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Behind the Lens Part 3 of 3: Restorative & Responsible Representation

Photo Courtesy of Flaunter.com via Creative Commons on Unsplash.

Posing clients, capturing candid snapshots, and creating elaborate sets are all a part of what photographers do, but their work means so much more than what is done technically. Whether you’re an industry photographer, photography student, or portrait photographer, one thing remains constant: an intense desire to capture the raw essence of your subject in a genuine and creative way.

Motivation

Betsy Meredith has created a name for herself within portrait photography in Northern Colorado and works tirelessly to create work that she’s not only proud of but that her clients can identify with. Her experience growing up in a strict home environment inspired her, as she says it:

A close up photo of the lens of a camera opening.
Photo courtesy of Photo by Eberhard Grossgasteiger via Creative Commons on Unsplash.

Desire to look at life through a different lens and see what I missed. To see the beauty in things, people, etc…that I had previously judged”.

Betsy Meredith in an Interview.

She picked up a camera and started to capture the hidden beauty in diversity that was all around her. Working to see the world in a different light, over time, Meredith was made aware that professional portrait photography, despite having an abundance of both hidden and visual diversity, left a lot of underprivileged youth quite literally, out of pictures. Recognizing this, Meredith started to do photoshoots for foster youth, people she said “would otherwise not have been able to obtain professional photography” portraits. For groups of people left behind, who often feel invisible to society, she gave them the spotlight they needed to shine. And shine they did.

Restorative Photoshoot

In an interview with Meredith, she reminisced on one such shoot:

“I was doing a photoshoot for a foster kid that was being harassed by a drunk guy on the shoot, and I told him to leave us alone as he was disturbing my client. The foster mom the next day called and said that all she could talk about was that I called her my client. She felt so special”

Photo of two women photographing a third in front of a wooden fence. A foggy mountain scene is laid out behind the woman posing
Photo courtesy of Aldino Hartan Putra via Creative Commons on Unsplash.

Being called a “client” for this person reaffirmed their place in the world and made them feel so special it was all they could talk about. This is the precise reason representation-especially for those who don’t quite fit into the dominant culture society has laid out for them- is so important. Everyone deserves to be seen. To be photographed. To be documented. To feel Special. It’s important to create work that holds actual meaning in the lives of culturally diverse people. It is important to remember that photoshoots can be intimate and immensely meaningful to a client and because of this, respect for their narrative, must be delicately handled.

Tips for Remaining Respectful

When Meredith has a hard time creatively, she turns to social media—where some of her best ideas have come from but since her work is so meaningful, she stresses that practice is important. Honing your own skills so you can accurately portray you, the client, in a professional and yet personable way is only one of the things she says is important to remember when starting out in photography. Respecting your clients means standing up for them, and capturing their truest self with the limited time you spend with them. When you’re stuck in a rut, don’t be afraid to practice more or reach out and ask for help. Meredith herself hired a mentor to help when she couldn’t get a photo she wanted, and she didn’t know what she was doing wrong.

Photo of Betsy Meredith standing with her camera against a brick wall.
Photo of Betsy Meredith Courtesy of Betsy Meredith.

We are all products of our own life experiences and sometimes it just takes looking through a different lens to make all the difference.

To connect with Betsy Meredith you can find her at:

http://betsyhudgensphotography.com/index.html?fbclid=IwAR2AfHA8HVmGucibCGm6KCekfbzznD0iGdb0UfZl3w_vR68s9_Ft6Kdnuuw

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