The analytics tell me that this is by far the most visited area of my website. Why do people come to this page? What would people like to know about me? I do not want this to be the typical photog bio, "I love the sound of children's laughter, taking long walks in the rain and the smell of banana bread baking in the oven." That does't really say anything about me as photographer, does it? Read on if you want to follow my photography journey.
Woman. Mother. Photographer. Wife. Photography is my native language, where I found that I understand everything photography-related without having to think about it, process it or translate it. It has always just made sense.
For me, photography was meant to be from the beginning — the VERY beginning. I was delivered by an obstetrician named Dr. Photos — true story! It’s even on my birth certificate. Two of my maternal uncles were photographers, so maybe there is a genetic component in my DNA as to why I was drawn to this profession and why it comes so naturally to me. Photography has been a way to share with others how I see the world. My camera feels like an extension of my body, no different from my hands or lungs; it is an integrated part of me and photography is my most natural form of communication.
Growing up, my brother and I often spent weekends with my grandparents and my uncle in Logan Square in Chicago. One of my earliest memories was from when I was four or five years old, pretending my grandmother's kitchen sponge was my camera. I walked around their place pretending to take photos of everything and anything, squeezing the sponge and imitating the sound of the shutter clicking. I was especially close with and in awe of my mom's younger brother, Mike. He was the person who replaced my grandmother's kitchen sponge with my first camera — a toy camera, and not long after that, my first "real" camera, a pocket instamatic that used 110 film and those magicube square flash bulbs. From early on, I was frustrated that I could never capture things as I saw them through my eyes and imagined them in my head. Regardless of what I was shooting, the pictures never did justice to what I was shooting. Every trip to Fotomat ended with disappointment.
Ironically, my Uncle Mike was the only uncle that wasn't a photographer, but rather a musician. Often on weekends, his friends and bandmates would come over to play music. Back in my suburban home, my bedroom walls were decorated with pictures of Shaun Cassidy and the Bay City Rollers. On those weekends in Logan Square, I had real live rock-and-roll musicians playing right in front of me. This was during the mid-'70s, and local bands like Styx, Chicago (known then as Chicago Transit Authority), REO Speedwagon, Cheap Trick, and Survivor were making names for themselves on the national stage. Through my eyes as a young kid, I found my Uncle Mike's musician friends to be the most fascinating people in the world. I was able to see into a world that wasn't my own.
I hung out in the shadows, trying hard not to be annoying, lest I get kicked out of their rehearsals. I remember watching, listening and wanting to capture every moment. For me, the magic was in what I saw more than in what I heard. I pored over my uncle’s vinyl record collection, examining the cover photography and artwork, and reading the liner notes on record sleeves for hours on end. Between perusing album covers and looking through his issues of Rolling Stone, I developed a deep love for portraiture; those images stopped my in my tracks and left me pondering about who and what was behind those faces and who and what was behind the lens. I still love to pore over portraiture and wonder those same things today.
Thankfully my teenybopper days were quickly replaced by better music, but my father was transferred to Pennsylvania and that was the end of my opportunity to become the next Annie Leibovitz, at least for a while. We said goodbye to Chicago, and a member of the band Chicago bought our suburban house. But what never changed was that through the years, I was always the person who brought along a camera to every event. When I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh — with a Bachelor's of Science degree, not a photography degree — I bought my first SLR film camera, a Pentax K1000. Through photography, I found a way to satisfy my love for both science and art. I remember being giddy with excitement about what I wanted to do with my new camera: produce images as I saw things through my eyes and imagined them in my head. No more, "this picture doesn't do XYZ justice." I knew that my camera was an avenue for me to speak and be heard.
While I loved that camera and used it for years, I never learned how to use it to its full potential. Like many photographers, it was the birth of my son that spurred me to push my skills to the next level — and then I developed skills beyond what I ever could have imagined. I didn't want even one blurry frame when capturing that gorgeous face that looked back at me, such a wonderful combination of both me and my husband. I wanted to learn to use my camera to bring out what I saw through my eyes and what I imagined in my head. I wanted to never have to say, "This picture just doesn't do him justice." I enrolled in more college classes, traveled to attend workshops with industry experts, joined photographic organizations, and opened myself to merciless critique from professionals, all in the name of wanting to create images that accurately reflected what I see through my eyes and imagine in my head.
As my son grew, so did my skills, and so did my opportunities. I went into business as Melissa Logan Haun Photography, and was able to share my love of capturing people and their families, their once-in-a-lifetime events and their passions, exactly as I saw them through my eyes and in my head, and proudly let my work do them justice. After my business began to grow, my "day job" as a Senior Program Coordinator of the William H. Rehnquist Center at the University of Arizona morphed into my becoming a Senior Photographer for the University of Arizona. I was asked to photograph more and more events, more people and more things for them, to the point that they eventually hired someone else to do my old job, gave me the title of Senior Photographer and bought a dedicated camera, gear and specialty post-processing software for my use so I no longer had to use my own. Around this time, I also began to implement strobe lighting and modifiers into my business, to additionally rely on my equipment and knowledge to sculpt light instead of or along with the sun.
My photography work at the University, along with my own growing business, provided me with rare opportunities and experiences that very few photographers can claim: I photographed events with senators (favorite: Dennis DeConcini), members of Congress (favorite: Ron Barber), mayors (favorite: Jonathan Rothschild), authors (favorite: philosopher Martha Nussbaum), industry leaders (favorite: Anna Maria Chavez, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA), public figures (favorite; Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project, but equally known as one of O.J. Simpson's "Dream Team" attorneys), comedian Robert Klein, my teenage dream-come-true, Duran Duran(!). all of the members of the Supreme Court of Arizona and more than half of the members of the Supreme Court of the United States (yes, that Supreme Court). I also photographed other notable events, items (hundreds of items of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist's chambers at the Supreme Court of the United States that were donated to the Rehnquist Center), and people, taking head shots by the hundreds of administration, professors, and students. Whew! All in a day’s work, though to me, photography has never seemed like work at all.
Today, the heart of my work, my life, my career, is photographing families, couples, children, pets, guests at events — faces. Poring over images of faces — portraiture — has been my love for my entire life, even more so today than ever. My favorite portraits that I take are those that tell me who people are in just a fraction of a moment. That special glint in someone's eye, a connection in their relationship with the camera, with me or with each other, sharing with me their joy, sorrow, laughter or secrets. I love images that I can gaze at and lose track of time. I love knowing that images I take will be seen by generations to come. I love hearing things like, "this is the best photo of me that's ever been taken," or "this is the only picture of me that I have ever liked." I love knowing that I can properly light and photograph people to bring out their best self. I love knowing that they will cherish their images. I love knowing that my work has appeared in many nationwide publications, and love that my fine art photography has won many awards. Most of all, I love that my son believes that his mommy is the best photographer in the world. :-)
Thank you for taking the time to read this page. Leave a comment — I'd love to hear how you connect to an image or what your reaction was to my work as it appeared on your screen. By the way, I do like the sound of children's laughter and the smell of banana bread baking in the oven, but that's not what I wanted you to know about me. I wanted you to know about the notable points along my journey to this place in my life as a photographer. And if you've gotten this far, you do. Cheers.
Melissa Logan Haun Photography
PS I teach others how to use their cameras to communicate what they see through their eyes and imagine in their heads so they never again have to say, "this picture doesn't do XYZ justice." See my blog for more info about this year's class in July 2015 (info coming soon).