Portraits: The History Of

How a "Side Project" forever changed my life

 

99% of the photos taken of us are for other people.

And in a world of filters, masks, profile pictures, and the constant expectation to put our best face forward… Somehow, our deepest desires to be seen and witnessed are stronger than ever.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that getting your photo taken easily knocks the wind out of your sails. But before I get into that, I have a really important story to tell you.

It started as an experiment...

The First Experiment

The Portrait Experience was supposed to be a side project that came out of a personal frustration.

I was frustrated because I was doing a lot of fashion photography.

And there’s a certain point where you get tired of photoshopping beauty marks and freckles off beautiful women.

I was tired. And I longed for something more intimate.

So I thought... 

What would happen if it wasn’t a professional model? Just a person — no professional hair, no professional makeup, no stylist, no fancy mansion we rented out.

Just a black backdrop.

And what if I even stripped away colour?

What would happen if I tried to get as close as I could, literally and figuratively, to the person standing in front of me?

I wanted to see if there was anything interesting my lens could capture.

It was a total experiment...

During the first portrait, I shot my friend Majid (aka “Mach”) for a couple hours.

I had no idea how it went.

That night, my obsession took over and I edited all the photos and I posted them on Facebook.

The next morning...

The Reaction / Panic

The next morning I was bombarded with hundred of likes and comments on the photos of Majid I posted.

People were losing their shit.

“Holy smokes!”
“You captured his soul, his essence.”
“My heart is melting”

And then—I panicked.

People were trying to book me for photoshoots of their own! I was saying yes because I was excited by the positive feedback. But I realized, I don’t actually know what it was that I did. Now people are reaching out because they want me to capture their essence?!

I’m screwed.

So I took the photos off my website to keep anyone else from booking me. But it was too late...

Because at that point I had already committed to doing 19 more shoots before the year was done (in 6 weeks).

And maybe it's because I was already committed, but I decided to go ahead and see if there was some magic there.

Over the course of the next month, people came to my studio to get their portraits done. I wasn't releasing these photos to the public. And yet, every person who came to my studio and shared this experience with me said:

“Dude. This is really special.”
“This is so much more than photography.”
“You need to offer this to people. People will pay for this.”

And I thought—wait a sec. Why would they pay for it?

What would they even use these photos for?

I just didn't get it

It didn't add up...

These photos aren't for work.

They aren't for weddings.

These aren't baby pictures.

They're not even headshots for an actor.

I just didn’t understand.

And now when I look back, I think the thing that I massively underestimated was this:

  1. People deeply desire to truly be seen. Especially in a world of filters and masks. And also...
  2. People need to feel safe to have their photo taken. Because most people have bad experiences associated with photographers and photography.

Once I completed the first 20 portraits and after much reflection, I decided to open up the Portrait Experience to the public. This was February last year. And what happened next completely changed my life.

Within 4 days, I booked TWO FULL MONTHS of shoots.

Just like that.

And since then, here's what I've come to realize...

What Makes it Work

It took me a while to figure this out, but I finally understand what makes this whole process work.

All I really do as a photographer is create a safe space for us to finally rest our overworked minds.

Because our minds are like parents that are protecting us at all moments of the day.

And when we rest our minds, our childlike hearts can have a creative playdate together.

That’s it.

That's all I do.

And I just so happen to have a camera in my hand to capture the realness that shoots out of people when they allow their heart to channel through them.

The key to letting this happen is making sure there are 3 things present:

  1. Genuine connection.
  2. Genuinely playing together.
  3. Genuinely caring about each other.

Do you know what I mean?

During these portrait sessions, we tell stories. We often dance. And every single shoot I’ve ever done is unique.

I don’t know what we’re gonna do until we’re doing it.

At best I plan out 50% of the shoot, and I intentionally empty out the other 50%. So when the person walks into the room, and their energy and my energy interact, that interaction is unique to us.

And that’s why every single shoot is different.

Truth is, the portrait series isn't for everyone. Let me explain...

It's Not for Everyone

I hate to say it, but it's the truth. Not everyone is supposed to have this experience.

It’s for people that value vulnerability.

It’s for people that value connection.

It’s for people that value play.

It’s for people who are in a place in their life where they’re ready to see what’s inside.

And I love and respect and appreciate people who aren’t there at this moment in their lives because there were many points in my life when I was not ready to be seen.

But if you are there, and you are ready to take a journey into your heart...

I’m here. And I’m ready to guide you through that experience.

The experience is always fun and playful. Because it’s the only way I know how to take these portraits: by letting us genuinely care for each other. And finding a way to enjoy our time together.

The right people know they are ready. The right people lose their mind. They say things like:

“!@#$, now that’s what I want.”
“I wanna see myself.”
“I’m ready to meet myself."

Oh yeah—and there's one other thing that’s really unique about the Portrait Experience...

Once we are done

Believe it or not, the end of the experience is usually people's favourite part.

It’s where I do something that no other photographer (that I know) does.

Instead of sending the photos to you a few days later, we sit down then and there and review every single photo we took together.

Every. Single. Photo.

And almost every time, when you look at the first couple photos, all you will see are your imperfections.

It’s terrifying.

It’s like the peak of a rollercoaster ride, just before you are about to tip over the ledge. But a magical thing happens if you keep going... 

And just like a rollercoaster ride, once you tip over, things become magical and thrilling. Keep going and you’ll see...

The rest of you shows up in the pictures.

All of the many parts of you show up, piece by piece. Right before your eyes.

And I mean this with no exaggeration:

The greatest joy in my life... is sitting beside someone watching as someone is reintroduced to themselves, photo by photo.

And watching as they go from:

“Oh my god, my imperfections!”
“Oh my god, my wrinkles…”
“Oh my god… my scars.”

to:

“Oh my God… I think I love myself.”

It doesn’t happen every time. But it happens more often than not.

And to witness someone just fall in like with themselves—and maybe, just maybe, fall in love with themselves?

It is the greatest joy I’ve ever experienced in my life.

My heart is filled with gratitude. Thank you all for being a part of my journey.


Wanna Play?

If you made it this far, we should probably talk. If you have a hunch, or even the slightest inkling we should work together, book a call with me to take advantage of my Summer 2018 promotion.

I’m so excited to be doing more of these that I am offering a very special summer discount, so even more people can share this experience with me:

Book a call with me before August 31 and you will receive $200 off your Portrait Experience.  These portraits are regularly offered for $850, now only $650 for anyone who books an introduction call within this limited time.

Finally: the call is free, and you don't need to be totally sure. In fact, the purpose of the call is for us to get to know each other a bit better. Usually a quick phone call is more than enough to tell whether or not we vibe.

You get to ask any questions you have, tell me about yourself, and learn more about me. And at the very least, we get to connect.

Limited spots available.


I went on an adventure to meet
a man and a camera. It turns out I went
on an adventure to meet myself.
— Lillian Motta