Tiny Planets…just having fun…and selling gallery wraps!!!

April 30th, 2014
Emily and Tim on another planet

Emily and Tim on another planet

OK, I know, all my serious photog friends (and apparently I’ve many, especially the journos and doc peops) have asked politely and even not so, that I please, please, not do this any more–They’ve related it to the first time someone got ahold of a fisheye lens (we’ve all seen that) or the first days of Photoshop (yikes!). One friend asked if this was the new Fibonacci lens. This was an iPhone app and meant for fun. My wife, bless her ruthless business heart, is always reminding me how important social media is for my wedding photography biz and how I should use Instagram for that purpose. I know but my iPhone and Instagram are for fun. I don’t want to be “on” all the time. As an artist I want to have places where I can explore, let my hair down and just shoot, edit, manipulate and photoshop my head off.  All work and no play–right? We can’t be afraid to have fun or make fun (of Life, ourselves, etc).

This is obvious manipulation or Photoshopping and I don’t think I’m fooling anyone (not even trying)–also, this technique has been around for years, too. Wedding photography is hardly the standard for serious visual journalism (but sometimes it is and that is important too). But here is the kicker: These tiny planets make great gallery wraps that sell for $600-$1000 a print. I’ve a print that is going in a show this weekend as part of the Somerville Open Studios (http://www.somervilleopenstudios.org/) and BLINK! (http://digitalsilverimaging.com/digital-printing-blog/). That print is from a visual journalism workshop we ran in India as part of our Visual Reportage Workshop series (http://visualreportage.com/). It is a serious piece shot in the Dharavi slum. It is printed in black and white (because we all know how much gravitas that elicits–said with half a laugh and a wink). It shows the area in all its abject poverty and surreal beauty and I’m very proud of it. It is for sale there for $500 and nobody will probably buy it. But these gallery wraps of tiny planets from peoples weddings–well they are so fun and look great on canvas and folks love to have them hanging.

Em and Tim's wedding party are the total population of their planet

Em and Tim’s wedding party are the total population of their planet


Tiny Planet Enagagement

Ashley and Brian walk along the swirling scenery of their own tiny planet at Crane Beach.

As a Boston wedding photographer, trained journalist  and teacher/mentor of visual journalism I am always shooting, editing and thinking about photography. It is my Life right down to the everyday constant of documenting my family (sometimes to their protest). So while I was with my class shooting the Boston Marathon I again had some fun with the images from there. I know it is a serious sporting event but it was much more this year–my students did an admirable job with their video projects, the runners ran, the crowds cheered and security secured. It was festive and light and so to was my favorite photo:

Shalane Flanagan runs toward the finish of the Boston Marathon.

Shalane Flanagan runs toward the finish of the Boston Marathon.


This was one of my most “liked” photos on Istagram (http://instagram.com/dmpj) and while “likes” are no measure whatsoever of a photo’s merit or even worth–they are an indication of its dollar value to some degree. As artists we need to feel the value of what we do deep within us. It must scratch the itch on the ass of our Soul. But we also must eat, pay our bills and have enough money to by more camera gear, or paints or clay…and crazy iPhone apps ;-). And we must have some fun.




A little rain never hurt anyone

April 11th, 2014
Julia and Ian make some magic outside the Four Seasons in March.

Julia and Ian make some magic outside the Four Seasons in March.

Into every Life a little rain must fall. Yes, yes, and we’ve all heard how rain on your wedding day is good luck. With the right photographer and adventurous clients like these two magical moments can be created even in the torrential rain, like this March storm that soaked most of Julia and Ian’s wedding day. Let it rain! Also, see if you can notice my not-so-short, 6’3″ second photog holding my Canon 600 speedlight behind them–I bet you can’t find him. Thanks Chris for getting wet and making my shot!

Coming back online

March 29th, 2013
Casey + Eric one snowy day in Harvard, Mass.

Casey + Eric one snowy day in Harvard, Mass.

Blog’s been down. Hackers attacked. Been away for a bit but re-inventing things and major changes ahead. The new DMPJ by Glen Cooper with more emphasis on “Glen Cooper” is emerging. Check back for what’s on deck.


Finding my Zen – Same place, different couples, different weather, days apart

May 1st, 2012

Elyse + Bill (left) smooch with flair; Emily + Jared have a quieter moment along the same street.

I’ve worked the same wedding venue back to back many nights and shot engagement sessions in the same location on the same day but no matter how often and how similar the locations, no two sessions are ever the same. As a photojournalist I know its the people I photograph that make my photography come to Life and give it its Essence. My job is special in lots of ways. I don’t sit in a cubicle (no offense to anyone who finds that appealing), I never watch the clock (ready to slide down the dinosaur’s tale when the quittin’ time whistle blows) and I’m usually always surprised how this job keeps me present in the Right Now without me feeling overworked or overburdened. This is Zen in the Art of Photography at its finest.

My aim (no pun intended), like Eugen Herrigel’s in his famous text Zen in the Art of Archery, is to somehow allow my subjects to photograph themselves. No I haven’t lost my mind. I want this to feel effortless even as I hump my gear and myself up trees, into ponds and and all over the place, quickly switching lenses and perspective, changing position all the while keeping the mood light and fun and engaging. Tons of contradictions abound but I truly want the camera to find a way to shoot itself. Much like Herrigel’s arrow finds its natural state at the center of the bullseye so to do my subjects find their organic bullseye framed within my sensor confines–that is their natural state. This process is best when it happens in the viewfinder but sometimes must be found in the edit and brought to light (The number one reason you hire a professional photographer).

The examples here are with Elyse + Bill and Emily + Jared and show how their own personalities play in some of the same environmental spaces. They are running the show even though they don’t know it. They are crafting the look and feel of their photographes without being aware of it. Sure I am framing things and swapping lenses, etc but it is their own confidence and insecurity to be vulnerable that allows the moment to happen.

I want my posed or orchestrated moments to have the look of spontaneity–as if  this is all happening organically.  Except that I’m Present yet unconscious. It is effortless.  A long slow Ujjayi breath out and I never feel my finger release the shutter–maybe 6 frames per second even. There is a flow and a sequence but in the end there is the unconscious talking to the conscious mind in the edit room.  This process takes patience and balance. My subjects, like the arrow, have already found their perfect resting place.

Tulips frame Elyse and Bill in the Public Garden (big assist from Jordyn with the fill light).

Here bare limbs and new leaves for Emily and Jared.

Light from a gold reflector (thanks again Jordyn) give Elyse and Bill a strong pressence...

Emily and Jared from the same spot with just great flat overcast sky lighting.

Just being themselves and not, since I'm instructing-- they find the humor in its weirdness.

Same thing happening here with Elyse and Bill in a location that is only feet apart but worlds different.

Emily and Jared truly lost in some effortless conversation...

Where as, Emily and Jared were driving the previous shot here its all about light and shadows for Elyse and Bill.

Body language finds a similar chord for both couples--although I did a fair amount of encouraging in each.

Emily and Jared k'noodle.

Where everybody knows your name and is photographed to prove you were there.

Giving Elyse and Bill time to find their comfort zone in front of the lens.

Another kind of unnatural Natural state, Emily and Jared amid the clamore of Cheers.











Dump studio session

March 18th, 2012

Maria Josefa Godinas, 49, and her daughter, Gloria Elizabeth, 13.

We spent the day at the dump in El Tejar near La Antigua. Many of my students have been documenting the families that work here for the past week and I wanted to give something back to all of them. Amazing how gracious they were with us. They were all so determined to do whatever was necessary to survive and provide for their children–truly inspiring to the point of tears. It was tough watching the children work in such horrid conditions. Some children as young as seven have not been to school in years.  I watched as The God’s Child Project, the NGO with whom we worked , rescued two little girls. They will be going there Monday to set them up in school and start providing them with financial support–the girls can be little girls again.

Today we brought some studio lights and a back drop to make some portraits of some of these families. I wanted to remove them from the dump as much as possible. They will receive the prints on Monday when the NGO returns. It was an interesting project that I hope to expand on subsequent trips. If you’d like to help  them you can donate here: http://www.godschild.org.

Marta Julia Garcia, 32, Ronald Daniel, 6-months-old, Jorge Mario, 4.


Jorge Antonio, 18, Carmen Lucia, 19 and Ana Lucia, 33.

Edwin Lionel, 13, Jaqueline Susana, 9, Noemi Peres, 16.

What else we do

March 15th, 2012

Maria, 10, at the dump in El Tejar, Guatemala. She and her sister have no parents and spend everyday working in the trash.

Every March I run our Visual Reportage Workshops program in Guatemala. We work with a great organization, The God’s Child Project, documenting some of the incredible social and economic issues that face most of the population in the country. We have been here for the past week in Guatemala City, La Antigua Guatemala and Escuintla and are headed to Izabal, near the border with Belize, to work with a wild animal sanctuary for 3 days.

More photos so come!

Luis from Nuestros Ahijados talks with sisters, Romelia, 9, and Maria, 10, to see if his organization can help them.


Romelia, 9, works in the dump in El Tejar.


The dumpin El Tejar.


Our VRW Guatemala 2012 group in the main square in La Antigua.


Brian at Tulita Cumi, alcohol and drug rehab center.


Carly laughs as Doug strikes a pose on the way back from Escuintla.


Our uber TA, Nic, models for the cameras.


Landscape at the dump in in Escuintla.


Maria, 47, and Alfonzo, 60, in their hut in the dump in Escuintla. They and their 6 children earn about $3 per day collecting recyclables.


Huffing shoe glue in La Antigua.


Students recording video and audio following a song this young girl sang for them. The God's Child Project in building her family a house.


A young girl, 17, and her 7-month-old daughter in a slum in Esquintla.


Hatha yoga in the street in Guatemala City.


Doug shows off his technique.


Working guy in Guatemala City.


Brian making friends in Guatemala City.


Brother and sister in Guatemala City.

Sondra + Erik: The Commons 1854 in Topsfield

January 7th, 2012

Very late afternoon sun is around just long enough.

Not two weeks prior to Sondra and Erik’s wedding I tweaked my back very badly while on a trail run in Groton. Lucky for me Erik runs a physical therapy business, Elite Physical Therapy. I go by to drop off a 30×40 canvas and he sets me up with some icy stimulation for my lower back. I met Sondra’s Dad in there as well getting treatment so he can get back at his mountain biking. Two weeks later we were both good as new and ready to go.

We made the most out of the short day and The Commons 1854 in Topsfield provided an incredible backdrop for the evening ceremony and reception. Eye 2 Eye provided the entertainment that kept the party hoppin’. The delicious cake was made by Eat Cake! from Newburyport and the flowers by Lotus Designs.  And still no back pain!

Sondra checks out her amazing up do at her stylists house.

Sondra's family react to her new style.

And Sondra likes what she sees.

A little help from Mom.

Honey from Lotus Designs in Boston created a perfect bouquet to accent our bride.

The reveal.

Window light.


Stealing a smooch before the ceremony.

The Ballroom set up for the ceremony.

The star treatment. Thanks for the assist from Uncle Joe with the video light.

Roses top the cake, of course.

The Ballroom after the flip.

All eyes on the new couple.

Grand entrance.

First dance.




Last dance of many.













You don’t always have to understand

December 24th, 2011

Winter Solstice bonfire in full blaze.

As I snapped away I chanted.  Shoulder to shoulder with like-minded brethren under a cloudy night’s sky I thought. I thought about what really matters.  Was it important that I recognized this moment as our annual moment of rebirth or that it “occurs exactly when the axial tilt of a planet’s polar hemisphere is farthest away from the star that it orbits”? I thought how wonderful it was to be somewhere celebrating Life with my little family and my father. I thought about how lucky we are to have moved to such a Magical little place where this is commonplace. I thought about how amazing it was to nosh and nog and mingle with folk afterwards at the party. I thought about the stars and how the rising embers from the fire took their place if only briefly above our heads. I drifted from one beautiful thought to the next like a distance runner gliding effortlessly over a Spiritual plane that his feet never quite made contact with. I was on a Solstice High as we circled the flame. I heard my girls chatting away with their grandfather. I felt my Wife’s caring hand as she brushed the burning sparks off my hat. In the dark I bumped along meeting new people with a friendly nod or smile.

I don’t know if I understood all the Spiritual talk swirling about from our incredibly gracious hosts BUT, what I can say is that I enjoyed our shared community experience. It was simple. Sometimes simple is best.

Sparrow speaks his mind and enlightens.

Chanting. Burning. Chanting. Burning.



Vanessa & John get married; go bowling

December 15th, 2011

Turner's Pond in Milton provides a nice backdrop for pre-ceremony portraits.

Vanessa and John were married at St. Greg’s in Dorchester with a reception at Venezia on the water but it was a great little suggestion from Vanessa to do photos before the ceremony at Turner’s Pond in Milton. With the fading light in late Fall and early Winter it is crucial to get photos in prior to dusk so I was psyched when these guys understood that and found this spot. We found some unique spots at the Venezia as well out on the boat docks at night.

But that was just the pretty we found in this very urban landscape. The real F-U-N was the unique mix of friends and family. Irish dancing from John’s side mixed with a latin Caribbean vibe from Vanessa’s crowd. The staff at Venezia were great and very easy to work with throughout the night. So much variety in one small wedding.

Alone but far from lonely-Vanessa hikes a trail in her weddin' dress.

My happy couple at Turner's Pond.

Perfect light (thanks to Steve Sangalang holding my flash) and late afternoon provided by Mother Nature.


The men.

Vanessa arrives at the St. Gregory's.

Escorted by her nana

Some laughter at the alter.

John's parents looking on.

A little emotion for the ring exchange.

More fun and some levity.

After communion.

The Kiss. Vanessa's Mom and MOH celebrates with John's best man, his brother.


All married up and ready to party.


Some quick portraits at Venezia from the bridal suite.

Again with the assist from my awesome second camera, Sangalang, with just the right kiss of light.


It was so dark it it provided nice negative space.

First dance.

Vanessa's Mom watching her dance with an old family friend.

Young love.


John, flying high.

It ended like it started for me with these two--at a bowling alley of course.















The God’s Child Project – ’tis the season

December 12th, 2011

A young boy takes a break from his work in this dump collecting scraps to hold his baby sister.

I wanted to take opportunity to promote a wonderful cause that does so much good. I’ve been lucky enough to witness it first hand for the past 6 years and we are headed back this March to continue our partnership.  The God’s Child Project is the NGO (non-governmental organization) that we work with for our Visual Reportage Workshops.

Since 2007 when we brought our first group of photographers down to La Antigua Guatemala we’ve been returning each year with another buch of students eager to learn about what the project does for the poor and voiceless of Guatemala while at the same time expanding their photographic visions.  We work alongside social workers, doctors, nurses, teachers and volunteers as they serve the children and families associated with the projects various organizations in Guatemala: Casa Jackson (a home and care center for malnourished children), The Scheel Center ( as specialized technical school), The Santa Madre Homeless Shelter and the Dreamer Center (the heart and Soul of the project and the main campus housing a school, medical and dental clinics, social work department, a library, chapel and weekly food distributions as well as the ITEMP (The Institute for Trafficked, Exploited and Missing Persons).  Our students learn first hand through outreach and direct immersion with the professionals that run this incredible organization.

So what can you do? Sure, throwing money at it will help but as I’ve come to find out, direct involvement is what really makes the difference. If you want to get involved and need more info please click this link: http://www.godschild.org/get-involved. Another way to get involved if you are a budding photojournalist in the making or even a professional photographer that has always wanted to see how your photos can make a real difference–come join our Visual Reportage Workshop  this March 8 – March 16. All the details are below:

Residents from the small Mayan village of Tuila look at photos from a previous VR trip. Photo by Jessica Rattner

The what.  As you might already know, this is an intensive 9-day workshop where you are fully immersed in a foreign culture and work shoulder to shoulder with a top non-governmental aid organization deeply involved with social and human rights issues as they do their work.  Additional to the work we do with the Gods Child Project, we also have a great working relationship with the Bomberos of Guatemala City – these are the ambulance drivers who are called for any and all occasion they are needed.  This is usually an overnight (of no sleep) and its an amazing opportunity for image-making.
There are many more details to give you but the important thing to know is once in Antigua on Saturday your basic needs – breakfast, dinners, and a clean and secure place to sleep – are handled.  All you need to concern yourself with is the day-to-day immersion in all the amazing photography opportunities available here.  Each evening you will return to your host family for dinner, back up your files and do a soft edit.  After dinner we will be meeting together as a group to run a crit on the day’s work.
These are long and fabulously full days that will forward your work in ways you cannot imagine.  Our invitation is simple…join us!
The schedule.  The dates for the workshop begin Thursday evening March 8 and run thru Friday night March 16.  Beginning on Thursday night March 8 all of your accommodations are taken care of through Friday night March 16.  You will arrive in Guatemala City where we will host your stay at the Hotel Colonial for Thursday and Friday nights – your meals are on your own but we will probably be dining together.  On Saturday morning the aid organization will pick us up and take us to La Antigua where we will be staying with host families who provide your housing, breakfast and dinners on all days (except Sunday).
What you get.  You get is two nights at the Hotel Colonial in Guatemala City (March 8 and 9 – meals on these days are not provided), transportation to Antigua on Saturday, once in Antigua your housing from Saturday, March 10 through Friday night March 16 with breakfasts and dinners for these days (except Sunday) are covered, transportation from Antigua to the Guatemala City airport for your return flight.  Each day you will be transported to any one of the God’s Child Project worksites or facilities and brought back in the evening.  Most days you will be meeting after dinner for a review of the day’s work and critique – this is an important part of the whole experience.
The cost.  $2,495.  As in the past this trip will fill quickly, a $500. deposit will hold your spot, don’t delay if you want to be on this trip.  This rate does not include airfare, and the good news is airfares to Guatemala City are very reasonable if bought in advance.
Let us know if you have questions.
Looking forward,
Michael & Glen, Visual Reportage Workshops (www.visualreportage.com)