Just Like Bill Owens’ Suburbia

I love the work in Suburbia by Bill Owens from 1972.

Here he explains how he reached out to his community to get access to photograph them: “I put ads about the project in the local newspaper, asking people to let me photograph their kids, garage, dog, etc. Everyone was wide open; they would say, “come on over.” I would sit around the coffee table, talking and looking around their house.

I want to do something similar today. I just posted this on my local neighborhood app, NextDoor.

A little about this photo. This is my neighbor, Bob, with his nephew and his kids, posing for me after I watched the three “boys” throwing the ball from across the street and thought, “I need to go up to them and ask if I can make their portrait.” I didn’t know my neighbor well but we knew each others’ names and were wave-friendly–I felt I could approach and ask. I’m a longtime photojournalist, and I know a storytelling photo when I see one.

And I knew if I didn’t ask, it wouldn’t happen and the photograph wouldn’t exist.

The first thing my neighbor asked was, “For what?” I said, “For you, and for the family,” motioning to the father and son. He said ok. I brought over a camera and had them sit on the edge of the grass by the garage, baseball mitts in hand.

The young girl looked over and asked if she could join. I said, “Of course you can, get over here.” She brought her mitt, too. And this photograph was made. Then it was printed and framed and my neighbor and his nephew each now have one.

I grew up with photo albums full of great patio barbecue and backyard game snapshots. I think that family photographs are extremely important to document the history of the family.

And not just selfies, but real photographs of people engaged in life, enjoying each other’s company, having fun together. The special moments, and sometimes the ordinary ones. Then made into actual photographs, printed into art families can live with.

So, I’m your neighbor here in Longmont. I would love to document you and your family just being together, not posed for me and my camera, but simply to make photographs for your family to have to be able to look back on in years to come.

I walk through my neighborhood and see so many people doing amazingly photogenic things, like I saw that day with my neighbor playing catch with a ball with family members from three generations.

Maybe you’ll send me a note when you’re having some shenanigans going on, and depending on my assignment schedule, I’ll come by and see what I can make of your family’s time together.

I’m not really concerned with charging–my professional creative fee for commercial and editorial work is quite high–I don’t expect this to be a lucrative job, just a labor of love. This is a photography project I’m initiating and besides making prints for your family, I hopefully will be able to use the photos in a gallery show in the future.

So, bookmark this page or do a screen grab and think of me when you’re about to fire up the barbecue grill. We might just make some of the best family photographs that will light up your home.

You can see some of my work here: www.kennethwajdaphotographer.com/familyportraiture

And here are photos from my photography documentary project last summer at Macintosh Lake: LongmontLakeProject.com

Thanks. I hope to hear from you. Email is best. info@kennethwajda.com


We’ll see if I can find some iconic backyard shenanigans to photograph and create a body of work from amongst my neighborhood.

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