Making a Statement Without Saying a Word

By Langley Topper, Girls Innovate! Teen Committee

On a warm February day, a group of twenty four mothers and daughters met at the Palo Alto Art Center for the second workshop in our Creativity series. Surrounded by so many beautiful pieces of artwork, it is no surprise that the afternoon would be filled with creative inspiration and artistic photos. Our guest speaker was Julie Yoo, a local San Jose photographer who specializes in portraits of children, high school seniors, and families. She has attended numerous Girls Innovate! events before, using her photography skills to capture the energy and excitement.

We spent the beginning of our workshop sharing photos we had taken prior to the event. Attendees told stories about the moment a photo was taken, or what it meant to them. Viewing someone else’s life can lend insight into how they view the world. One of my favorites was a mother-daughter pair. The daughter’s favorite thing to photograph was birds; she had the patience to wait until the perfect moment when a bird was perched on a branch. The mother’s favorite thing to photograph was her daughter taking pictures of birds. The scenes you choose to photograph are ones that are important, scenes that you want to remember, or scenes you want to share with someone else.

Julie led us through an interesting talk, discussing the elements of creating an emotional portrait; the effects of light, composition, and setting to create an “honest” photo. In an age of technology and less face-to-face conversation, the ability to take emotional, communicative photos is becoming an essential skill. Although many attendees brought DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) cameras with them, we were all eager to learn about iPhone photography. After all, the best camera is the one that is always with you. After spending a little more time discussing the more technical aspects of photography – aperture, ISO (a camera’s light sensitivity), shutter speed – we wandered outside to experiment with our cameras. The goal was to capture an emotional portrait that evoked a feeling describing your subject, whether playful, patient, or melancholy.

Regrouping after half an hour of photography, we began to share and talk about some of the images taken. Each mother-daughter pair gave a short description of what they were trying to evoke, and how the image captured some part of each other. Some favorites were a dramatic black and white image of a mother that evoked determination and accomplishment, and a fun candid shot of a teens face that evoked playfulness and joy. Not only were beautiful photographs produced, but it was a time away from our busy lives to spend with family and others.