We All Start Somewhere - Featuring Daniel Ortiz | Emily McGonigle Photography

Back when I was a wee baby photographer, I borrowed my brother and his guitar, and we took off for the big park in town. I posed him sitting on dead trees, standing in the midst of trees, sitting up in a tree, leaning against a tree... Tree. (Tree is a weird word if you say it and write it enough times in a row.) I even broke away from the trees and traded them in for some open grass and backlit sun flare. 

Daniel out of focus, sitting in an open field, backlit by sunflare, chillin' next to my terrible watermark, displaying my terrible business name. (Don't Google that. I'm afraid what other photographic horrors you may find still lurking on the interwebz).

Daniel out of focus, sitting in an open field, backlit by sunflare, chillin' next to my terrible watermark, displaying my terrible business name. (Don't Google that. I'm afraid what other photographic horrors you may find still lurking on the interwebz).

I was so proud of the photos I took of him, and OF COURSE... my mother simply gushed over them. Why wouldn't she? They were photos taken by one of her babies, of another one of her babies. (The third baby also got a photoshoot of her own, but there hasn't yet been a followup to that one, so... stay tuned. I have to get her to stay in Nashville long enough to make it happen.)

But truth be told? Those photos SUCK.

Like, a lot.

But that's the fun thing about having terrible photos from the days of yore... You get to put them side by side against your current work and see your growth.

 
Daniel sitting on a dead tree. In front of dead trees. ...Playing an instrument made from dead trees...

Daniel sitting on a dead tree. In front of dead trees. ...Playing an instrument made from dead trees...

 

That's what's hard about being a creative sometimes; You feel like you're not making any improvements, and you wonder if you're even growing at all. Whenever it has rained just one too many consecutive days and I'm visiting Self-Doubt Land, I sometimes like to revisit my early work to reassure myself I am growing and I have gotten better.

But one thing I've always wanted to do was a "Then vs. Now" kind of comparison. I've always wanted to re-photograph a subject that I've worked with previously, whose photos are decidedly terrible now that I look back at them years later.

I finally got my chance a few weeks ago in Florida.

A bunch of friends and I went down to Indian Shores in the Gulf, and my little brother who lived an hour north of where we were staying, came down for a day to visit. I had decided that I wanted to photograph him again when we got together for a few reasons; One of them being that I hadn't seen the kid in 3 years, the other being that I finally wanted to get my comparison photos.

We didn't shoot for very long. As a matter of fact, it was probably a grand total of 15 minutes altogether (maybe 20 at most). I didn't want to push Daniel's patience, since he was there to beach it up with me and my friends, and not to be my runway model. However, I was able to get what I wanted in that time frame, so it worked out.

The housing directly across the street from where my friends and I were staying had a very beachy, LA vibe to them (I said, never having actually been to LA). The light was great there too, so we literally just crossed the street to get to our location.

After we were done, we went back inside our condo and ate some killer lasagna made by a good friend of mine (HALI YOU ROCK!). We hung out the rest of the evening having good conversation with my friends, and eventually took a late-evening walk on the beach. Perfect.

The best part was just getting to see Daniel. Like I said, I hadn't seen him in 3 years, so getting to hang out, even for just a day, was pretty cool.

He's also way more... 25 year old dude and less 16 year old kid than I remember him being. I guess that happens when you haven't seen each other in years, but he'll always be that 16 year old, goofy, nerdy, funny kid in my mind.

 
 

MUCH better, yeah?

I mean... there are still trees... but... let's face it... You can never really get away from the root of where you came from, ya' know? (I am SO cracking myself up right now.)

So the lesson to take away from this is, as the title states: we all start somewhere. It can sometimes be frustrating to not immediately notice your progress over the course of a few shoots, or even a few months... or sometimes a year. But once you've got enough time and practice under your belt, you can most definitely take a look at something you've created now, versus something you've created 5 years ago, and are likely to notice some, if not A LOT, of improvement.

So keep pushing forward, keep creating, and never stop growing.

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Emily McGonigle Photography is a Nashville Portrait Photographer, and can be contacted for booking inquiries here.