Photographers Photographing Photographers | Johnny Martyr


My wife and I operate a small local photography business and we often joke about the sad fact that we are out taking other families’ portraits so often that we never take any of our own. The walls of our house are filled with memorable candids that Stephanie and I have taken of our kids but the walls are barren of photos of us with our kids.

2022 has been different though. With two awesome photographers on other sides of the globe helping us out, we can finally hang some new prints that will make us feel complete.

Our neighbor Britt Beals of Mattie Myrtle Photography knew about our problem and she can relate. She also has a family of four and an even busier local photography business. She was kind enough to custom-tailor a session for our family in which she would photograph me, photographing Stephanie and our girls in and around a classic Pontiac LeMans that was on loan for her other family sessions.

I really liked this idea because, like a lot of people, I hate posing for photos. Which is partly why I took up photography to begin with – so I wouldn’t have to be on the wrong side of the lens!

This was the first time that Stephanie and I switched roles and had another photographer aiming their camera at us. That felt totally weird at first and I while we were excited, I think that both Stephanie and I started out awkward, as many families do on their first shoot. It was enlightening to be reminded of what our clients probably feel like sometimes.

It didn’t take long for Britt to work her magic and get everyone comfortable though. Like me, she prefers to catch moments rather than to direct people. So she sets up scenes and just has her subjects play within them. She’s great at giving people a nudge when they need it, and coming up with creative placements and angles to keep things fresh.

Britt shot us with a digital Canon SLR and a funky, Sigma Art 24mm that broke during a shoot. She then rubbed Vaseline and glitter on the front element and covered it with a UV filter to create these dreamy images.

It was really fun to get some photos of the four of us without it feeling like work! I think Britt’s photos express who we are in a unique way that will also remind us of our friendship with her and her family.

But our family photo adventures were not finished!

For our recent family vacation to Paris, France, Stephanie had her heart set on bringing some memorable group shots back to the States.

We both enjoyed Phil Arty’s Instagram feed. Yes, he has the obligatory Eiffel Tower shots (I would take those too!) but his subjects are diverse and lively with expressive and thoughtful compositions. Phil’s color palette is pretty natural but with some bite to it. Phil’s work reminded Stephanie and I a lot of our own.

So we started out shooting at Les Deux Plateaux – a courtyard art installation consisting of black and white striped marble columns of varying heights. It was designed by Daniel Buren in the mid 1980’s.

Amazingly, the runways for Fashion Week were being built in the adjacent courtyard, which added to our excitement about Paris. Stephanie okay’d me to wear my 1930 Leica in the photos…

…when I wasn’t photographing our photographer of course!

Phil liked the idea of ​​avoiding the Eiffel Tower portraits that everyone requests, and he recommended shooting at the Palais-Royal which was built in the 1630’s with innumerable repeating archways. It’s located within walking distance to the Louvre where we also took some shots.

On our way to the Louvre, Phil told me that he has a 1938 Leica that belongs to his grandfather. He had recently sent it to Philippe André from The Film Camera Clinic to be rebuilt and it works great now. It was very cool to find a French shooter who could appreciate, or at least tolerate, a weird American buzzing around with his little black 35mm camera while he was shooting.

Despite my instinctual reservations about being photographed, I had a really fun time with Britt Beals and Phil Arty. Please be sure and check out their work, and consider hiring them if you find yourself in Frederick, Maryland or Paris, France! But either way, don’t forget the family photos!

Britt Beals – Website, Facebook, Instagram

Phil Arty – Website, Facebook, Instagram

Ironically, though I take these kinds of photographs for other people, I managed to ignore how important family portraits can be. My heart belongs to documentary photography and taking my own photos. But after we got the files and viewed these images, it really hit me how nice it was to put my camera down (though not totally!) and step into the frame to be with my family for a change.

Our kids are probably sick of Stephanie and I sticking lenses in their faces when they’re just trying to play and have fun. So getting another photographer take photos of all of us and making an event of it was probably good for them as well.

Everyone agreed that we need to make more of an effort to plan for other photographers to preserve our adventures together as a family.

Thanks for reading and happy shooting, whatever side of the camera you’re on!

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