I was shown this video yesterday, a time-lapse that begins with a plain-looking, pimply young woman, and within about 30 seconds (time-lapse time), she’s displayed on a billboard as a supermodel. And yet, the person on the billboard isn’t the person we started with. It’s revealing.

You need to see the video.

It’s really quite disconcerting. The most troubling section is where you seen the woman’s face–after the layers of makeup and the volume of hairstyling and the magic of lighting and the flattery of studio photography–her face is being touched up and distorted in a Photoshop-like program, until her proportions (eye size, neck length, etc) are supermodel-like. And that’s disconcerting because I’m a photographer, and I use Photoshop. I have the power to do the same thing.

I have to hand it to the makers; it’s from Dove, interestingly enough, and their Campaign for Real Beauty. Their point is that fashion models and extreme dieting don’t make a perfect woman, that normal people of any age are beautiful, and that beauty isn’t skin deep. The whole site (www.campaignforrealbeauty.com) is focused on this issue. It’s impressive.

I heartily applaud their efforts, and hope that more and more corporations will follow suit. And more photographers, as well.

Like anyone, I’m attracted to physical beauty; it’s in our nature to be so. Yet I find myself constantly fighting to remember that real beauty is not skin deep, is not artifice, is not sex appeal, is not the goods I’m being sold in the hundreds of images I see every week. It’s tough work. I mostly fail. But I don’t give in.

In my own photographic work, I made a decision long ago not to work with models, if I could avoid it. I don’t generally shoot model cards, don’t shoot fashion, try to avoid the risque. Not because I’m a prude, but because I don’t want to be part of the problem. I don’t want to lie. And I don’t want to believe the lie. As the above video shows, much of what our culture calls beauty–and what we export and sell to the entire world as beautiful–is a lie.

I would rather photograph real people. Whether or not I’m trying to make them look good, normal people are pretty interesting. Making a normal person look good–drawing them out of their shell, helping them relax and have fun, and using the tools of my trade to show their best side–is usually fun work, and I enjoy it immensely. But I try to emphasize the fact that I’m creating a portrait of someone, not a glamor shot. It may not even be pretty, but it could be true. It’s one thing to make a person look good; it’s another to treat them like putty and mold them into a lie.

In my current documentary project on eating disorders, I work regularly with women and men who have been beat down and bought in to the lie that beauty has to do with their weight or sex appeal. Most of them hate themselves. Most of them are trying to kill themselves. I usually sit there, talking with or photographing them, and simply want to say: You are so beautiful. You have so much inside of you that is beautiful. You have so much going for you. It’s not always appropriate or profitable to say such things, but I think them, I pray for them, I do what little I can with my words and photographs to encourage them.

It’s not often I give a thumbs-up to a multinational corporation for much of anything. But thanks, Dove, for telling the truth.

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  • June 5, 2007 - 5:21 pm

    FotoBoy - Very well said Fritz! I applaud you for putting this out into the world and trying to raise awareness. It’s a tough battle to fight in our society. Every magazine you pick up has been worked on by a team of retouching specialists. Young women and women of all ages look to these portrayals of beauty to measure themselves. When they don’t measure up, they turn to cosmetic surgery or even worse, develop a false sense of identity that is not grounded in reality and truth.

This past week, National Public Radio’s program Day to Day did a story on this great guy in Vancouver, Washington. He’s memorized a few thousand names of people who visit or come regularly to his church, and he greets them by name every Sunday morning. And he’s my dad.

You can listen to the story here, at NPR’s website.
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  • May 18, 2007 - 12:23 pm

    FotoBoy - Great story Fritz! I’m having a hard time visualizing this man as your father. Perhaps you could add a little soul patch to his photo and that would make it complete!

    Nice NPR story. You must be very proud of your father.

If you know anything about my work, you probably know that I’m a sucker for photos of kids at weddings. This past weekend’s wedding was no exception. Brian Howley and Sybil Weatherman were married at a family estate in Yamhill County. The light that day was awe-inspiring. There were probably about as many children as adults at the affair. Here are a few of them….

This is my new second shooter.

I mean, the picture is by my new second photographer Gretchen.

Gretchen wasn’t wearing a fairy princess dress, although I’ll have to rethink that rule.

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  • June 15, 2010 - 4:43 pm

    The Howley Family Portraits » Fritz Photography - […] In 2007, I had the privilege of photographing a wedding out in the country, on an estate that included a lake and an outdoor model railroad, and a lot of children.  It was a beautiful day, and Gretchen and I had a great time photographing Brian and Sybil’s wedding. […]

Faces and Facades: London, Kenya, Israel

England, Kenya, Israel. Three continents, three cultures, three weeks.

While my work in these places was to photograph those I was there to serve (a medical relief team), my eye was constantly drawn to the local faces and façades.

Whether in Kenya, where the mud structures that have been built for millenia may begin to crumble in a few years; or London, where history crowds each street with magnificent stonework; or Israel, where rubble and ruins signify over 5000 years of culture; wherever you turn you see the texture of civilization.

In among these vestiges of the past, faces reveal themselves: at Hell’s Gate, in Ceasarea Philippi, the adolescent children of a kibbutz giggle and run rampant. In the slums of Eldoret, a woman caring for poor children speaks softly of her endeavors as she shows me her tiny schoolhouse. In Covington Garden, a young girl peers through the crowd at a street performer’s shtick.

While this is a disparate collection of images, there is the common element of the present interacting with the past: my feet on the Roman mosaic of Bet She’an, or a Kalingen elder draped in furs, or a Jewish man at the Wailing Wall with tallit and phylacteries talking on his cell phone. Past and present, stone and flesh, young and old, faces and façades.

Click here to view the gallery.

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Today I received the Spring 2007 issue of the High Desert Journal. This beautiful magazine is filled with excellent essays, fiction, poetry, artwork, and more. And this issue contains a 2-page spread of my work as well. Selections of my series Through the Shadow are included, with an introductory essay. This work was completed in 2004-05, begun during my Caldera Arts residency, in the burnt out pine forests of central Oregon.
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Erica is from the country, but she lives in the city. Her parents have horses, she has a desk job. Although she loves her work, and enjoys the city, she’s still a country girl at heart.

And then there’s the rain:

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Leslie and David are getting married in Astoria this summer. I’ll be there. She said that when she was researching northwest wedding photographers online, that my photographs made her cry. So she hired me. I like that.

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Non-traditional engagement portraits. What more can I say? Beth and Willie are a hoot, and Oaks Park was the right place for some fun portraits. I won’t tell you what Congressman Willie works for. Partly because I can’t remember. But he’s really famous.

I included this one, because I deserve a little face time here and there.

And because you can see that, like usual, I’m having fun.

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  • April 23, 2007 - 3:44 pm

    Biff - These are so great. I’m giggling as I view them.

  • August 28, 2008 - 6:08 am

    donL - L – For me, the magic of what you did with these photos, and these people in particular, including the wedding, was that you really did capture the happiness these people have with each other, and the love between them, you can see it in the eyes… and the energy of the joy, and joy of the energy, they have. That’s a great photographer and it was actually quite moving to see that, in them, in these pics for that reason. Keep up the great work. DL.

Today I am hanging a brief show, in collaboration with Be Nourished, for their open house. Come by Friday, April 20, from 4-7 pm, to see some work and eat some yummy food. I’ll be there. The work should be up for a week or so, so stop by later if you can’t today. If you can’t come by at all, you can view the work online as well.
Be Nourished is located at 3808 N Williams, Suite F, in Portland.
You can also meet the women that run Be Nourished, providing wholistic help to those struggling with eating disorder and body image issues.
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Did you know that Portland, Oregon, has an official flag? Do you know who designed it? I didn’t until now. The answer is: Douglas Lynch.

You may have seen his work around. He was commissioned, in the 1930s, to create mural panels for the Works Project Administration (WPA) at Timberline Lodge.

Some of his work is incorporated into Lynda Wysong’s installation at the Delta Park/Vanport Max Station.

And his flag, designed in 1969 (and revamped in 2002), flies at Portland City Hall, the Portland Building, Pioneer Courthouse Square and other locations.

And he still designs labels for a local vintner, updating annually a label he first designed several decades ago.

Douglas and his sweet wife Alix still live in the same house they’ve had for fifty years, sitting inconspicuously right off busy NW 23rd. It’s filled with their collections of books, folk art, and music–more LPs than I’ve ever seen in one person’s collection.

Over his 94 years, Douglas has worked as a commercial artist (back before the term ‘graphic arts’ even existed), taught for 30 years at the Museum Art School (having graduated from there in the 1930s…he has some interesting stories to tell about it’s history…), was the president of the Portland Art Commission, and more.

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  • May 30, 2007 - 8:26 pm

    isaiah - I just saw some of Douglas’ incredible work at the Timberline Lodge on a PBS special. How moving his work is.

    I am blessed to now know of Douglas.

  • July 17, 2008 - 12:59 pm

    robvukovic - Doug Lynch’s wife Alixandra spells her name with an i not an e. It’s Alix.

    Rob Vukovic’ (a family friend)

At 90 years old, Portland artist Eunice Parsons has more spunk than many 60 year olds I know. She also has one of the finest handshakes of any woman I’ve met; her fingers, curved with age, fit my hand like a glove. Like most of the senior Portland artists I’ve photographed in this series, she has a lot of stories, knows a lot of people, and has produced a lot of work.

Eunice is a well-known collage artist; you can see some of her work here, at the 12×16 Gallery. (She also has a show and lecture this month at the Helzer Gallery at PCC Rock Creek.) She is known and adored by her many students, from her many years teaching at the Museum Art School (now PNCA) and PSU, many of whom still visit her in her West Hills home and studio. This year, she is being honored, along with a select few others, as a Faculty Emeritus at PNCA.

Up in her attic studio, Eunice seems to melt right into the floor. She kneels to work on collages she constructs from boxes and boxes of collected and sorted materials, setting antique irons atop them to help them dry flat. As she talks, her face is animated, and as she makes a point, her face lights up and her eyes sparkle.

I could have stayed several more hours, talking and photographing, if I weren’t so allergic to her dogs and cats….

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