A Pittsburgh Wedding and Portrait Photography Studio
We work with people. Almost all the time. We photograph Weddings, and other events, and make portraits, especially portraits of Children. Also academic, family, individual, publicity, and senior/graduation Portraits and cool portraits of Pets. The photographs are relaxed, and natural.
Our studio only has very simple backgrounds, but lots of toys for the kids to play with. We're patient, we goof around a bit with the kids, (and sometimes the adults too!) to keep things laid-back, but we also work fast so no-one has time to get tense or scared or bored. In good weather we love to photograph outside: kids, grown-ups, weddings.
Although our studio mostly photographs people, our own personal work is different! Four of us have images on this website that reflect our wide interests. There are urban and other landscapes, demolition and construction photographs, animals, birds, insects, flowers. Some are painted with oils. Many are for sale, and we all work on commission. You will find descriptions, a few prices, and some discussion of the work, if you click on Personal Work here or above.
You'll also find our personal work in the Portfolios. If you skipped in without looking at those, why not go back now and take a look!
How odd we are! We capture our black and white photos on film, using old-fashioned cameras for this, and we print archival enlargements of the negatives in our own darkroom, on traditional, fiber-based fine-art papers. Yet our color photographs are all captured as high-resolution digital files. Thus we mix traditional black and white with the best of high-tech digital color. In the Portfolios section every black and white image was shot on black and white film, processed and printed photographically on true photographic paper in our studio.
We are the only studio in many miles that employs this audacious combination of traditional and up-to-the-minute technology. We go to this trouble because it's the only way we can make both the finest black and whites and the finest color photos too. Digital color photos are more than a match for traditional film-based color photos. But film-based black and whites beat digital "black and whites" — hands down, and every time! So you can get the best of both worlds — from us. But you simply can't get it elsewhere!
Why not use our digital cameras to capture the black and whites as well as the color photos? It would be cheaper and simpler to do so. Virtually all the other professional photographers do it that way&mdash but not the fine art photographers. Including our studio. We're purists, following the old way. But is this justified? What do we gain by taking the more expensive, more difficult and time-consuming route? Simply put: much more meaningful black and white photos which, at their best look great, are capable of great subtlety, and will last centuries.
There are two main reasons why all this is so. First, you can't print digital files onto the fine old papers that are still used by real photographic artists. At the present time, the only way to print beautiful, archival black and white photographs is to capture the images the old way, on film.
Secondly, and this is really crucial, true black and white photographs possess a unique property, a texture, a graininess that comes from the silver granules in the film on which they were exposed, and can be varied by skilled processing. Like wood grain (every piece of wood has its own characteristic grain, which is derived from the growth patterns of the tree it came from), true black and white photographs possess their own grain pattern, which in the case of these photographs is a result of the film they were captured on and the processing they went through. Few who see them notice this grain directly, but it's what gives true black and white photos their special character.
Depending on which film was used, how fast the shutter was opened and closed, how the light fell on the subjects, what developer was used to process the film, at what temperature the development took place, for how long, and many more factors, the black and white photograph will posses various characteristic properties. They don't all look alike. How a black and white photograph looks can be changed in many ways by a photographer who knows the secrets.
Use plastic to make a table and your table is just dead, flat plastic with no grain and little character. Use a digital camera and your black and white photographs will likewise have no grain, little character.
Color photos, even when made from film, generally possess no significant grain. That is lost in processing. Black and white and color photographs are very different. Consequently, digital color loses nothing over film-based color; in fact it's often more intense and interesting.
In sum, our black and white photographs depend for their visual quality on the structure of the silver halide granules in the film, and on the fine paper on which film-based images can be printed. In making these photographs we follow the traditions of fine art photographers past and present.
The aesthetic foundations of our work lie in the long tradition of artist photographers. This lineage goes back at least as far as the portraits that were made in Britain by Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson in the mid-nineteenth century. Most artists working in this tradition have not been professional portraitists. They have generally relied on other sources of income.
However, there have always been exceptions; in this country, Gertrude Käsebier, Edward Weston, and Imogen Cunningham are just three well-known examples of fine American artists from the last century who relied largely on their income from photographic portraits.
Certain documentary photographers from the past are also especially relevant to our work. Dorothea Lange, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Margaret Bourke-White, and Garry Winogrand among others created a genre of photographic art involving sensitive, thoughtful, and often intensely emotional documentation and implied commentary upon society, people, places, and events where the artists found — or placed — themselves.
Our active involvement with weddings ties us indirectly to this group: we document and represent: weddings, society, people, tiny fragments of history. By choice. Our style is unashamedly documentary. We are not glorifying weddings, not over-romanticizing them; our treatment of weddings is in a sense matter-of-fact. But it is intensely, emotionally so! We are involved. We wish the marriages that begin in our documentaries to live and last as they begin. We're neither just making money out of a lucrative custom nor laughing up our sleeves at folly. While our wedding documentaries are worlds away from Dorothea Lange's documentation of suffering and poverty in the last century, like hers our photographs are infused with empathy, born of hope, yet aware of time and change. We are very proud to associate ourselves with this group of documentary artists. We intend, by photographing weddings just as well as we can, with insight, joy, and commonsense, to reflect and thereby nurture, just a little, the positive, optimistic, sensitive contemporary attitudes towards love, marriage, families, relationships, life.
Five or six years ago it became clear that we had to start using digital capture for all our color work. Unlike almost all other wedding photographers, however, we have steadfastly maintained right through to the present the use of film for all black and white images. Above, and elsewhere on this site, we argue vigorously that the use of film for black and white images is entirely appropriate, indeed the only way a serious photographer can currently render photographic images in black and white.
In this short section, we're concerned with a related but distinct question: are black and white photographs an essential component of every wedding or sitting? This new version of our website for the first time answers for weddings with a resounding NO! It has taken several years and a great deal of thought to realize that there are many circumstances where the use of black and white is not merely unnecessary but actually unhelpful.
You will find this position vigorously defended on practical grounds in the Weddings page: black and white film-based photography is extremely expensive to produce, and excellent wedding photography can and should often include few if any black and white images. However, the change in our attitude towards black and white film in wedding photography now has a deeper basis than mere economioc necessity. The essential core of great wedding photography today lies not in the use of black and white film, but elsewhere, above all in the vibrant immediacy of good digital photography.
We now believe that our best and most exciting wedding photography has evolved, over the last few years, to embrace and exploit the heart of digital capture. Color is a fine medium for documenting the fast-paced, colorful atmosphere and rapid flow of events at a wedding. The ease and speed with which digital cameras can leap from one setting or subject to another encourages us to seek (and find!) a new wave of intense, off-the-cuff, thought-provoking images. This is not to deny that the color work can sometimes be offset very effectively by a few carefully chosen traditional black and white shots exploiting the spare, still, contrasting tones of that medium.
Yet for many people black and white is simply an optional extra, which they do not especially value or wish to pay for. We have come to see their point of view and as a result have greatly modified our approach to wedding packages, recognizing that our finest wedding coverage does not necessarily call for the use of black and white film at all.
At the same time, we still believe that traditional film-based photographs provide a superlative medium for portraiture, often surpassing all others when they dominate, with sensitivity, a portrait sitting. Moreover, the cost of hand-processed and printed black and white images is seldom prohibitive in portrait work, since only a small number of images is involved. We are therefore making no effort to encourage anyone to avoid or reduce the use of black and white film in portraiture.
And subject to possible constraints involving cost, or simply taste, there are occasions in the course of most weddings where one or two black and white exposures such as portrait-like images, or photographs of the ceremony, might contribute significantly to our wedding-work.
An interesting, relatively unrelated area which benefits greatly from the use of traditional black and white film is architectural, especially industrial and historical, photography and also landscapes. Black and white film renders the texture, look, and feel of old steel, stonework and brick construction superbly well. For a few examples go back to the Portfolios and open the slideshows by Frank Heny called "Changing Pittsburgh," "Landscapes," and, for some informal street portraits, "About People."
Our studio is in Pittsburgh (See Contact Information). We do all our black and white printing here, and much of our portraiture in the studio or nearby.
Our weddings are photographed mainly in the Pittsburgh area, though a large percentage of our clients actually live elsewhere, and we happily travel far and wide. We have photographed weddings and other events, not only all over Pennsylvania, but also in Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington DC, New York, Kentucky — and England.
At present there are three senior photographers associated with the studio, each of whom acts as Principal Photographer at weddings, and similar events, responsible for the photography on the day itself in consultation with the others. While our photographic backgrounds differ we each work within the same artistic traditions, paying little attention to the fashions and norms of contemporary professional photography.
Frank Heny, the owner, who was born in Zimbabwe, and has lived for years in Europe and the US, has a background in cognitive science and philosophy, with a Ph.D. from UCLA. He spent many years in college teaching and research. More recently, he has spent over twenty years working full time in photography, the last sixteen building up this studio in Pittsburgh. He has also taught photography in Pittsburgh and has exhibited work locally and elsewhere.
James Woomer became associated with the studio eight years ago. He continued to make portraits, especially fine pet portraits, do fashion photography and photograph weddings on his own account. Over the years he has greatly increased his commitment to us and makes a very significant contribution to the studio. James' degree in photography is from Oakbridge Academy of Arts. His personal work includes animal photography, urban landscapes and narrative image-sets similar to those associated with the well-known contemporary Pennsylvania photographer Duane Michaels.
Emily Carlson has been associated with the studio for nearly four years. She has helped us photograph a variety of weddings during this period, and also been the Principal Photographer on a number of occasions. She is also In 2006 she graduated from Point Park University, and has pursued her interests in child portraiture, nature photography (especially flowers and insects), and industrial landscapes. We are very happy to have her continue with us as a Principal Photographer.
In addition to the principals, there are a number of other photographers who assist us in various ways at weddings and in the studio. All share our approach. One should be singled out: Malgorzata Mosiek, a designer and photographer who has her own website http://www.mmosiek.com/. There you will see examples of her bird photographs and other work. She has been the driving force and brains behind the wonderful facelift which has just been given to this website and she has also begun helping us to photograph weddings.
Among the other photographers who assist us regularly in our wedding and event photogrpahy are Ahren Hollis, and Angela Swift, both of whom have extensive training and experience, and greatly enrich our photography with their work.