Brooke Hummer's identity as a portrait photographer was born alongside her first son. But don't be misled. Her intimate knowledge of aperture and shutter speed far separates her from the fresh-mothers-with-cameras movement in this digital era. As does her long-standing work at Outside Magazine and Crain's Chicago Business, her schooling at the illustrious Brooks Institute, and her appreciation for the haunting artistry of Loretta Lux's childlike shots. This is not an Anne Geddes story - though Hummer does share her leaning toward innocence.
There's a language to true portraiture and Hummer speaks it fluently. Though the Kodak award she won for an image shot in high school may have been the catalyst for her career as a photographer, her portraiture niche was discovered among the fingers and seemingly endless freckles of her first-born son Ned. She'd temporarily given up her role as a staff photographer to have children, and quickly found that their nuances, expressions and movements were more fascinating than any subject she'd captured previously. And when her second son followed her first, it laid the pathway for her career.
That was 17 years ago, and Hummer has never looked back. "During that time when I was photographing my kids, it was some of the best work I'd ever done," she said. "I couldn't put the camera down." Her work segued seamlessly into a portrait business. Now she's the mother who knows about color temperatures and guide numbers. Who analyzes old work and understands that the inner-workings of film photography are a far cry from the evanescent shots created with electronic media today. "Back in my day [of photography school], shooting film was really complicated," she said. "I had so much knowledge under my belt and now it's obsolete."
Slightly akin to the lovely, awkward humanity of Rineke Dijkstra's adolescent shots, Hummer's images are imperfect in an ideal way – real, but capturing the sweeter side of things. She recalls a particular photo taken in Paris when her sons were young. Leaning on one another in the middle of a hedge maze, shirtless under the warm setting sun, they stared through the camera as she snapped the perfect shot, with the natural light creating a lazy late-summer-afternoon aura behind them. Looking at that image of her two boys at peace with the world, and recognizing that it had all the qualities of a perfect photo, the artist in Hummer said, "I could just be done now. I could never take another picture again." We should be sad, of course, if that were true.
Hummer's end-goal is to create something enduring. "I've often tried to do other things, but I feel like I'm a one-trick pony. I just know what to do when I have a camera in my hand," she said. "With clients and family, it's not just about wanting them to like their photos, but what they'll feel about them in 20 years. What I want to do is take pictures that represent the moments that are now. So many pictures are being taken and getting thrown in virtual trash. But these images really last and represent a moment...and they come from my own feelings of pictures I took of my kids when I was younger. They mean so much to me, and I want others to feel the same way."
Cameras/Lenses/Film used by Hummer:
85 mm 1.4
(She also loves her old Hasselblad and Mamiya!)
Filed under: Portrait Photography