08 May Stories Within A Story: An Interview with Kathy Locke
Recently, photographer Kathy Locke, of Child’s Play Photography, took some time away from her typical client sessions to photograph a dozen families whose lives were impacted by a nonprofit children’s social service agency, Baby TALK. Kathy was overwhelmed and overjoyed when her project came together as a month-long exhibition in a gallery, entitled “Stories Within A Story”. Kathy’s exhibit featured over 40 images accompanied by short stories about each family: their complex challenges, and triumphs.
We were delighted to sit down with Kathy and chat about how this amazing endeavor turned into something more.
NAPCP: Thank you for sitting down with us, Kathy! Tell us a little about yourself and your photography.
Kathy Locke (KL): I am a family photographer based in Central Illinois, and strive to create simple, timeless and classically modern portraits. I am inspired by the true spirit of each child, the unique and emerging adult in each senior, and the genuine bond of each family I photograph.
I was an art history major in college, and worked in the non-profit art world post graduation. Like so many photographers in our industry, I began by shooting my four children. I became obsessed with learning more, and audited every photography course at a local university, enrolled in a “History of Photography” class, and took several on-line courses. A teacher in one of my classes encouraged me to go pro, and about ten years ago I launched Child’s Play Photography. I worked hard to get my certification from PPA. Four years ago I made the leap to a retail studio, and photography became my full time job. Learning the business side of the industry has been challenging and rewarding, but at the end of the day it’s still the desire to capture authentic expressions that truly motivates me.
NAPCP: Share with us what Baby TALK means to you and how you got involved with the agency.
KL: I am a board member of Baby TALK, a local non-profit organization whose mission is to positively impact child development and nurture healthy parent-child relationships during critical early years. The majority of their targeted clients are “at risk” families. I believe the Baby TALK model is the answer to true systemic change that so many communities need. At almost every board meeting I would get a little teary eyed listening to heartwarming and compelling stories by staff, of the care they provide for their clients. As a board member I also realized that not many people were aware of all that Baby TALK did. I approached the Executive Director with an idea of photographing families that represented each of the 12 programs and services, and have the families share their stories of challenges, triumphs and relationship with Baby TALK. Thus “Stories Within A Story” was launched. Their stories turned out to be much more interesting and inspiring than I could ever imagine, and they are the heart of the exhibit.
NAPCP: How was photographing these families different from photographing your usual clients?
KL: Many of these families have never had professional photographs, so it was very rewarding to witness the power of documenting relationships through printed images.
What was different was the style of the shoot. We photographed all the subjects in the same location, a vintage loft above a neighborhood store. By doing this, I was able to highlight their common bond of age-old love for family. It would have been a very different project if I shot the subjects in different locations. Some of the photographs are “pull-backs,” showing the space around the studio set and backdrops, to remind the viewer of the documentary nature of the photos. I converted the photographs to black and white which I believe was the best medium to mirror the timeless, enduring and most basic human relationship between child and caregiver.
NAPCP: Your photos for this project are now on display in a gallery at the Madden Arts Center in Decatur, IL. Congratulations! Have you incorporated your feature in the show into your regular business at all or is this a purely personal project?
KL: It truly was a personal project. I was able to tell Baby TALK’s story, but also pushed myself artistically and learned a lot from the process. However, the unintended outcome was quite a bit of attention in the local media that highlighted my business. There was an Opening Event that 300+ people attended. I was very excited that many of the photo subjects came to the Opening, and were treated like celebrities. I believe it’s always a good business model to demonstrate support and philanthropy for your community. I am applying to other galleries around the state where Baby TALK has programs in hopes for future exhibits to share the Baby TALK story.
NAPCP: Will you share a helpful tidbit about editing in black and white?
KL: When I began photography it was with black and white film. I spent countless hours in the darkroom and loved playing with an image to create different outcomes in a print. I go about digital processing in a similar way. I do my initial conversion in Lightroom, and play with the contrast, exposure, shadows, highlights, clarity and sometimes add grain (I loved Illford 3200 film for it’s gorgeous grain). Then I open in Photoshop, often times make adjustments in levels, plus dodge and burn. For this exhibit, I added texture overlays to some of the images to enhance the vintage feel I was going for. I always convert the files from RGB to grayscale at the end, and ask my printer to process for black and white. Of course, like the darkroom, the paper you print on makes a big difference as well. Loktah printed the photographs for this exhibit on cotton rag fine art paper, which created soft but rich black and white prints.
Thank you, Kathy!