How to Photograph a Photographer…

This is Michael Garlington, a fellow Petaluman and photographer, who is known for his creatively dark and imaginative 4×5 portraits.

I needed to photograph him for the Artist and Farmer project that we are doing in Petaluma. But how do you photograph someone who has photographed and been photographed countless different ways?

First I did some research. I looked at all the photos I could find of Michael, and from what I found it seemed that he was always posing… hiding behind faces, fictional characters and props. So I wanted to try and photograph him without the props or the characters. Just Michael and a white background.

But how do you photograph someone who is so used to acting for the camera?

After some brainstorming, I decided photographing him nude would be the best way to go, because there is no way to hide when you are naked.

But that idea made me nervous. I love the human figure and I am excited every time someone asks me to photograph them nude, but I have never asked anyone to pose nude for me, because I would most likely never pose naked for anyone, so how could I ask that of someone else. But because Michael often photographs nude females, I thought it would only be fair if he posed nude for once. So, I asked him.

And his response, “I will. I have to say yes, because I ask other people to do it for me. So I will do it… but not today.”


I was off the hook. And we got to work… talking, setting up cameras and backgrounds, getting to know each other, and taking photos… with our clothes on.

I was only supposed to take Senior Pictures…


This is my neighbor, Gino. He is a third generation Petaluman… and third generation ranch kid. He got his first cow when he was 14. Now he has 4 cows. Gino will be graduating in a couple of months and his mom wanted some senior photos. But not the yearbook kind, she already had to buy those, and she wasn’t that happy with them. She wanted to have some of Gino in his own environment…. so she called me… which was convenient because I live one house away… and because I like nothing more than to photograph in fields with farm animals.


So we did some of the standard, look and smile photos… but then we went into the pasture and the clouds started to break-up, and the family members started joining the fun and even the cows couldn’t stay away… so senior photos turned into full family photo shoot… cows included.


I have been wanting to do a 3-generation photo with this family for Project Here so it turned into the perfect occasion.






After all the formal stuff was over, Gino changed back into his real senior attire. Dress-up photos are nice to have, but this is how Gino really spent his Senior year: dog, jeans, a baseball hat and truck… the cowboy hat above was just peer pressure… but maybe he’ll see how good it looks and trade in his baseball hat…. maybe.


And below is a strange phenomenon I wanted to share with you all. I am not sure why or how, but on this particular shoot, for some reason, my camera kept taking photos of people from the nose down… and sometimes just the belly button down. Seriously, I don’t even remember taking them, and when I looked at the photos during the editing process, I wondered, “Why I would take that photo.”




I think it was the magnetic draw of those belt buckles, even hidden under jackets my camera still gravitated towards them. But I guess it makes sense, because when Arann and I lived on his mother’s farm, the rancher neighbor across the street always accused me of taking photos of his butt… but something about tight jeans, big belt buckles, and boots is just graphically irresistible for my camera… must be the camera…. always blame the camera.

Rain in September and Door 2 Door

Two amazing things happened tonight.

The first amazing thing; it rained. It hasn’t rained since, I don’t know, April, it seems like forever, and normally it doesn’t rain until the end of October. The earth is so dry, the hills are bare, and wild fires have run rampant. But tonight, in the middle of September, it rained! Good news for the agriculturalists; bad news for the wine growers.

But for us, the urban Petalumans attending Tyler Young’s Door 2 Door event at Aqus Cafe, it just meant we had to bundle up and get a little wet. Door 2 Door was the second amazing event of this mid-September night.

Door 2 Door is part of Tyler’s Project Here. The purpose is strengthen the community in Petaluma by helping Petalumans get to know their neighbors. He sent out a request that people photograph themselves in front of their front doors, and then send in the photos for a collage made up of Petaluma faces and the homes they belong to. 90 people sent in photos. And about that many people came to the opening tonight, to show their faces, admire their photos, and meet their neighbors… in the rain.

To add an additional fun element to the evening, Tyler asked me to photograph the guests in front of a 100 year old door that was rescued from a house demolised by the 2006 tsunami in Indonesia. The door was brought to the event by Michael, “Bug,” from Heritage Salvage (pictured below.) I believe there are more of these beautiful doors for sale at Heritage Salvage if you are looking for an amazing door.

We had lots of fun playing in the rain. And it was definitely a kid-fest… they loved the huge parking lot puddle that was near where I was photographing and so there are quite a few photos with heads dashing across the front of the frames.

And then it got dark. So, lucky for me, out came Tyler’s lighting equipment. Who knew I would fall in love with lighting. But his kit was so easy… you just plug it into the wall and start shooting… until the running children trip over the cord and the whole kit falls over buring a hole in the umbrella… but it was good photographing while it lasted.

And this is Tyler, the man behind it all. He’s the kind of person who dreams big and then actually makes those dreams happen, and I am glad to know him and contribute to his community building dreams.

If you attended the event and would like to see more of the photos, please visit my on-line gallery by clicking here. All proceeds of the photos will go back to Tyler so he can continue to fund his fantastic projects.

project HERE… with John Crowley

This is John Crowley, he is the definition of community in Petaluma.

About 7 years ago, this Irishman decided he was tired of sitting alone in his Petaluma home, watching TV on Saturday nights… and he realized he was probably not the only one who felt that way, so he decided to make a change. He started with a simple pub-crawl with a theme: bring a book that changed your life and share it with people you meet. And as people started emerging from their homes and back into the community, the pub-crawls turned into conversation cafes, drum circles, open-mic nights, movie nights and more. Now Crowley has his own cafe where he can hold as many different kinds of community events as he wants and the people of Petaluma don’t have any excuses to sit at home alone anymore.

The reason I photographed John Crowley is for. Project HERE.

Project HERE is a cool community project started by Tyler Young. He is trying to pump up the community spirit in Petaluma by profiling inspiring people like John Crowley. The goal is to create a poster of each person with quotes about why it is so great to live HERE in Petaluma. And when we have enough posters at the end of the summer, we will have a show.

So, me, the photographer obsessed with the concept of community, I was psyched when Tyler called and asked me to help out. I am working on editing my interview with John Crowley now, but first I wanted to share my portrait of him.

I had a vision of John in the street with thousands of people behind him… but my vision came to me on Friday and the notice was posted on Saturday… so the fact that we got 30 people to come on a random Monday night, with only two days notice and without offering anything free… makes me pretty happy.

And in conclusion, I like my portrait of John Crowley and I am super grateful to the people who came out and I really hope it will work for the campaign.

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