How Paige Smith Gets to the Bottom of a Story

“Time helps me embed with my subject and start to see life through their eyes. I am a part of their environment, enmeshed in the scenery.” ~ Paige Smith

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Paige Smith, San Francisco hybrid photographer, makes a studied practice out of evoking a story no matter what her subject is. In the case of family portraits, she blocks off a three hour time frame to immerse herself so that vulnerabilities slip away and she is there, with a film and digital cameral alike, to capture the essence of each person.

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“As a documentary photographer, with an educational background in journalism, I feel that it’s my job to uncover the story. As a photographer, this means shooting a LOT from different angles, positions, locations, lighting scenarios, etc. I’m also constantly looking for expressions, gestures, interactions, and small moments. I’m always ‘ON’ during a session. Where journalists ask a lot of questions to get to the bottom of the story, I take a lot of photos to get to the bottom of the story. Sometimes I don’t exactly know what I’m telling/saying with the images until I get home and look through them all. And to be honest, there are times when the images are not always happy or perfect. The point of shooting this way is not to create an IMAGE of a family, but instead to tell the story of the family. My images come together to depict a time in one’s life. It’s a collection of honest moments, not just a Christmas card portrait.” ~ Paige Smith

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“When walls come down and vulnerabilities show, beautifully raw images are made. They may not always be “pretty” but they are real, and that in itself is a masterpiece.” ~ Paige Smith

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Paige instinctively knows that there is no one image that can capture the entire narrative of a family. Just as in journalism there is no one sentence that tells a complete story. Armed with that knowledge, she waits and encourages her subjects to let go and be themselves in their own space. The collection of images at the end of a session like this reveal a well-rounded, beautifully complex, and intimate glimpse into the family as a whole and the specific details of each member that make up the wonderful whole.

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