Taido + Alison // Man + Wife

So I started this portrait series a long time ago and it has been my most popular thing ever with pretty much everyone. I stepped away from it for a while but I think it's time for a revival. My original inspiration for this was the incredible portrait work of Martin Schoeller, who is entirely credited with lighting a fire inside me for portrait photography. He's the best and I love his work forever. I have yet to find a better portrait photographer than Schoeller. He does both the simplest and the (seemingly) most complicated portraits I can imagine while still capturing a quiet expression on his subjects. I could go on and on. 

Anyway, he has a super complicated and expensive lighting setup for certain portraits and I set about trying to re-create that setup on a budget. I went to Home Depot and bought a couple of small fluorescent tubes like you see in office buildings and built a custom mount for them that holds the tubes about 6 inches apart vertically where I can shoot through the middle of them. I wired in a standard electrical plug so I can plug the whole setup into the wall and run the lights hot, then I mounted the whole thing on an old tripod I had laying around.


Once I actually get around to shooting with the contraption, I have my subjects sit in a chair and I set up the light-tripod just inches from their face. I get so close with it that I usually have to figure out how to set the tripod legs just right so my subject has room to fit their knees in somewhere, then I pull up a chair super close and put my lens right in between the lights. When I'm shooting with this thing, my subject and I end up being uncomfortably close to each other, which has a really intimate effect and often draws out a raw vulnerable expression, which I think tells a little about who the person is inside. I usually turn off any other lights in the room too, which adds to the closeness and intimacy of the photographs. 

The whole point of this project, which I call Man + Wife, is to portray the modern American married couple and to attempt to offer a visual glimpse into this concept of people being "perfect for each other." I think it is really interesting to see how two people eventually meld into one another over time and create this combination that just makes sense, which is why I end up creating a diptych of the two photos side-by-side for the final product.  

For this first post in the series, I'm featuring my good friends Taido and Alison Chino who are completely awesome people and who just recently moved to Scotland so Taido can pursue even further theological education, so that he can continue to blow my mind with spiritual insight and wisdom. Taido and Alison are both prolific writers, although Taido tends to keep his musings mostly to himself and his thesis supervisors (save his seldom updated blog), Alison shares herself and her family adventures on her blog here. She also has some of the most powerful white girl dreads of all time. 

Stay tuned - I've got a lot more of these to come.