Sonia Keshishian on photography
interview by Douglas Eby
"Photography is totally about expressing myself from the inside."
Photographer Sonia Keshishian adds that her work is also satisfying because "It's not about me physically, but about my soul."
Working before as an actor, she started "seeking comfort" behind the camera, shooting actor friends. "From there I started really enjoying faces," she says. "I don't care to do still lifes or landscapes or architecture, I want to do something that connects with a human being in front of the camera. I think it's fascinating because they're in the position I was once in, and I now know how to get them to not be afraid, and feel so vulnerable."
Her primary focus now is on wedding photography. She has a partner who shoots in a "more traditional way" but Keshishian has her own unique style. "I bring a very voyeuristic approach to shooting a wedding," she says. "I am witnessing the bride's transformation, getting hair and makeup put on, and then dressing.
"The feedback I get is all good. They're shots that they are unafraid to display on their walls, to use as 'thank you' cards, and they're almost like magazine quality in the sense that they look like they could be published in a Martha Stewart magazine, showing the behind the scenes of the wedding preparation coming together. They are captured as honestly as I can, and there's no contrived posing."
"I challenge myself creatively," she continues. "I look for reflections in the room that I can shoot from, and unusual angles, like I climb up to levels that are not normal viewing levels, or get really low, and capture it from a vantage point that only a carpet would be able to see things.
Sometimes it's unobtrusive, and sometimes it's so in your face. So I challenge myself constantly. Like I'll go outside and shoot through a window, and catch the street reflection as well as the interior. My big specialty is available light: I don't use any flash, and I shoot with a real high speed black and white film."
Keshishian notes that in running a creative business, she and her partner are "trying to satisfy a whole array of people with the end results. There are parents, who may not understand creative, wild and crazy wedding photography. But I shoot a lot of young, creative people, and they get me, and get my style.
"My partner captures the wedding in a much clearer and cleaner fashion than I do. But personally, I like the nitty-gritty, rough, honest photography. Shooting a dinner event, an anniversary party or birthday party, I shoot pretty straightforward, and I gauge it off what my customer wants.
"I can be normal, and I can be absurd, and I just wait to be told which direction they're going with. But, ultimately, I get off shooting a little bit more creatively. One of my favorite quotes is 'I put the humanity in all the formality' when it comes to wedding photography. It's something I keep saying, and it reminds me that it's not about this 'Barbie Doll' kind of photography where you're posing everybody and making it unreal."
A friend and client, musician Aeone, had Sonia do all the photos for her CD album "The Woman's Touch," including a cover portrait of Aeone using a technique called "light painting": instead of simply shooting a brief exposure, the subject is in total darkness, the shutter on the camera is opened, and the photographer "paints" across the subject with a flashlight.
"It's a very time-consuming process," Keshishian admits, and notes that since you can't judge the results the way you can with more usual ways of shooting, "it's a lot of stress and nerves, wondering if it will come out or not. I only do that technique on my own terms, with people I feel comfortable with."
Outside of her wedding work, which is continuing to grow, she hasn't been doing many creative projects. "I think I did a lot in the early 90s, because I had just come out of a class, and we were all inspired," she recalls.
As Keshishian notes, classes can be a helpful means for exploring photography, as can books and other material. There are many online guides to learning and developing skills in photography, such as the sites of Kodak and Photobetty.
Keshishian has also been using her creative talents and energy in designing related items. "I'm thinking of presentation solutions for the photos I create, like wedding albums, or small carry-along albums," she explains. "So it's not always taking a picture.
"I think creativity manifests itself in not just one medium. It just keeps moving in different directions."
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"An e-zine created to be an amazing resource for women photographers
Keshishian has done
more examples on aeone.com
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related book: **Annabel Williams. Professional Portraiture
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