Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Meet This Week's Judge: Brooke Bikneris

Brooke of Brooke Bikneris Photography is judging our "lifestyle light" theme. Take a look at her use of light in these beautiful photos!

1. Tell us about yourself...
Well I am pretty eclectic in all things. And I like to be very hands on. I'm married with children. And dogs, chickens and a rabbit. We homeschool our three daughters (ages 11, 14, and 17). Our oldest is starting college (a year early!) this fall. This mama talks a very logical game, but I'm not so sure exactly how ready I am for this. This summer we have taken a minimal technology approach (read- minimal social media) and gone with an 80's summer flavor. We've embraced the old school games and movies and movie snacks, of course. Even though we are together all of the time because we homeschool, we really want to squeeze out some great experiences this summer before the grind of a hectic school year ensues. We pretty much unschool if you want to label it, but not totally. So this will be a change of pace for us. I'm taking Biggest to her first music festival in a couple of weeks. We value experiences over stuff, and thangs (huge The Walking Dead fans up in here). We are from Indiana but moved to Alabama due to a job transfer for my husband. We planned on staying for two years. That was ten years ago. I love gardening and cooking and music. These are the things I do most. But I do marathons as well. Netflix marathons. I am a champion. Photography-wise, I am primarily a film shooter, but have really been loving my Fuji X100. A lot. I love shooting women. They just make my heart swell. For them to see how I see is priceless. My daughters are a big driving factor for me to embrace who I am as a woman first. I want my example for them to be to love yourself and be kind to yourself. Above all, I want my girls to be strongly rooted in who they are as women. So that no one can come and shake their foundation. They are so much more than society says they are. We all are. <3

2. What ignited your passion for photography, and what fuels it now?  
At first it was just realizing that my kids are growing up in front of my eyes and my memory stinks. I wanted freeze frames. I turned to photography for that. It became a therapy after we lost our last daughter, who was stillborn. It was the healthiest way I could have dealt with our loss. It has been a blessing without me even realizing it. Now I am fueled by how hard we women are on our own selves. I see physically and emotionally gorgeous women walking around and when I get them in front of my camera, they are like WHO is this person in the picture. I am always surprised that they don't see themselves as I see them. Always. It is sort of a ministry, if you want to call it that. I wouldn't have come up with that on my own - this is what these women always call it. I ministered to them to love themselves and see how beautiful they truly are. To see that they are strong. To see that they are worthy. And to see that they are these things even if they don't see that mirrored back to them in magazines or on the big screen. They are unique. And they always walk away taller, with a strength they didn't walk in with. To me, that is what it is all about. And I photograph my girls the same emotional way. Whether they are just hanging with the chickens or dogs, they are captured beautifully and strong and funny. It is my paper trail legacy I am leaving for them. Something they really can leave for their own children.  
At this time, I am really into capturing things my girls and the pets are doing, candidly. Working on seeing that light better and better. It's not something I see easily because I get too caught up in what is going on in front of me. There, I admitted it. :)  
3. What's in your camera bag right now, what do use the most? the least?
I have a Pentax 6x7 (favorite medium format film - yummy negs - like seriously sexy), Nikon F3 (favorite 35mm film), a variety of other little 35mm film cameras, Fuji X100 (favorite digital), Fuji Instax Wide 300 (fun, fun, FUN), and a Nikon D300s (least favorite - it just doesn't inspire me and I usually only use it for theater work). Various lenses. I try to use everything and if I don't, I don't hesitate to sell off gear. I usually only take one camera with me places. I don't like to haul a lot of gear around. If I know I am going to shoot a client I always take my P67 with me. But that thing is a monster. Very heavy. I use what I have with me and make it work for what I need. I'm pretty simple.
4. What's your dream project or shoot? A killer concert. Something huge, and to be able to photograph the band on and off stage, candidly. 
5. What is the biggest challenge you face as a photographer? I honestly don't have any at this point in time. I don't shoot full time, so maybe that is why. I am not a woman who gets my worth from my job. When I do this as a job, I dive into it and give my all to my clients. It is an emotional exchange for me. I don't have the stamina to go that all out, ever day. I also don't have the desire. I desire to develop/foster relationships. I desire my sessions to be an experience for me and for my client. I desire to make a lasting positive (and real/faulted) impression on my kids. I desire to enjoy my life. Money has never been a driving factor for me. Neither has "rock star status". Dang, the public is a fickle, fickle group. I don't have room in my life for that. Back when I started to do photography full time as a business I failed HARD, in my opinion. And that is different for everyone. I had no business knowledge and my priorities were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I didn't have a solid foundation or a solid brand. I didn't know how to market myself. That said, even back then, I have only ever had fantastic clients who became friends. 

6. If you had $500 to spend on photography...
How should you spend it? On film. How do you wish you could spend it? That somewhere, someone would say "Here, I have a pristine Leica and stunning lens. I'll take $500 for it." And I would mutter thank you because I would be in such shock. How would you really spend it? On film and lab fees. My cameras get hungry.  
7. Is there any one thing you wish someone had told you at the very beginning of your photography journey?
That quantity doesn't equal quality. I can have just a couple of clients a year and feel more fulfilled now than when I had a full schedule. My clients are my kind of people. And not everyone is. I know I certainly am not everyone's cup of tea. And that is okay.

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