Broken Banjo Photography

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Briana: Bend, Oregon

This is Briana.  This is the photo that made me want to take pictures of people.  More on that in a second, and on how I was overcome with the desire to take portraits. 
I already was taking plenty of photos, of course, and would casually snap the occasional image of a friend, close-up, but here's what happened:  it was a beautiful day in Bend (most are).  On a bench outside of a bakery downtown, I encountered Briana and our friend, Brian.  We chatted (which friends often do) and I snapped a couple of photos (which I often did).  At the time, I had a work-study job in photo lab of the local Community College.  I was learning about darkroom work and largely gleaning an education without actually paying for photography courses.  

I developed my film, washed off the chemicals, pulled the negatives off of their reel, and laid them out on a light table.  With my magnifying glass, I examined my 36 frames to see what print-worthy images I'd gotten.  When I saw this image of Briana, as a tiny, 35mm, color-inverted negative, I couldn't wait to get into the darkroom!  I ignored the rest of the roll, leaving unseen negatives there on the light table to throw this shot straight into the enlarger and get printing.  I love everything about this photo, taken with a Pentax K1000 on ISO400 film; I love that I can see my legs in her glasses, and my camera in her eyeball.  I love her hair, her eyes, and the smile that made me want to be her friend from the very beginning.

I wanted this shot of everybody I knew.  And so began a systematic attempt to capture the portrait of nearly everyone in my community in Bend.  And so it still continues.
 Let me tell you about Briana.  The first time that I remember encountering her was during an art show of hers, wherein she was bedecked with sparkles, red dreadlocks, and platform shoes, surrounded by enthusiastic supporters of her work.  She was exuberant, and there was no way that her smile couldn't melt any person's heart.

After awhile, we became friends; Bend has a small and tight community, and potlucks abounded, which fostered many of the strongest friendships in my adult life.  I always felt a little bit like she was beyond me, like I'd never be able to keep pace with her mind or excitement.  But we spent plenty of days together, including many sunny Bend summer days in parks, Burning Man (along with 30-some close- and soon-to-be friends), and some trips to things like tea parties in Portland:
Wings, sure.  It was for a "Fantastic" tea party in Portland, at our friend, Romana's house, so...why not?

When I had my very first art show, a display of my printed black and white portraits of the Bend community, it happened to be in the very same place that I'd met her, where she'd had her own art show a year or two prior.  At the event, I set up some cheap lights and encouraged everybody to ride their bikes to the event.  At least 60 people must have shown up to my "Bikeluck", and I tried to get a shot of every one.  

I was thrilled and honored to have Briana show up; sometimes, even after becoming close to a person, you hold them in such high regard that they remain larger than life.  To me, at that time, she represented things much bigger than myself...the artist, the tense joy of life, the hub of community, the person for whom everybody swooned.  To see her there, in support of little old me, to hear her compliment my made me feel like I'd graduated from some apprenticeship that I hadn't signed up for.
Same camera, same film, same process.  This "photo booth" probably had three work lights clamped to various surfaces.  I had not begun experimenting with off-camera flashes.  I was relying on the internal light meter of the Pentax, so needed consistent lights with which to focus and balance my settings.  At the time, I enjoyed creating sharp shadows behind people.  In this case, it looks like a car is shining lights on her in an alley.  Dress, bike, and boots.  How could you NOT want to photograph her?

We watched the 4th of July fireworks one summer from the top of the same bakery in which we'd both had art shows.  We couldn't actually see Pilot Butte, where they were being lit, but just watched the sky turn colors from behind the next-door building.  We frolicked in Drake Park, the giant central green space in Bend, where everyone ran into everyone.  She inspired poetry and photography.

She is now living outside of Portland, with a new venture, into which she has gone head-on.  She's a goat shepherdess (is that a word?), and, despite being busy every single day with managing dozens of goats and using them to mow landscapes, she still finds time to dress up, to have fun, and to smile.  I hope to get out and take some updated photos of her and Goat Power!

Thanks, Bri!
Drake Park, where the Deschutes River cuts through downtown Bend.  All of these film images were scanned into computers while I was a student at The Evergreen State College, so that I could preserve and access them digitally.  I'm so very glad that I did that tedious work!  I recommend it to anybody with an archive of memories and faces.  Your friends, community, and future generations will probably thank you eventually!

No comments:

Post a Comment