Reflections on a Family Portrait session with Geoff Fisher
By Ken Spillman
So, what was it like?
If you’ve ever had a photo session with Geoff Fisher, you would remember the experience well. You may struggle to understand how Geoff was able to capture something extraordinary on what seemed an unremarkable day, but you’d remember it. And if you’ve never had such a session, I just say this: you should!
Geoff Fisher’s photography hangs on thousands of walls in Perth’s homes. His family portraits are not so much photographs as works of art, each one perfect in its own way, a unique interplay of light, shade, colour and composition. They’re the ones that make people say more than just, ‘Oh, nice’. They make people linger and say, ‘Wow, amazing!’.
My own recent experience began after Sami and I became worried that our youngest child—my only daughter—might one day accuse her parents of neglect. Having 4 older brothers (all but one grown up), Uma would be sure to compare her photo album with theirs. At the age of 3, Uma is, well, kind of feisty. I could truly imagine her freaking out at 13: “How come you got professional shots of them but not me! Wasn’t I cute?”
We needed to capture her very real cuteness, pronto. But Sami and I then decided that we should include our son Zak in the photo shoot. He was almost 10, and growing up fast. He’s a really loving big brother to Uma, and there was an opportunity to have them professionally photographed together. That’s when we talked to Geoff, and he explained that the kids might one day appreciate having their parents appear in a few of the shots as well. Sami and I were both a bit bashful about this, but we could see his point so the place, date and time were agreed.
Come the day in question, Zak was in fine fettle but Uma was tired and emotional after a hard day at the coalface (i.e. daycare). On the way to Cottesloe Beach to meet Geoff, we wondered whether he’d be able to coax anything resembling a smile from her—she’s a girl with a mind of her own, let me tell you! We needn’t have worried. We all had a fun time as Geoff’s infectious enthusiasm and passion for the perfect shot took over. And who had the most fun? Uma, that’s who. We drove home elated, not knowing that the best part was still to come: an opportunity to go through a selection of the best shots in a cinema-type setting.
This was where astonishment kicked in. Okay, we knew Geoff’s reputation, so we knew he must have clicked a few good shots for us. But looking through the range of images he was able to showcase, Sami and I were gobsmacked. Geoff hadn’t done any fancy processing yet—no special effects—but the images were stunning. He had photographed us on a very ordinary day in a very familiar place and somehow created art. More than that, he had produced images that reflected relationships and emotions: a mother’s love, Zak mirroring my body language, Uma’s joy and oneness with nature, Zak’s pride in Uma, and so on. It was magical taking all this in. We made our selections, and are completely happy with them. To be able to hang images that express so much that is deep and personal is very special indeed.
So, that’s what it was like for us. How will it be for you? Wonderful—believe me. Yes, you’ll have a few doubts and self-doubts, and on the day you might still be wondering if it’s all going to work out. My advice is simple: have confidence in Geoff. He’ll get it just right, in a way you cannot foresee. That’s his art, that’s his talent—and his experience doesn’t hurt either!