[84/100 Strangers]: Kai and Brighton, Dia de Los Muertos 2015

At the Dia de los Muertos [Day of the Dead] community celebration in Albuquerque’s South Valley, I met this young mother, Kai, and her 22 month-old daughter, Brighton. Together they are my 84/100 strangers.


Kai is a message therapist and young mother. She was wearing a cotton candy blue wig, a flower fascinator headpiece, glittery eye makeup, and skeleton accessories to complete her calavera attire. Brighton was wearing a black jumpsuit printed on the front with human skeleton bones. We met in the play area of the park.

I knew I would want to approach Kai when I saw her colorful calavera attire. She was happy to oblige me with time and permission to be photographed. I had a few moments on closeups of the pair where the child was looking up instead of at her own costume. Here though, I wanted a full length shot to fit in the mom’s costume from head to toe.

It wasn’t practical to photograph Kai alone, without her daughter. She didn’t have anyone with her to mind the child and I didn’t want her as a preoccupied subject. I didn’t bother to ask that she remove the little one from her hip. It was darkly beautiful to make a portrait of a mother and child who were both dressed like skeletons.

I haven’t made many full- length stranger portraits during the project so far. It was a good chance to get one into the set for some practice. As for the real learning, that came to me in the post processing. I email my subjects a file that can be downloaded and printed as an 8×10 in full resolution. Here, you see the uncropped image as I meant it to be viewed. I was, however, forced to crop the version sent to Kai: to control what would appear in her printed image. Her version was a medium shot that ended right below the knee.

In camera, I deliberately left what I thought would be enough space above her headpiece and below her shoes to get the full head to toe shot for a print. Apparently it was still not enough room; hence my need to crop her image. I’m trying to figure out exactly what I see in camera that will fit into an 8×10 print (which at least to date, is the standard size of enlarged hard copies at standard photo labs). If any of you have methods or rules followed for measuring the space around the subject [while taking the picture,] please add that to the comments below or PM me. Yes, I’m shooting with a cropped sensor. Thanks!

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