Sarang, pronounced sa-dang, it’s Korean for the word “love”. As humans, it’s been said that a child’s first true love is their mother. That particular bond, beginning at conception is undeniably one of the most amazing connections a person can have. The mother gives life, and throughout time, there’s always going to be motherly tendencies to overlook their children, even as they grow into adults. I’ve witnessed this amazing relationship first hand with my wife and her mother, to be honest, I would never have the right combination of words to truly describe what I see with them. So one day, while we were visiting the family, my mother in law, Oma (Korean for mom), brought me this photograph, it was a small wallet sized portrait, weathered and tattered in nature. This photograph, one of her as a child sitting next to her mother, was the only one Oma had of them together. Every photograph has a story to tell, and with the condition of this particular one, it became apparent the amount of sentimental value associated with it. A true heirloom that tugs at the heart. So back to this photograph that she handed me, she asked if I could fix it, an intimidating task given the condition, but I told her I would give it my best shot.
Mother and Daughter Traditional Korean Portrait

Portrait of Oma and her mother.

     Over the course of several days, I would sit down for a couple hours and meticulously work on different parts of the photograph… restoring the textures of the dresses on one evening, or bringing depth back to their faces through a technique called dodge and burn. I am no restoration retoucher by any means, but it was a rewarding feeling to step away from my headshot and portrait work and apply my skillsets to something more personable for the family. Eventually the photograph began to visualize new life of a memory greatly cherished. Upon completion, I wanted to run it by a few peers to look over to make sure there was not anything I overlooked or something that could be done better. I’ve always felt it was good move to cross check your work and this was no different. All feedback came back positive, but one friend suggested I try to take it a step further… to colorize it. A technique even more intimidating than the restoration itself, but I did little research on that technique and gave it my best shot. I had my wife AnnMarie call her mom and see if she could remember the colors of the dress, from her recollection she could best remember as her dress had little red flowers. From there I envisioned the best colors to suit their Hanboks (traditional Korean dresses) and bring the story yet another layer of life.
Digitally Restored Portrait of Mother and Daughter

Digitally Restored Portrait

     When all the work was completed, my wife and I decided to have a few small prints made along with an 11 x 14 canvas wrap. Knowing how much this photograph meant to Oma we wanted to surprise her and present them to her as a gift. So on Thanksgiving, after the table had been cleared of the dinner and deserts, I handed her the canvas to be unwrapped. Oma’s reaction was simply indescribable, I could feel the strings of hearts being pulled, myself included. Tears of joys were shed as she began to describe her memories of that day and how she remembers what she was holding in her hand… it was small mint wrap candy. It’s times like this that remind me that I have more than just talent but a gift to make a difference in people’s life. We now look forward to seeing this heirloom hung on the wall where it rightfully belongs. My friends, life is good. ​​:-)

Special thanks to Jim at Iris Pro Imaging for beautiful prints and canvas wrap.

Passing on the Portrait Tradition with the family’s Hanbok

Since I am writing about my mother in law and her mother, I feel it’s a perfect opportunity talk about my beautiful wife and a portrait session we did back in December 2015. Initially my wife wanted me to take a few snaps of her wearing her mother’s hanbok, a traditional Korean dress. However I just I didn’t want to do “snaps”, I wanted to tell a story of this dress, another family heirloom. So we browsed Pinterest for some ideas and I asked my friend Ana Perez if she would be willing to collaborate. At the time, I had just recently purchased my second Oliphant backdrop and there is just something about the work that Sarah Oliphant creates that infuses so much soul in portraits. So this would be the first time I used two backdrops in my work, one hung up and one used as a floor drop. This would create the perfect stage for our story of beauty, love and tradition. To this day, this one of my absolute portraits I’ve taken of AnnMarie, and yes these are printed and hanging in the house, where they should be. Everyday when I wake up, I pass a wall that has her portraits along with our son and our fur baby… this is story that lives in our house, not a digital file stored in computer. As our life continues on, I’ll always look forward to capturing new chapters of our stories thought the art of image making. Cheers amigo!
Traditional Portrait of Korean Mother

Portrait of my wife AnnMarie with her mother’s traditional Hanbok.