A Father's Tribute to a Model Who Deserves a Medal

Photos © Paul Cotter Photography

Life can be frustrating for the family of a photographer. Photo geeks like me  live with cameras around our necks, and when we're not interrupting hikes and vacations with our search for interesting views, we're hounding family members with that dreaded refrain: "Hey, can I take your picture?"

I know this can be irritating. But for 24 years, my daughter Jade has somehow resisted the urge to strangle me with my camera strap. More than anyone, she's cheerfully complied with every photographic request. And she even sat through two years of my photography classes when I taught at her high school. (Just what every teenager wants, right? Dad in the classroom.)

Here's a quick look at some our photographic collaborations over the years.

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On vacation in Cape Cod, capturing the golden hour sunlight on her young  face.
"Okay, turn toward me ... a little more ... a little less ... yes, we can eat dinner soon."

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Years later, helping me test some off-camera flashes fired with Pocket Wizards.

"Okay, look pensive. Not bored ... pensive ... "

More experiments with off-camera flashes and light-shapers.

"Okay, pull the blanket up to your chin. Look sad, like I just cut off your allowance."

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Shooting during construction in an upstairs hallway at the school.

"Okay, let's set up a light over here to get some cool shadows. No, you can't be texting while I'm shooting this."

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My first experiment with multiple exposures created in-camera (not combined in the darkroom or at the computer.)

"Okay, everything has to line up perfectly between the two exposures. So we'll probably have to shoot this over and over. You didn't have any other plans, right?"

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This day, we were having a father-daughter squabble. Jade wasn't talking to me, but she still agreed to help me with a photo shoot. 

"Okay, I'm going to replace your eyes and nose with the pipe so it looks like you're wearing a strange gas mask."

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By this time, Jade was used to having just about anything done with her face.

"Okay, I'm going to blend your face with a coffee shop floor and then I'm going to paint over the parts of your face and hair so it looks like graffiti."

"Okay, I  just bought this Orbis ring flash ... let's try it out while mom's cooking the Thanksgiving turkey." 

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"Hey, I just noticed how cool your reflection looks on the table. Let me grab a shot."

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At Laguna Beach, CA. It's come full circle from the Cape Cod photo at the top. Same golden hour sunlight ... same short-side lighting ... same beautiful face. 

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Thanks, Jade, for being there every time I wanted to test a new piece of photo gear or try a new technique or simply take your portrait. Mom and your brother would agree: you definitely deserve a medal.

I'd love to hear from you.

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  • Jean Schweikhard

    on May 3, 2016

    with your talent and the lovely and cooperative 'talent', you've acheived some really beautiful results here. Love the gas mask, the school construction and the coffee shop floor shots in particular. But the beginning and end simple portraits are stunning as well.

  • Beverly Cotter

    on April 20, 2016

    My beautiful niece and my very talented brother in law! Great pictures Paul, but you did have a great subject to photograph.

  • undefined

    on April 20, 2016

    The last photo is our favorite. Thank you for sharing, Paul. You are one very talented and nice guy!

  • Tim Sweeney

    on April 20, 2016

    Great stuff Paul. Put that model on permanent retainer.