Inspo: Why Family Photos Matter | Thomas Allen Harris

Lately I’ve been harping about the importance of photographing what you love. For me it’s family. When I first started taking photography seriously as a creative outlet, I didn’t view my family as subject matter, so I rarely turned my lens toward them. This is something I regret every day. Fast forward to today, now I’m a dad with a family of my own. All I ever photograph it seems is my family, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I have vivid memories of my mom always with a camera nearby taking photos of milestones. It seems like her Kodak Instamatic was never too far. School play, snap. Thanksgiving, snap. Graduation, snap. All those photos tucked away in albums. Then on August 24th 1992 Hurricane Andrew makes landfall. At that time, Hurricane Andrew was the most destructive storm to ever hit the United States. Before the storm, I remember my mother putting the family photo albums and countless envelopes of negatives in garbage bags then putting those garbage bags into big blue plastic Rubbermaid tubs. It didn’t dawn on me until a few years later that she was protecting family memories, our history, our record. While our home was destroyed, those blue plastic tubs full of photos survived and so did our family history in photos. This left an indelible mark on me, motivating me to document my own family and more importantly PRINT those photos.

I recently discovered a show on PBS called Family Pictures: USA, a new three-part PBS series created and hosted by filmmaker and photographer Thomas Allen Harris, explores American cities, towns and rural communities through the lens of the family photo album. When I was doing more research about the show I came across this Ted Talk from its creator and host. If you are at all interested in photographing your family, telling your family story, it’s worth the watch.


His hustle, I’ve always admired it. His creativity, always envied it. His style, always peeped it.

Chris Clayton aka Chris Cardi in NE Washington, D.C.

My younger brother continues to live on his own terms. One thing is certain, us Clayton men are stubborn. But please don’t mistake the stubbornness for arrogance, ya see the arrogance is in the DNA. In all seriousness my brother Chris has always lived a creative life, he’s actually the first “creative” I’ve ever known. Growing up I’d watch him make his own board games, fashion his own clothing, always heads down in his sketchbook, always creating.

Takes balls to leave a comfortable corporate gig to follow your creative pursuits. I wish I had that courage. Oh and I wish I had that hustle, that creativity, that style.

As his company motto says: Live Fresh. Die spoiled.

Stay hustlin’ young man.

Now enough about him, back to me. This is my blog so get that spotlight back on ya boy, moi, me. More and more I’m enjoying making photos like this. Little photo essays, snippets of of my life. I used to love walking the streets for hours chasing that “decisive moment.” Side note, check out Daniel Milnor’s piece on street photography. My photography has evolved and Milnor’s piece put into focus what I’ve been struggling with.

Nowadays I just let the photos come to me, organically. Perhaps one day I’ll get off my ass and pursue a long term photo project. But right now all my photos are personal and I’m enjoying this document your days approach. That approach is taking my camera everywhere and let come what may.

Focus on the Story 2019

Every year I try to attend a workshop or dedicate a few consecutive days exclusively to photography. Last week, I was in Washington, DC where I attended Focus on the Story . All I can say is wow. I left the conference inspired just wanting to make stories with my camera, especially around my family.

Ruddy Roye onstage dropping knowledge with Ibarionex Perello.

Ruddy Roye onstage dropping knowledge with Ibarionex Perello.

What I really enjoyed about this conference was just like it’s name “Focus on the Story” did just that…focused on the story. There was no talk of gear, f-stops or megapixels, just photo makers talking about storytelling. What attracted me to this conference was the diversity of speakers, check ‘em out. If you’d let history tell it, only middle aged white dudes picked up the camera. It was so refreshing to hear diverse perspectives on what motivated these photographers to chose what stories to tell and how.

Patrick Brown discussing his project “No Place on Earth,” documenting the plight of the Rohingya.

Patrick Brown discussing his project “No Place on Earth,” documenting the plight of the Rohingya.

The highlights for me were Ruddy Roye and Gulnara Samoilova both sharing deeply personal stories about how the camera became a companion rather then just a tool. As a fairly new father myself they really resonated with me because Ruddy spoke about the importance of being a father to his two boys and Gulnara talked about how she suffered a miscarriage days after 9/11 when she fell after running from the towers as they were coming down…camera in hand. Both were deeply moving talks where my eyes welled up more than once as their photos were projected on screen and the passion of their voices offering a narrative as if they were in a confessional. Thank you Ruddy and Gulnara for sharing. These two talks alone were worth the price of admission in my book.

Lucian Perkins formerly of the Washington Post discussing his favorite photo series over the years and how technology is changing visual story

Lucian Perkins formerly of the Washington Post discussing his favorite photo series over the years and how technology is changing visual story

It was surreal to see Ibarionex Perello moderating panels and sitting in the audience. I’ve been listening to his podcast The Candid Frame forever. I love his thoughtful analysis on photography and he really has a passion for education.

Ibarionex Perello moderates a panel on Mental Health - Behind and in front of the camera. Panelist included Ruddy Roye, Sheila Pree Bright and Michael McCoy.

Ibarionex Perello moderates a panel on Mental Health - Behind and in front of the camera. Panelist included Ruddy Roye, Sheila Pree Bright and Michael McCoy.

Will I be attending Focus on the Story next year? Ya’ damn right, it’s already on my calendar.

Stay shootin’

Three days worth of notes for a lifetime of inspiration.

Three days worth of notes for a lifetime of inspiration.

Why Do We Shoot Film?

View this post on Instagram

Why do we shoot film? ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ How can you really explain the answer to that question when it involves so many emotions that are best experienced rather than explained? When your reasons are mixed up with wanting a camera you can own for decades, adventure with, grow old with, accumulate scars and stories with. Or involve owning a camera that stops people on the streets, or the trails, or even next to you on airplanes to remark upon the mystery or curiosity of why you are carrying that weird/interesting/cool/antiquated device with you. Reasons that include having your repair tech look askance at you because your camera is so heavily worn, so full of detritus and debris from trips through forests, up mountains and to the edge of dry land... so well used... that they think you should just replace it. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ But you don't.⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ Because you know that unless they have stood on a sun-drenched beach watching the world through the viewfinder of your camera, as you have done on countless other occasions, feeling the comfortable and familiar weight in your hands, relishing that connection of a camera who is also an old friend, that they will not quite get it. It is no fault of theirs. As said, this is something that one has to experience to understand. But when you do, then you realize nuances of the answer to that question. Love cannot really be explained, after all, not so simply.⠀⠀

A post shared by Blue Moon Camera and Machine (@bluemooncamera) on

Well said Blue Moon Camera.

Self Publishing

What up folks? I haven’t posted in a while, but I have been creating. I’ve self published three zines of various projects and I’m hooked. The first zine Cabin Life was a simple test using Blurb. The photos in Cabin Life document a trip to the mountains this winter with my family and close friends. Litrato is an ode to the picture magazines of my youth like Time, Life, National Geographic . Litrato in my native tongue Tagalog means photograph or picture. This will be a serial magazine I hope to publish every 3 months or so. The last zine titled Los Angeles Times is made up of street photography from a trip to Los Angeles with some good friends of mine from D.C. whom I met back in the day on Flickr, yeah we old school. Every year we take a trip called the Brotographers Retreat with the goal of reconnecting and making images.

Shooting with intent has changed my photography and allowed me to focus (pun intended) on what truly matters...what’s in front of my camera. I want to move on and evolve from the single image to a narrative, telling stories. We’ll see how this goes.  


Inspo: Daniel Milnor

I’ve gotta love / hate relationship with Instagram. Very few photos nowadays make my thumb stop mid scroll, all the photos…errr…I mean content looks the same. Influencers and wanna be influencers chasing likes and followers. But at the end of the day, Instagram isn’t a photography platform, it never really was. It’s a communications tool. Let’s call a spade a spade. Maybe that’s my issue, content creators passing for creatives…or dare I say photographers.

But every now and again there are voices on Instagram that I want to hear, and their work I want to see. One of those people is Dan Milnor. Dan is a creative no longer in the photo game so to speak and a straight shooter. He doesn’t take himself too seriously. Dan is always trying to find ways to stay creative, or seek creativity. I can certainly relate. He also lives in both in the film and digital world, lusting for his Leica and Kodak Tri-X, while appreciating the benefits of the mirrorless Fuji X system.

It’s post like the below that keep me coming back to his feed and blog.