Set in the lawless wilds the Florida frontier at the turn of the 20th century, Shadow Country is a portrait of an American outlaw and sugar planter who meets a violent end amid a landscape of racism and exploitation.

I am Not Your Negro” (Documentary)
A searing essay by Raoul Peck based on author James Baldwin’s unfinished book that NYTimes critic A.O. Scott calls “an advanced seminar in racial politics.” My daughter chose this one for movie night, which lead to a deep discussion about race, history, and equality. A few months ago, my daughter was perfecting the dance to “Renegade” on TikTok and today she’s deeply passionate about the state of our world. Watch it, but be prepared to really see.

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Adjust Your Hustle

Tech Worker

We hear so much these days about the ‘pivot’. Faced with unprecedented health and economic crises, small businesses and freelancers are hunkering down to weather the storm. Many are panicking, understandably. Those who can are using the opportunity to shift their focus to the things they can do: becoming more useful, more disciplined and more prepared to safely get back to work when it’s time to do so.

I’m most grateful that I’m healthy and that my very large, far-flung family is as well. Number one priority for me has been to stay healthy and to keep my business healthy as possible.

I’ve had more family time than I’m used to, and it’s been both challenging and rewarding. My daughter Maggie is 13 and in seventh grade. She’s not the World’s Biggest Fan of online learning and misses her friends, but by now she’s turned into a bit of a corporate lawyer: from waking up at 5:30 to get work done before her school day starts, to pausing her earbuds, forefinger raised, to tell her parents that “I’ve got back to back Zooms from 9:30 to noon; I’ll catch up with you for lunch before my 1 o’clock.”

I’ve been using my time to brush up on skills—taking a handwriting course, of all things, and studying Russian again—and to work on new ones, like shooting video and editing in Premiere Pro.  That’s been fun and I’ll have more work to show soon.

It’s also been a welcome opportunity to re-edit my work and website. I’m embarrassed to say how long it’s been since my last major website portfolio update, but it’s not for lack of new work.  Finally I’m incorporating personal and client images from the past couple of years and can’t wait to reveal those soon. As I refocus my marketing and other business systems, I’m streamlining things to make my workflows easier and my client experience better.

My studio is clean, organized and prepped for reopening. I’ve even done a few no-contact and social-distancing client shoots this week, following the state guidelines as service businesses like mine reopen.

In this time of social distancing, the most surprising and unexpected benefit has been connecting (and reconnecting) with friends and family sadly too long neglected (by me, usually, not by them): a high school friend now serving in the Navy in Spain (a nurse, no less); my octogenarian Uncle Michael in Washington State who proudly wears a ponytail; former newspaper colleagues around the country.  I love Virtual Happy Hours….a bit too much. I’ve learned not to schedule more than two of these in a weekend.

In April, I helped to form a group of fellow creatives located around the world. We meet weekly to discuss marketing, how to elevate our work and our value, and to hold each other accountable. The group includes a photographer from Montreal; a Florida filmmaker; a podcaster and a designer, both from Portugal; a Budapest furniture designer and a German copywriter. After just one month, it’s become a hugely valuable part of my week and one positive outcome of this strange time that I plan to continue long after the pandemic ends.


I’ve realized that just because the world slows down, there is work to be done: maintaining health, relationships, and working hard to pivot your business, your career and your skills.  I’m adjusting my hustle, though more work needs to be done.  

Now if I can just wean myself off of these happy hours, I think I’ll be in good shape.


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Showcase: Dove Tail Bats

Dove Tail Bats by Fitzgerald Photo

During the past two months I’ve been busy with ongoing projects, especially with video production of work I started before the stay-at-home orders shut things down.

I love the impact of the still image and it’s my primary way of telling stories visually. Often, a crafted campaign built on remarkable still imagery is the most effective and impactful way to tell a story. Other times, a single still image alone isn’t sufficient and that’s when I turn, increasingly, to video storytelling.

I’m excited to release a new video showing Dove Tail Bats founder Paul Lancisi in his manufacturing facility in Shirley Mills, ME. This was part of a photo assignment for Down East Magazine. While I love the portraits I produced for the magazine, I decided to incorporate video as well because it better conveyed the processes that make Dove Tail Bats so special.

I love how Lancisi pivoted from a woodworking business to one that embraces his lifelong passion for baseball. What he and his wife Theresa have created is amazing: a Maine company that crafts beautiful, one-of-a-kind baseball bats sought after by major league hitters and top college athletes. The bats might look great hung on a wall above the fireplace, but—just like Dove Tail Bats—are destined for greater things.

It’s inspiring to be able to show Maine companies doing such remarkable work and and achieving great success far outside of our state.


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Ready to level up your storytelling content with photography, videography and multimedia? Contact Fitzgerald Photo to see if we’re a good fit for your brand or project.

Focus on What’s Important

Scottish kilt
 @Brian Fitzgerald

I’ve always been obsessed with creating various lists. Nothing, it seems, feels better than to tick items off my to-do list as I march towards….what? Usually, more to-do lists.

Sometimes I’ll add an item that I’ve already completed, just for the little dopamine rush of checking it off. Some of you know what I’m talking about.

The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 Rule, posits that 20 percent of our activities generate 80 percent of the results. On your to-do list of 100 items, less than 20 will actually move the needle, propel you forward, impact your life and give you the majority of the positive results you want.

In short, most of what we do isn’t important at all. It may feel good to check things off a list, but we’re losing sight of what is really important. A million such activities would get us nowhere but does result in lives consumed with busywork. The pandemic has highlighted this for many of us. Much of what we felt was important no longer seems that important. Much of what we used to do, we can no longer do.

So as we slowly start to go back to “normal” work in the next weeks and months my goal is to apply this 80/20 framework to my life and to my work. To fight against the busywork, by delegating or eliminating it altother. To instead do more of the things that I enjoy: building relationships, doing creatively fulfilling work, and contributing positively to my family and community.  

 

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Stories Matter Now More than Ever


This is a time of uncertainty, pain and upheaval. It’s a time of distrust and disinformation on a massive scale, enabled by the easy and instant distribution of social media.

It’s also a time of amazing, heartbreaking and heroic stories.

Last week I got a letter from my friend Eric. He’s a Navy nurse stationed in Spain, one of the areas in Europe hardest-hit by the Coronavirus. He described long hours, uncertainty and even gratitude that he and his family are healthy even while he’s on the front lines of the fight against this disease.

I thanked him for sharing his story with me and wished others could hear it too.

My neice is an ICU nurse in Washington, D.C. I have friends and other family members who are in healthcare. Some of them have also had to deal directly with Covid-19 in their own homes.

We hear these stories, usually second- and third-hand, but more people should hear and see them.

Another friend, Scott, a Chinese medicine practitioner and acupuncturist in Washington State (another Covid hotspot) is dealing with the issue as well.  His staff  voted to remain open to help patients with critical needs during the pandemic, though most clinics have closed, and he’s using savings to keep his staff on payroll. 

Many can relate to these stories, directly or indirectly. But what we can’t do—what we aren’t seeing enough, I think—are the stories of the lives of people on the front lines of this pandemic, both patients and healthcare workers. For safety, logistic and privacy reasons, it’s hard to do. Not impossible, but complicated.

Yet, it’s what we need to be seeing more of. Doctors and patients are behind the curtain—-and we can’t see the battles they encounter nor the significant successes, either. The same is true with other front-line workers, from police officers to rescue personnel to postal workers.

Seeing the real impact on the lives of these people would help everyone to see the costs of the pandemic. We’d see that we all are in this together.

Months from now, when we look back on this time, I hope we have documented these stories. They will remind us of our capacity for solving big problems, and ultimately healing, together.

 

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This is Our Moment

Charles Norman Shay
Charles Norman Shay, © Brian Fitzgerald

My grandfather, Gordon Clark, died at the age of 95 in 1991. A soft-spoken man with a great sense of humor and a fondness for Irish Whiskey, “Pappy” also survived many trying times in his long and extraordinary life. I still have the German flare gun he brought home from WWI as a member of the Battery B, 12th Artillery, 2nd Division of the US Army in France. He lost his fortune in the Great Depression, and rebuilt his life and family in the years to come.

Raymond Gordon Clark
Raymond Gordon Clark, c.1917

Closer to home, I photographed Charles Norman Shay, 96, of Indian Island, Maine.   A decorated Army veteran and Penobscot elder, Shay was a combat medic in WWII, was taken prisoner of war in Germany, and then served again as a medic in the Korean War. Along the way he was awarded a Bronze Star, Silver Star, and the Legion d’Honneur, meaning that Shay is, quite literally, a French knight.

Many of us haven’t literally fought in the trenches, but we’ve all lived through trying times.  

If you’re in your 30s, you’ll remember living through the Great Recession, the War on Terror and 9/11. If you’re a Gen-Xer, you remember the gas crisis, the stock market crash of 1986 (plus one in 1992), Desert Storm, the Iran hostage crisis, and the fall of the Soviet Union. A bit older and you remember the throes of the Cold War, the assassinations of MLK, RFK, JFK; the Cuban Missile Crisis, the resignation of Nixon and Vietnam. Before that, there was the 1957 influenza A (H2N2) virus pandemic that killed 1.1 million worldwide (116,000 in the US), the Korean War, “duck and cover” drills, and the McCarthy Hearings. The Greatest Generation fought WWII and endured hardships and deprivation that we’d find hard to imagine today.

We’ve been through tough times before.

At times like these—of great uncertainty and great fear—it’s easy to get overwhelmed and to think that nothing can be done.  But that’s not entirely true.

It’s important to remember that we as a society will make it through the Covid-19 pandemic, and chances are, you will too.  Yes, the world will change.  Yes, this virus and the resulting economic impact will have far-reaching and for many, devastating effects. Yes, much remains unclear.

But what is clear? What was important one short month ago no longer seems so significant. Instead of doing lots of busywork, most of us are at home, connecting with loved ones. Or perhaps we’re at a critical job, doing essential work to care for, feed or provide for others. What we are doing now matters.

This isn’t a time for selling, or for expansion, but it can be a time for growth. It’s a time for doing what’s essential, taking care of yourself and others, and for growing in whatever ways you can. These weeks and months of forced downtime are an opportunity to slow down, reflect, live simply and plan for what is to come.

I’m taking classes to learn new skills that I’ve long wanted to develop. I’m editing my portfolio and trying to stay healthy (thanks, Arnold Schwarzenegger!). My hope is that I’ll look back in a couple of months, as the world is getting back to work, and I know I’ll be grateful if I spent my time well; happy that if I couldn’t control the situation or the outcome, I could at least control my response.

Here’s to surviving—and thriving—in this moment where it matters most.

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