Focus on the Details, Part III


The emotions at a baby’s birth—anticipation, pain, gratitude, and love—are rarely captured by a camera. Birth is a private story but one that portrait photographer, Minna Dyer, wanted to tell.

As a mother she knows these emotions. As a photographer her work expresses the life and love of families, especially mothers and their babies.

But when she approached a couple in her family and asked if she could document their birth experience, she discovered, “Giving birth is very different from watching someone give birth.”

Photographing the birth was unique. Her purpose was to be a photographer, but sometimes the events took her attention away from that purpose. She had to remind herself that she was an observer and they didn’t need her there. Quite obviously, she couldn’t direct the shots like she was accustomed to doing.

Despite some awkward adjustments, she found her place. “As it became more emotional, I felt more intrusive. I would need to take a step back. Then I would take an opportunity to take a few steps in and take a few shots and then retract.”

She created a beautiful and tasteful birth slide show, using music to soften the documentary-style photography. “I didn’t want it to be so raw. Music was the key; it adds a completely different element. Music makes us feel.” Her photographs do the same thing.

By experimenting with different angles or perspectives in different environments or situations, she uncovers genuine emotions.

Minna captured one such candid moment in a family by lying on her side with the camera very close to her. Her point of view highlights the body language that connects the couple to each other and their child.

When she edited the photograph, she enhanced the color with her settings. “I wanted to saturate it and make it pop.”

When Minna is deciding whether to make a photograph black and white or color, she simply tests it with editing software. “Sometimes I like to focus on the people. Sometimes color can be distracting. If the color is not doing anything for the photograph then I make it black and white or sepia to focus on the content rather than other visual stimulation.”

The resulting combination of perspective and color focuses on the joy evident in that family picture.

In her personal life, Minna finds joy in both motherhood and photography. When she has been busy with family responsibilities and hasn’t taken many photographs, she knows she is missing something in her life. But, likewise, she can sense if her photography business, Miriam Lovell Photography, is putting too much pressure on her husband. “Dan is very supportive and would never tell me he doesn’t want me to do this, but, I know when I am needed. I just don’t get carried away since I have other responsibilities. My priorities are at home.”

Her personal priorities guide her focus as a photographer. Through portraiture, she perceives and preserves human emotion. The resulting photographs visually invite viewers to feel what her subject feels. And a bond of understanding is born.

Focus on the Details, Part III is the final post in a series from an interview on portraiture with Minna Dyer of Miriam Lovell Photography. View photo cards and her gallery of photographs at her website. Learn from her regular photo assignments on her photography blog. Her images are copyrighted by Miriam Lovell Dyer of Miriam Lovell Photography. Images cannot be used without express written permission.

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1 Comment

  1. Robin
    Jun 4, 2008

    This was a fascinating series, thank you to both of you.

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