I had always been a fan of photographer, Roger Kenny. While working as an actor, I dreamt of headshots from the Portrait Room, Roger’s studio. Even after taking my hiatus from the world of acting, I still loved following Roger’s work. I also loved his eye, his style, the general vibe that came from his work, its’ ability to draw you in in a way that an image via a point-and-press-photographer just doesn’t. His photos are not just something you look at, they evoke a feeling, and they emanate a real inner life that’s tangible to the viewer. His subjects always look beautiful, not models standing for their portrait but real, sparkling, complicated, beautiful and terrible, authentic people that don’t just laugh and smile and embrace, but cry and scream and hurt, too.
I originally got in touch with Roger hoping that he would perhaps know of a photography student that was looking to broaden their portfolio, someone open to playing around a bit and trying something a bit different to get a couple of fun shots for Yogilateral.com. When Roger got back to me saying that he himself would be interested in working with me I ran into the next room to tell someone immediately, that was how excited I was. Being an artist is something that is a huge part of me and always has been, in a way I think yoga is an art form much in the way dance is; you learn the poses or the steps and then you begin to actually express yourself through what you are doing. You begin to find refinement and finesse in the movement, the movement becomes your painting, your poetry, your song. The idea of being able to express this connection between yoga and art, and with someone whose work I so adored, was like a dream.
We arranged for me to meet him first at his studio, and from the second he opened the door I just knew we were going to have a fantastic experience. Being an Empath makes me acutely aware of people’s energy and the energy in a room, and the warmth and enthusiasm that Roger radiates puts you immediately at ease. His studio, The Portrait Room, oozes that special creative flavour that all beautiful spaces of art-making ooze, whether it be a painter’s studio, backstage in a theatre or before the mess of a writer’s desk. It is bright, with beautiful old windows and rustic floorboards, his portraits line the walls, his equipment is perched around the set like a herd of giraffes, heads bowed. We started by browsing through some photos on a Pinterest board we had shared in the days previous and I could tell immediately that we were on the same page. We very quickly made a horrific mess of his studio, which, to me, made it look even more beautiful. I would have lived in that space. We took a couple (of hundred) shots and then reviewed them on the computer, decided what we liked the look of and went again. The real beauty was in Roger’s eye for the aesthetic of the finished piece, of the asana not being the point of the photo, rather allowing the expression of the pose to dictate the tone of the shot. The gentleness that he captured in the humility of lotus pose versus the strength and stability of wheel pose; the light of the lotus pose photo soft, the background out of focus and the light of the wheel pose photo strong, with dramatic shadows across my ribcage. Photos taken moments apart and without any background in yoga, he just knew what the tone of the photo should be.
After an hour or so in the studio, we went to a secret beach (well, one not easily gotten to) to go to a particular area Roger knew would be beautiful for photos. We had to run as the tide was coming in. I felt so free, I felt such happiness, such joy that I actually laughed as we ran. I’m always happiest by the beach. The sky was thunderous, the clouds were rolling blues and purples, the sea was deep greys and greens and the tide washing up along the sand was white and frothy. The rocks behind us were black and slick and shiny, many of them with swathes of slimy, green moss across them. It was incredibly beautiful, and as I began to move around and Roger directed me, I felt beautiful. I felt so beautiful. There was sand in my hair, my hands and feet were dirty, I’m so pale that the light bouncing of my tummy and back could probably have send messages to Mars, but running in and out of the cold sea in the rain, falling over trying to do headstands in the soft sand, I felt untouchable. Roger was a dream, every time I laughed he made me laugh harder, his enthusiasm stopped me from noticing the cold or the rain, his vigour made me feel like we were two kids on an adventure, discovering some secret unknown. He has all the qualities of someone that makes a wonderful theatre director, and I suppose there aren’t all that many differences between them. He has the perfect eye for setting a scene, he knows how to give just the right amount of direction while still allowing his subject to have their own expression, he takes inspiration from what’s happening in the moment and can change direction at the drop of a hat to get that special shot, that once-of moment that might not have otherwise happened. He knows how to frame something, not just so that it will look beautiful, but so that the whole shot will be dynamic to whoever is looking at it. Dynamic is probably one of the best words to describe him. Dynamic and limitless!
On the way back to the studio we took a detour into Wicklow town to go see the ruins of an old castle right on the cliff edge. No reason other than the fact that it was beautiful. That’s the wonderful thing about being in the presence of an artist; they’re people who are able to do things, often going out of their way to do so, for no other reason than the fact that there is beauty to be experienced. We stopped the car two or three times along the dock so Roger could jump out, take a picture of some imperfect perfection and carry on again. He said he never usually brings his camera with him if he isn’t working, that he would never get anything done if he did because there is always something worth capturing. That didn’t surprise me, you can tell he breathes it.
Though he is well known for his portraits and wedding and event photography, there was something so infectious about Roger’s energy while we were out on the beach, even more so than in studio, he seemed to only grow in enthusiasm and creativity out amongst the elements, responding to my movement and its’ place in the landscape around me. If any of you yogis, athletes or trainers reading this were considering hiring a professional for any promo or website shots, I cannot say enough in praise of Roger. The way he sees human form and the way he frames it, the vision he creates and the emotions it inspires is unparalleled. For me personally, the experience was one that was so special, not only for the fact that it was a dream come true and not only because of the beauty of the end product, but because of how beautiful and inspired I felt throughout the process. I felt strong, creative, abundant and invincible, and Roger is the one that created the space in which I could feel and express those things. Beautiful portrait photography isn’t about perfect hair and make-up, Hollywood smiles and statue-perfect posing. It’s about creating a space in which the inner-life of the subject can shine through and then capturing that. It’s that five seconds of magic in an hour-long shoot that the subject probably wasn’t even aware of at the time. It’s capturing the moment where you can look at a photograph and see the person in it, not just see their exterior and their dimensions, the clothes they are wearing, but actually see them. I think Roger sees people. He knows which shot is the one because he isn’t just looking at you, he is seeing you, and when he gets that perfect shot he knows it because he has captured what it is he has seen in front of him. To say it was a pleasure doesn’t cover it!
You can find Roger over at his website; http://www.portraitrooms.ie/