Photo Pop-Ups

Photography as Communal Practice

I believe photographs have magical powers. They can freeze moments in time, capture fleeting expressions, and help us time travel in our own lives and through the lifetimes of others. It is this magic that makes photography an ongoing passion of mine.

There is a second kind of magic that photography can produce, if given the opportunity--a magic that is less-recognized and rarely harnessed. There is the potential for magic when we use photography as a communal practice.

Too often, photographs are shuffled into one of two categories: public and private, or "fine art photography" and "personal photography". I want to embrace a third space, one where the barriers imposed by the first two labels are broken down and made unnecessary. 

I believe photographs can bring people together. I believe being photographed can be a transformative event. And I believe all of this can happen in a community, as opposed to behind the closed doors of a studio, where the only two people involved are the photographer and the subject. These beliefs have encouraged me to embark on a communal practice of photography. 

Photo Pop-Ups

Photo pop-ups are the antidote to individual-based studio photography. They happen all over the place, with all manner of people--creating safe, loving spaces for folks to come together, mix and mingle, and have their photographs taken in a low-pressure environment. They are sweet building-blocks of community, and they help form the backbone of Smoketree Photography in Madison, Chicago, and around the country. 

With the help of my partner in crime, I plan photo pop-ups with several goals. One, they give people in the community a chance to procure affordable headshots, portraits, and family photos without the financial constraints a traditional photography session imposes. Two, they bring together a random assortment of lovely humans for a singular purpose: documenting our lives together. You never know who you will meet at a Smoketree photo pop-up! Three, they help establish photography as a community service: one that deserves to be compensated, to be sure, but also one that should not be withheld from people without a ton of disposable income. And finally, these photo pop-ups help us meet the most amazing people with whom we might not otherwise cross paths! I feel strongly that the more connections exist within a community, the stronger we all are individually and collectively. 

LGBTQ Photo Pop-Ups

 LGBTQ people are often put in an uncomfortable (or worse, downright insulting) position when working with traditional / heteronormative / straight photographers. From being misgendered to being asked to pose in ways that don't jive with your identity, having your photo taken by someone who doesn't see you as you see yourself can be a painful (or just frankly annoying) experience. 

My partner and I are in the process of planning a schedule for ongoing LGBTQ photo pop-up events. These will serve the same purpose as all of our photo pop-ups, but with the added aim to serve the LGBTQ community and help combat the often unfair and discriminatory representation of non-conforming people in mainstream society.

We are invested in creating a safe space for all sexual and gender identities, and we will work with you before the camera ever comes up to make sure we understand what you're after in a portrait. We use light, body language, and emotion to bring out the version of you you want the world to see.