The gallery pictures that Francis mentions in the article are above. They are from a series of pictures that I did for our 2006 Christmas cards.
Jennifer McDougall’s portraits are more than formal portraitsby Francis Baker
When Jennifer McDougall takes photos, she’s looking to capture more than just a formal portrait.
“I want your personality to shine through,” she says. “I want jeans and bare feet.”
The daughter of photographer Alan Rawlins and Lynn Rawlins who’s now the Arthur librarian, Jennifer got interested in photography at age 10 when she inherited her parents’ old camera.
She talks fondly of the “very very old” film camera – sending the film off to be developed and getting back little square prints.
About three years ago she turned to a digital camera, now that digital SLR cameras have done away with the annoying shutter delay that she remembers from an earlier digital camera. (Unlike film cameras that take the picture the instant the shutter button is pressed, many digital cameras have a processing delay between pressing the shutter and the picture actually being taken – a delay long enough for a subject to move from an ideal pose.)
But one thing that’s obvious from her photos – including the ones on display in the lobby of the Arthur Public Library – is an artistic style with echoes of an older era of black and white photography.
“I started watching old black and white movies,” she says of the inspiration for her black and white portraits. “I’m inspired by the lighting…how simple black and white pictures were.” She works with both black and white and colour.
She started taking portraits about three years ago, and has developed a home-based business focusing on children’s portraits. But she isn’t looking for a posed, “formal” look, saying she’d rather have photos that show young people as they are – like real kids – rather than tidy and in their best clothes for a photo session.
Right now, the studio gets set up specially for photo sessions in a front room of the house – a studio light and backdrop. Sessions can last a couple of hours, as McDougall wants children to feel comfortable and be natural, and that involves taking the time to get to know the people she’ll be photographing.
Sometimes that means putting on a movie, taking some pictures, talking to children and parents, taking a few more pictures, and so on. “People are coming from far away sometimes, and (the child) is just not into it,” she says.
Another frequent portrait subject is her daughter Ava, who’ll be a year old in April, and who got her away from using a backdrop in photos, McDougall says, as she wanted to capture her daughter naturally around the house.
“Ava’s inspired me a lot,” she says. “She’s her own subject 24-7.”
Photographing children presents some unique challenges.
“When they’re really really small, the hard thing is propping them up,” she says. That’s often how parents get into her portraits along with their very small children. “Then once they start to move around, the challenge is how do you keep them in one spot.”
McDougall also joins her father on his wedding photo sessions, looking after candid and behind the scenes photos while Rawlins takes care of the posed, set up pictures of the wedding party.
An upstairs office and workroom shows other interests – paper crafts, scrapbooking, and stamping materials abound. McDougall says she makes her own greeting cards, and shows off a photo album of her daughter that’s also a hand-crafted scrapbook. She works full-tim for a marketing and advertising firm in Guelph.
To see some samples of McDougall’s work in colour and black and white, visit her website at www.mcdougallphotography.com, which features some information, pricing, and a number of sample galleries.