Tor Challenge Complete

The Tor Challenge has opened me up to my photographic fears and preferences. I now see fears as that, and feel more capable of photographic challenges. I still have my favorite things to photograph- food people and abstract. Yet, how I approach them is changing. The challenge was most important in giving me a reason to try new things. It was also an excuse to make photographs everyday, something I wasn’t making enough time for. The Tor Challenge gave me the excuse to take my camera, when before I would have just left it at home.

I think the thing that made the Challenge effective was the writing down of goals. Making a list of things that need to be photographed made it much easier for me to make photographs. I love cupcakes; they are cute, sweet and edible. If I want to be taken seriously as a food and desserts photographer I should have pictures of these delicious pastries in my portfolio. Because one of the assignments in the Challenge was to photograph cupcakes I now have some images, as well as ideas for where to go next time I shoot cupcakes.

I also found that I don’t really want to be taking photographs everyday. The process of going through my images, and editing the ones I like gives me the same adreniline rush and fills my creative needs. While I have found it important to be taking a lot of images, it is the working with those images that really completes the creative process.

Week 3 Tor Challenge

This week has been challenging. I had a vision of what my Couples project would look like. I was imagining taking the same approach with the project, as I had the last two weeks. I wanted to go and photograph a couple in their daily life, no posing, just a document of that couple.

My first choice couple was my friend Oahn and her boyfriend Marco. Oanh is a friend from work; she is a server assistant at the Georgian Room where I serve. She is probably the smartest, and wittiest person there. She is the type of person that only needs to be shown something once, and she remembers it and performs it perfectly there after. Oanh keeps herself very busy, working full time at the Georgian Room as well as selling life insurance on the side. There wasn’t a time she had free for having her glamour shot this week.

On Thursday my mom and I took Justin down to Olympia to show him the Evergreen State College. In the car ride down mom asked me how the project was going. I explained that I was discouraged, I didn’t want to think about what angle I would take to complete the assignment. That’s when she suggested I just shoot pictures of random couples I saw out in public.

I hadn’t even thought about photographing people I didn’t know. As some of you may know, this idea is very scary to me! Strangers!!! I managed to take my camera out one night and snapped a few shots. One of the couples I got permission from, the other I just shot. I enjoyed the later much better. I was surprised that they didn’t notice me taking their picture. The over all experience defiantly wet my appetite… I look forward to documenting more couples in Seattle….

The main focus of this assignment became my best friend Gabby, and our friend Dan. Dan and Gabby have a long history together. Dan actually introduced Justin and I, back when I was the third wheel to him and Gabby. I was hesitant to use them for the Couples assignment because they are not officially a couple any more. Their continued connection and chemistry made me reconsider when shooting them for the assignment. Dan and Gabby have a natural spark together; you can see they truly care about each other and are great friends.

This assignment made me think about the different relationships couples have. In my final edit there are the images of Dan and Gabby- two great friends who are also lovers. There is a pregnant couple who are not wearing rings- the father looks so proud as he plays dominoes with his lover. The pretty young nurse with her husband, with their matching tattoos. My Chinese friend Yi with her husband of 20 years, watching as their 5 year old climbs the fence. Romance and love come in so many forms, it was fun to document a few of the ways.

30 Day Tor Challenge

My mom has challenged me to actively “be a photographer” for 30 days. Everyday I must photograph a subject that has been predetermined. In addition to daily shooting, each week must include a photo shoot that will be used to build up a portfolio. My goal in building the portfolio is to be able to have a business where I am taking portraits with a photo-journalist approach. The title the “Tor Challenge” comes from the photographer my mom and her husband, Matt used for their wedding. Tor is a member of the Wedding Photojournalist Association, which states:

“WPJA members should not have more than 25-35% of the wedding images on their web sites from the following combined categories*:

  • Portrait (photographer has control of the posed situation)
  • Set-Up (subjects faking a moment or actions prompted by the photographer)
  • Camera Aware (subjects staring into the camera)
  • Details (flowers, cakes, rings, tables, gowns, shoes)
  • Manipulated Images (pictures heavily altered with software: sepia, selenium or other toning, selective tinting, soft-focus effects, vignetted edges, desaturation, texture overlays)”

While I would eventually like to shoot weddings, my goal here is to become a better story teller. With these guidelines I will be challenged to make family portraits that don’t just say, ‘here everyone was on this day together in front of the camera with well lit faces.’ I want my portraits that tell a story about the person or people I’m photographing.

What will my subjects interaction with the camera be if only 25% of images are posed situations?

I am very excited to take on this challenge. I look forward to looking at images made by other members of the WPJA, to see what their solution to these challenges have been.

Thanks mom for pushing me to work harder!


Last month my mom and I went to Charlottesville, Virginia to attend the Festival of the Photograph LOOK3.  Between shopping and dining in the outdoor mall, we attended master talks where I was inspired about what is possible with photography.

Mom with Look3 lanyard

The highlight of the program was Sally Mann interviewing Nan Goldin.  Goldin spoke about her new work, where she was given the opportunity to be alone in the Louve to photograph the sculptures and paintings.  The images from the Louve have the same feel as her early work of her friends.  The slideshow was images from the Louve paired with images from Ballad of Sexual Dependency, set to opera music.

Sally Mann interviews Nan Goldin

In the evenings mom and I would go to Ike’s Underground, Charlottesville’s premier vintage clothing shop.  We would marvel at the hand sown clothing, still in perfect condition after all this time.  My favorite piece I bought there was a little white linen shirt, someone had embroidered.  I also bought a yellow wool sweater with butterfly cutouts, and a skort made out of strawberry print fabric.

Mom tries on red dress

I think my favorite show was from a collective of young photographers called Luceo Images.  The show included work from Matt Eich, and his project on a small Babtist town in Mississippi.  The standout image is of a little black girl in a yellow dress on her way to church.  Check him out, you won’t be disappointed!

Bridge Gallery

Charlottesville is home to the University of Virginia.  Though most of the students had already gone home for the summer, some had stayed around for summer classes.

Another standout exhibit was Massimo Vitali.  After a long career of doing “the stupidest jobs”, he finally had the opportunity to make work he enjoyed.  When his two medium format cameras were stolen out of the truck of his car, he was forced to start shooting with the 8 by 10 camera.

Vitali’s Natural Habitats exhibit

My cousin Khristina and her boyfriend, Mike live in Charlottesville.  On our last night in town we met up them for dinner.  Mom and I were early meeting them, so we stopped to take a few pictures on our way to the restaurant.  I raise my lens up get a shot of this graffiti, and I see my Khristina and Mike standing right underneath it!

Thanks for being a great travel companion, Mom!  Looking forward to next years LOOK3….