What do you look like?

Are you in the market for a new car?

Do you make time to go clothes shopping?

As you roll by a house with a FOR SALE sign out front, do you slow down and crane your neck?

Or how about new glasses?

Do you have plans for a new hair style?

Why do we want all these things?  The house we are in now, certainly was the place of our dreams!

You saved years and you paid for years after that, for the car you now drive.

Why do so many of us search out change?

Why do we do almost any of the things we choose do?

I think it’s a plan we carry around in the back of our head, to create the manifestation of our persona…of just who we are!

Why do we want one of those German import cars when the American Iron we have now, gets us where we want to go?


Why do we buy a certain glasses frames (or sunglasses frame?)


The fancy house with the bay view?  Tennis over lawn jarts? Country Club memberships?

Designer clothes?

Driving that groovy new German car, wearing our designer duds, up the driveway to the jaw-dropper McMansion?


We want to project a “look” that says, “Here I am!  This is me!”

Why do people do this?  Simple!


It turns heads.  It makes people think.  It boosts your ego and makes you feel better…because you LOOK BETTER than the average schlub that’s driving the 1989 F-150.

It’s a non-verbal statement that tells the world who you are, what taste you have and what tribe you prefer to associate with.

And it’s not just about income.

Two families of the same general financial status go car shopping.  One chooses a new Subaru (AWD) and the other family goes for the BMW (AWD).

It’s more than just taste, it’s also a statement, a badge.  It’s part of the fiber that woven together is the “look” you want to project.

That image, that “look” has cost a FORTUNE.

Probably just about everything that a person has made, (after taxes and food) has gone into building their dream abode, dream cars in the garage, fancy clothes in one closet, golf clubs in another.  The boat, out back.  It’s amazing!

How much of it is essential?

None of it.

But the image has cost everything.

It’s the American Dream!  Right here!  And you are living it!

So if you have changed your look, your style, your glasses, your hair, your job, it’s time for an image tune-up.

For the price of a visit to a hair dresser, I believe you should get this look recorded.

(You are not getting any younger!)

A proper portrait, speaks as many volumes about you as the nice car/clothes/house you have.

It shows you “get it”, you care about your image.

You’ve paid a fortune getting to this moment.  Spend a tiny fraction of that money to record and preserve it.

Will the legacy you leave behind, be all the finery you bought, or the tasteful image you leave to your family and future generations, as yet unborn, who will know what you looked like and just how darned good looking you were?

You can’t take the BMW with you, but you can leave behind the perfect version of you……the Beautiful YOU!

The Unintended Gift

“Where did you come from”?

It’s a common question us humans like to ask each other as we bob and wave through this world.

Our answer could be, “Kingsley”, or “Krakow”, or “California”, and it would be true.  But in reality, we all came from some something else.

Our Parents.

And THEY came from somewhere else…..their four parents.

It’s kind of natural to want to look back and see where we’ve come from in this journey and what got us here.  And just what got us here, are our relatives.  There’s a billion reasons why you SHOULDN’T exist.  If it wasn’t for the fact your mother and father hooked-up, the you that is you, wouldn’t be here.  Then you had to survive! And there’s another billion reasons why you should not have made it to this moment, to be reading this.

So just when you think you are not “special”….HA!  Think again!  The odds are so stacked against your likelihood, it IS a miracle you are here!

Are you related to someone famous?  Do you know?  Have you tracked back your ancestry?  Or, has someone in your family done it for you?  Sometimes it’s kind of spooky!  You may find out you have married your second cousin, or maybe you mother was playing patty-cake with a former president.  How the heck DID you get here?

Back a bunch of centuries ago…(this is NOT a precise science), a guy by the name of Rorrim invented a way for people to actually see them selves.  It was a big deal.  Before that, the only way people couls ever see what they looked like was to look down into the reflection of a calm pond of water.  Now we all know we don’t look so hot bending over, facing straight down and seeing a deep blue/black version of us, but that was it.  The problem is, the image we see of ourselves is reversed.  So this great invention by Rorrim has forever been known as a Mirror.

It’s still backwards.  So, rich royalty-types, commissioned artists of the day, to make pretty realistic paintings of the family members.  They got grander and bigger as time and generations went on.  Artists were encouraged to use their “license”, to add all sorts of fanciful angels floating about the poser’s head and body, displaying magnificent military clothing, holding golden swords, whilst mounted massive white war horses, serfs struggling on crutches in the background…. and those were the babies.  But it was at least a “likeness” that the Royal Family “Poser”.

Then, dang-it, in the Eighteenhundreds, the fil-um camera was invented.  And soon enough, those camera guys started pointing their lenses at PEOPLE.  But the problem was, these cameras were invented to record “still-lifes”.  The light had to travel through the lens to the light-sensitive material for a LOOOOOOOONG time.  Like minutes or hours…so it wasn’t much faster than posing for the Royal Artist……but it was black and white, and the hipsters of that era loved black and white, so for over a hundred years, the photographer simply had to omit the “color water” and supply black and white pitchers.  But the exposure was still slow, so the now-out-of-work-royal-artists put away their brushes and palettes for cameras and chemicals.  They knew all the tricks of the trade. (Have you ever tried to get a baby to hold up a gold sword, still, for hours?) So the once royal artists fabricated chairs, stools and floor stands with steel rods attached.  The poser would be seated or standing and the steel rod would hold the person into a still life for the long exposure.  When the artist had everything ready, he’d un-cap the lens, scream “HOLD IT, HOLD IT……..!” on and on until the “time” was up.  Then the baby could drop the sword.  That’s why all the really old photos you see of portraits all have the expressions look like they were trying to hold in a huge burrito fart.  That’s Because They Were.

So, time passed, “fil-um” got more sensitive, lights got invented, then they got brighter, things became less expensive to manufacture, and the royal artist became as available as a hairdresser.  It was a great deal!  People, tired of trying to mail mirrors, cause they got broken so easily, started getting portraits made.  They went through the mail much easier.  People started getting portraits at big milestones.  Soon, there was a photographic recording of a person’s life history!  What an amazing time!

And, as people tend to do, they die.  But the photo lives on.  It’s a silent, still record of that person.  The photos get passed around, move from generation to generation, but there he is, in living black and white, great old uncle Harry.  You can put a face with a name.  You can see family resemblances…(or NOT).  But for what ever reason that person “got a portrait”, decades later, it’s a silent gift to you, to be able to see what a former generation of you looked like….NEVER in the history, could the current generation “look” back into the past, and see what someone looked like one hundred plus years ago.

Photography Records.

It can capture the best or the worst.  It’s a communication/time device that freezes an instant for ever.

Then, something else happened.

The serfs bought the cameras and the royal artists were now put out to tending fields with hoes.  Since the serfs had the camera, they were the ‘artists’.  Pretty soon, the most mundane things were the objects caught in front of the lens.  It’s like, who needs a piano in their parlor (or needs to learn to learn to play it?) when this-here record player will make music by just putting this tiny needle down on this spinning black disk.

So, in one generation, the serfs stopped going to the royal artist and did it themselves.  MOST empowering!  Next, comes Do-It-Yourself Surgery.

Great Uncle Harry, I’m sure, had no concept of 2011.  But there he is!  Frozen forever.  Did he always look just like this?  Well, no, but we can infer……

I’m also sure that in the moment Great Uncle Harry was at the royal artist, he was in that moment, not hitting the cosmic fast forward button.  How could he have known who would be looking at that photo in the future?  But YOU, a product of him….CAN!  He, quite possibly by accident, left to you one of his greatest gifts.  More important than money.  It is a view to a different time and a different person, that happens to where you came from.

The Part of Him, that has become,  right now, the Beautiful YOU!


©2011 JohnRobertWilliams

Unbelievable Beauty

Do you believe in Santa Claus?

Do you believe in the Easter Bunny?

Do you believe in the  Tooth Fairy?

How about Leprechauns? Unicorns?

Do you believe in Fairy Tales?

OK then, just WHAT DO you believe in?

Do you remember what you wanted to be when you “grew up”?  You told your parents, your teacher, your friends all of your dreams and aspirations.

I remember in second grade, our teacher pointed desk to desk one day and asked each kid what they wanted to be.  My life long friend and neighbor stated that he wanted to be a truck driver.  I’m not sure if he said that for a laugh or because he believed it, but it was incongruous with the rest of his abilities.  (he’s a big-time attorney now).  I honestly cannot remember what my answer was.  I may have said race car driver.

It’s kind of interesting to think back and remember all the things you thought and believed.  What do you think of the names and objects listed above today?  Did you you  believe in them once?  If so why?  We are the same people now we were then.  “Just older”, you snigger?

Where did all this common information come from?  When we were little, there was no internet.  When my parents were little, there was no TV. When my grandparents were little, even dirt was clean.  But the same beliefs have been passed down, generation to generation.

But look what happens!  Every generation gets older (or “grows-up” – don’t get me started THERE!) Yet the beliefs as kids are formed and then somehow debunked!  What’s going on here??

Are ALL of our parents PATENT LIARS?  Jeez!  First they tell us something, like we are supposed to believe it (like, this is our house) then only later to find out it’s not! (well, really, the bank owns it, we just live here).  Or they tell us Santa brings the toys (and forces us to believe he comes in through a chimney, which you know in your GUT is too small for that fat guy and huge sack, but no, your parents insist, Santa brought all this loot that’s under the tree.

C’Mon MOM!  Why did you lie to us?  How the heck can we expect to believe ANYTHING we’ve been told our whole lives, when we get such a huge sack of lies laid on us from our infancy?

“Stories”.  A one word explanation for why we were fed all this nonsense.  Alright? Did George Washington chop down a cherry tree? Did Abe Lincoln really walk to Las Vegas to return a guys nickel?  What are we supposed to BELIEVE?  We kind of dance in and out of that “BELIEF” stuff all the time, right?  So just what do you believe?  What you are told, what you see, what you feel?  (Watching a movie, do you really believe the actor or actress on the screen is bing tortured in front of the camera, or is it simply acting?)

OK, do you believe you are pretty (or handsome)?  Do you?   (be honest)!

Who says you are either of the aforementioned?  The general public?  The Fairy GodMother? Someone you don’t know?

How about that voice in your head?  You know, the one you can’t seem to shut off.  The one that keeps blabbing about every fault and failure and stupid thing you’ve ever said or done. It’s like a radio station tuned to a frequency you should not be on.  Yet, there it is!

One of the SINGLE BIGGEST EXCUSES I HEAR for people NOT wanting to have their “picture taken”, is the gutteral belief that they are not good looking, attractive, handsome, pretty, thin, blonde, tan,…..(whatever) ENOUGH.  HUH!?!?  Hey!

You are YOU!

If you don’t think you are (fill in the blank, enough) , if you don’t BELIEVE you are (fill in the blank), who told you so?  Is this some fairy tale or childhood creation?  Did you have some brain-scaring event happen to you decades ago and you still BELIEVE it to this day?  Are you going to carry some silly, adolescent, momentary comment about something, to your grave?  Do YOU  believe in the Tooth Fairy?  Do you STILL  believe in some silly thought you heard a long time ago?

Here’s the deal:  If you DON’T BELIEVE YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, YOU ARE RIGHT.  (guys, I’m talking to you too)  None of us can or could have accomplished anything in our lives, if we didn’t first believe it.

Did you ever go out and do something, just to prove someone else was wrong?  Why are we challenged like that?

If you’ve ever raised an infant, didn’t you hold that baby and whisper for hours to it, how beautiful it was?  Can you remember as a parent or a child, either getting or combing hair and being told how handsome or beautiful you were?  IT’S BECAUSE YOU WERE/ARE!

What changed?  What happened to make you BELIEVE you were not beautiful?  (Be honest)

One of the best quotes I’ve carried my whole life (and I cannot remember where or when I heard it) is this: “We are all in the process of becoming what we imagine ourselves to be”.

If you could not have believed you could have learned to ride a bike, you still could not.  You told yourself you couldn’t.  You are right every time.  If you tell yourself you are (insert the negative description here), again you are right!  We are all in the process of becoming what we imagine ourselves to be!  And again, just who told you that (insert your negative comment here) was so bad?  YOU DID!  No one else did.  Don’t point fingers here……(“sticks and stones………”)

Here’s the part we all fall into, the “genetics” trap. (excuse)

Take me, for example.  Genetics says I’m bald.  My mother’s father was bald, that’s where the dominant gene comes from and sure enough, every single male of my generation, (brother and cousins) all have the identical hairline.  (When my niece was young, she looked at me and my head one day and said, “Uncle John, you don’t have a forehead….you have a nineteen-head!”)  Smart kid!  I hated being bald. So do a lot of other guys.  A billion dollar industry is built around guys not wanting to be bald.  Why? Self-Image.  Bald guys want to “look younger”.  (Then why to young guys with hair shave it off?)  There is a huge set of the population that finds baldness as sexy!  I have had women, total strangers, come up to me and rub their palm on my head, roll their eyes and just purr.  HUH?  Genetics….don’t fall for that one in the back of your mind!

“Beauty comes from within”.  We’ve heard it all of our lives.  BELIEVE IT!

Do NOT attempt to compare yourself with a published version of “beauty”.  (read an earlier post of mine to understand the fabrication of images) Do NOT believe in Paper Dolls!  They are most certainly not real, breathing humans.  They are as real as a photographic “cartoon”.

Your image and your reputation… have total control.  You don’t believe it?  OK, so what is it?  Do you ‘believe it when you see it’ OR, you ‘see it when you believe it’?

Beauty does not come from your hang-ups of your physical traits. That’s as negative as it gets.  Beauty comes from knowing and believing you are beautiful (or handsome).

Then, we are in the process of becoming what we believe.

You believe you know how to drive your car.  One very complex machine, along with other drivers, sharing the same belief.  If you didn’t……………..!

You believe you can read.  If you didn’t……………………!

Right now, BELIEVE and continue to constantly BELIEVE, in Beautiful YOU.


©2011 JohnRobertWilliams

It’s all Greek to all of us!

Pablo, you are so close!

I stand in awe!

But everyone else has to live with the fact they’ve never dissected a term: PHOTOGRAPH
The wise soul in the middle 1800’s that coined the term PHOTOGRAPH, was smarter than the average bear!

We’ve all heard the term PHOTOGRAPH, or “photo”, all of our lives. Yet, few, if any among us, are scholars of Greek Language- the basic language of all things science.

All the medical jargon, physics, floura/fauna is mostly of Greek roots. If it’s not, it’s camped up to be so close.

HA! You wild and crazy scientists….you make me LAUGH!

So it goes for the heavy-duty scientific term: “Photo+Graph”.

OK Class, here we go.     Class? Class?


OK, we’ve all heard of “photo-synthesis”, right?  The study of the way plants convert pictures to fertilizer….(are we paying attention yet?) and “graph” like: “Billy, you are so dumb, you moved the bell curve of our class off the graph!”


Let’s try this again…Photo is Greek for the concept of “light”.
Graph is the Greek for “write”. (Like graphite pencil’s—get it?)

So, PHOTO+GRAPH = Light+Writing x (83.5% per annum, less a tip of 24.19862%.)

Class? Are you paying attention?

Billy, get your finger out of there!

So, some chap in the nineteenth century, decided to call this new invention with lenses for making images, instead of brushes or pencils, a “photograph”.

That’s the basis I like to take, when making a picture….”writing with light”.

With out a light, you can’t see the subject and with out a light, your camera is worthless. But the lens did or does “etch” an image on the film (or whatever), instead of hands drawing it….and dang-it, it sure is accurate!

I take a multti-pronged approach to making a Photo, I call it LASTT.
Approach (or attitude)
and the
Technical bits.

So before I make a photo, I consider all the parts I BRING TOGETHER, to make an image,
(see above list), and not just “take a pitcher”.

I use lights to carefully caress the subject. It’s the photographers’ job to “write with light”, not just carry a camera around and show the latest neck and chest bling.

A camera is a tool. A means to an end.
It’s a hammer.
We don’t go to the store to buy a hammer, then carry it around looking for important nails to be driven! No, we buy a hammer as part of the fastening process. We set the bits into place and then drive it home. (that’s why they call it “getting nailed”)

My cameras live on tripods. Set stable and ready to be walked-away from, as I set up the rest of the image.

I MAKE photos.

I Make Photos with LIGHT.

It’s the LIGHT that caresses the subject.

The subject IS the story, not the camera.

Done right, a properly aimed and focused camera can capture and record beauty, form, structure and brilliance, with unequaled clarity.

“Writing with light.”
Magic from the dark, an image appears….
Pablo got it.

It’s art.

The art of writing with light.

It makes for a beautiful image.

For Beautiful YOU.


©2011 JohnRobertWilliams

Don’t you just LOVE it when a plan comes together?

Have you ever had one of those moments when a vision, a feeling, a certain knowledge just pops into your head out of the blue?  One moment you were in the present, then, bam!

I had a really big BAM! last year.  It was in the depth of a cold black winter evening.  I had the opportunity to be on the receiving end of a lovely massage, at the end of a day at a doctor’s office here in town.  A dear friend of over 30 years, has changed course in her life and is now doing massage.  Mostly, if not exclusively on/for women…..but lucky me, she wanted me to have a massage.

I ride a bike almost everywhere.  To work, every day, year around.  It’s my thing.  I pity all the drivers, stuck in their metal boxes, sealed away from life, as they lumber about town….nothing is as liberating as fresh air and pointing that front wheel where ever you want, when ever you want.  I hear the birds, hear the waves and yes, in the winter, sometimes get a snow flake or two on my glasses, but that’s about it.  I had pedaled over to this doctor’s office  where she works, in the dark of January. Like, 5:45pm.  It was nice to warm up, pedaling for a couple of miles. (the conventional wisdom is cyclists must just FREEZE in the winter… totally the opposite!  Cycling gets you warm the first block, where as you wait 10-20 minutes to get a car warm.)  It’s a secret…shhhhh!  Don’t tell.  Drivers have some pathetic sense of head shaking pity for a winter rider….but in reality, the rider pities the drivers!

So, I was all warmed up for my massage, fresh air in my lungs and oxygenated brain.  I was lead to her “operating room” and shown what to do.  As I climbed onto her table, the warmth from the heating pad was just flat-out delicious.  The aroma in her room from all the massage products were an exotic elixir to this guy.  Lights low, soft, ethereal music playing, this woman knows how to set the mood.  After a few moments of lying face-down on her table, in she came and for some where between 15 minutes and 8 light years, she found 592 different places on my back that needed attention.  O-M-G!!  I was having one out-of-body experience after another!!  I   HAD   NO   IDEA!  Sensations of warmth, comfort, tele-transportation, muscle relief, and just well-being filled my brain and my attitude!  FLOATING, just does not describe the sensory overload…nothing I could write can convey the over-arching wonderful feeling I had.

Time-was-up, and she left me there as a puddle of humanity on her table.  Slowly, I got up, dressed and levitated out of her room and down the hall to the reception area where she waited for her cross-eyed patient to land.  Before I could open my mouth….B A M!  I was nailed!  Transported into the future, I saw what was to come, so clearly, to this moment, it’s beyond clairvoyant! Here was the ANSWER!  I kept it to my self, not wanting to blather and drool too much on the front desk.  In my best attempt at English diction, I thanked her profusely, pulled on my riding jacket and helmet and pedaled home. It had been snowing hard and there must have been 4-6″ of new fluff on the streets.  Like George Jetson, I floated home on my bike.  Al the way KNOWING the future.

For decades, as I have been making portraits for professionals and others, a near-constant remark so many customers state is, “I sure wish I could have a glass of wine or two, to relax before this picture”.  But wine or any other booze, just makes people silly and their eyes look demented to me.  It’s not the real deal.  But a massage….OOOOOH!  So, I set the wheels in motion to make it happen.  And a funny thing happens on the way to making a dream or a drool-induced vision a reality.  And it took longer too.  But it happened.  Along the way, somehow, things just came together even BETTER than my dream!

See, reality sets in pretty fast.  Spend 30 minutes or more face-down on a massage table, face in the “face ring” (whatever it’s called) and skin has a super-duper version of “pillow-face”. Then there’s the HAIR thing.  Oh yeah, (says the bald man)  HAIR!  Yeah, lying down, with the neck-a-roo getting a massage, turns hair into seaweed.  So, that’s gotta get fixed, too, I thought.  Sure enough, as soon as I thought it, at a social gathering at a friend’s house for the holiday’s, there across the kitchen was my answer!  Debra!  I’ve known her since we were in college together in the mid-’70’s.  She and I chatted that evening.  I called her a bit later, showed her my plan and like it was meant to be, she was almost ahead of me in her thoughts and plans.  Desire is an amazing thing!

At almost the same time, a woman called me to make an appointment for a portrait of her and her son, together.  The late afternoon she came in with her son, we spoke.  She was a delight.  Strong beyond belief, and gentle in her soul.  And she is a massage therapist!  O-M-G!  I had the privilege of making beautiful portraits of the two of them.  Her son is quite challenged.  He’s sweet, beautiful/handsome and autistic.  I’ve never seen a mother’s love, so patient and so caring for a child.  Heidi is special.  She pours her heart into everyone she touches.  Her hands are her tools, and they are mighty. She makes magic. Period!  Heidi is the perfect fit in the trifecta I love to call the “DreamTeam”.

The Idea of mine for the “PerfectPortrait”, born at the end of the time/space continuum at a doctor’s office reception room, has blossomed!  It IS Perfect!  Heidi created what she calls “the massage therapist’s wet-dream” room, in the studio.  It’s flat-out beautiful!  Every visitor to the studio takes a peek in there when it’s open.  It’s NOTHING you’ve ever seen in a photo studio.  Debra has set up a studio version of her salon, in our dressing room.  Complete with salon chair, make-up lights, etc.  Debra has worked for some of the most famous Hollywood still photographers.  She knows that photo make-up is NOT street make-up.  She makes magic.  Period!

After a relaxing, healing, affirming massage and then a beautifying, confidence-empowering styling, the portrait time begins.  I set the lighting to make eyes sparkle and the skin glow.  Test shots are done.  We see the images instantly on the monitor.  make-up tweaks continue.  Debra is a perfectionist.  So am I.  We take the styling to new levels.  It’s has to be right for just one thing, how it looks on camera.  The results are like nothing in this world!

We are IT!  We know it.  The word is out.  Magazines and TV shows have covered us.  People travel to have the “PerfectPortrait”.  It only happens one place on the world, downtown Traverse City.

One-by-one, we are making the world a better place, capturing the absolute best of anyone, regardless of age.  A beautiful legacy is being left by those portraits.  Not something fake, but a stunning, perfect resemblance, captured and preserved forever.

How do you want to be known or remembered?  We capture lightning in a bottle.  We make magic.  We make Beautiful YOU!


©2011 JohnRobertWilliams