Meet Riley | Urban Senior Guy Portraits

When my son arrived as a wee sixth grader at Denver School of the Arts, he and this amazing young man forged something of a brotherhood. At the time they were both only sons (although Riley ended up being an awesome big brother to two little boys), and they forged one of those friendships which has produced laughter, immeasurable growth and has inspired gratitude over the years.

And now... they are high school seniors. All those cliches about time flying? They are TOO TRUE!

In any event, we're thrilled to have this kid (and his whole family) in our lives. Riley is truly one of the good ones. Huge heart, kind soul, tons of talent, the kind of charm that just makes you want to giggle when you're with him, a quirky sense of humor and an overall very adorable human. 

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For Riley’s session, we decided to go a little artsy/urban. So we set out to discover photo opportunities in one of my favorite parts of town. I’m not sure it has an official designation but I think of it as the Museum District in downtown Denver, not far from Civic Center Park. Full of vibrant color, gorgeous light and a striking, eclectic mix of architecture, this whole area is a dream in which to photograph portraits.

And I just love photographing a guy with a sense of his own style. Riley’s style in this location was a perfect fit. Classic, colorful, fun. We were able to find great backgrounds and light for each look -- from sleek and modern to more edgy and artful.

We laughed… A LOT… on this session. I like to laugh on every session (it's hard to get great photos if you're not having fun, after all), but there’s something about relaxing into a session with great people like Riley and his fabulous mom that really does remind me again that I've got the best job in the world!

Riley's mom recorded a few iphone videos on our session and some great behind the scenes photos, so here's a quick glimpse behind the scenes... with sincere thanks to my dear friend Kimberly for the great shots! Gabe and I are happy to have your family in our lives and we look forward to watching Riley's next chapter unfold!

NOW BOOKING SENIOR PORTRAIT SESSIONS FOR CLASS OF 2019! NOW'S THE TIME to set up your session consultation and details for your session even if you want to shoot later in summer or fall (those dates are booking already, and I had to turn away too many end of season clients last year -- it broke my heart!)

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: I’m a fun-loving Denver high school senior portrait photographer specializing in bringing out connection and personality in the eyes of my clients. I strive to do more than just take senior pictures for yearbook. Instead my focus is on creating an unforgettable experience. Together we are telling a part of your story with pictures. I collaborate with each of my clients to design an immersive and empowering portrait experience, custom tailored around his or her personality, style and interests. I’d love to tell a high school senior story about YOU. Let’s grab a coffee and chat about designing an amazing high school senior photo shoot for you!

Theatre to Change the World | Hamilton Education Program comes to Denver

I’ve long been a believer that storytelling has the power to change the world, one person at a time. My own life has been shaped repeatedly by stories, inviting curiosity about new things, prompting me to change my own habits with regards to the environment, opening my heart and mind to understand my own blind-spots and to try to be better... more like the heroes of stories that I've admired.

A well told story can ignite a spark of compassion in the darkness of unfamiliarity and/or fear of the unknown. An empathetic narrative can shift a long-held perspective, opening a mind to something previously unimaginable.

"Actors are agents of change. A film, a piece of theater, a piece of music or a book can make a difference. It can change the world." - Alan Rickman

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There’s certainly no shortage of stories of all forms from literature to film to theatre that have done this over the millennia. But, wow... how lucky we are to be alive... right now.

Hamilton, An American Musical is arguably one of the most impactful examples of culturally groundbreaking storytelling of our time (of a lot of times). A narrative told powerfully enough to rewrite the rules of musical theatre to connect with today's audiences and rewrite the rules of diverse representation in historical storytelling all at once.

Even if you haven't seen the show you've probably heard about the intoxicating juxtaposition of a heart-wrenching true story, brilliantly written music, creative narrative elements, unexpectedly disarming humor and extraordinary talent on every corner of the stage. The mash-up of elements is truly unlike anything any of us have ever experienced.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s decision to cast historical figures as actors of color re-frames our understanding of history and allows today’s young immigrants a chance to see themselves mirrored in the faces, voices and hearts of the founders of our country. To see their ancestors as real life heroes, forging new alliances, loving, trying, failing, problem-solving, fighting, inventing and creating.

Such a simple but profound shift invites ALL of us to see a visual representation of our founders for who they were: a band of “young, scrappy and hungry” immigrants coming together to build something brand new. To aspire, to dream, to fight and to create.

How could that story NOT inspire hope in young people and theatre-goers of today?? In people of all ages really -- just listening to the soundtrack as a story inspired me so deeply that I picked up a copy of the Federalist Papers and read them for the first time at the age of forty-seven. And I speak as someone who strongly disliked history class as a kid! I've become a more informed citizen and increased my personal admiration for and investment in my own democracy.

Because of a theatrical story.

"Great theatre is about challenging how we think and encouraging us to fantasize about a world we aspire to." - Willem Dafoe

All that being said, it's what Lin-Manuel Miranda has done following the extraordinary success of this musical that I find perhaps even more impressive. In collaboration with others, together they have worked in powerful ways to extend the reach of this impactful story far beyond the typical theatre crowd .

Since the show itself connected with audiences in such a profound way and quickly became a phenomenon accompanied by sold out audiences and high priced ticket-scalping (despite Lin-Manuel's explicit desires to avoid this), he wanted a way to reach younger, low income audiences. A way for students to become moved by the story, and, importantly, to see themselves reflected on that stage and spark inspiration in the hearts of young people of all backgrounds. 

In a collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation, the Gilder Lehrman Institute and others, #EduHam was born.

I first learned of this through a friend in the Broadway cast who shared his passion and perspective on #EduHam through social media. Watching how deeply he was moved by the investment made by students in the material they were studying was profound. So when I was invited to document this program first hand, I jumped at the chance.

The Hamilton Education Program now collaborates with local low income and Title One schools in New York, and for one day in each city that the tour visits. High school juniors start by studying the historical content of the play in their high school classes. In order to more deeply engage students with the material, they then write their own Hamilton-inspired hip-hop and rap poems, songs and skits to perform for each other.

No longer is history stuck in a dry textbook. It comes alive in their hearts and through their own performances. 

Ultimately they compete for a chance to perform their acts live in front of thousands of other high school juniors (and the cast of Hamilton) on the very stage where the magic happens. Their performances are followed by a spirited Q&A with members from the cast. And finally, after soaking in each other’s brave and moving performances, they get to sit back and enjoy a matinee performance of the hottest (and most sold out) show around.

What a thrill it was to document this day for the Gilder Lehrman Institute when the Hamilton Education Program came to Denver.

The students’ performances were brave, thoughtful, intimate, raw, and ranged in tone from funny to profound to deeply moving (I've got a link below where you can watch them for yourself on the Denver Center blog). I could feel their connection and commitment to the historical material, and how perfectly each of them met the moment of our present day issues with their own material.

"The theatre is a spiritual and social x-ray of it's time." - Stella Adler

What a privilege it was to then sit in the audience for a matinee performance of Hamilton with this group of nearly 3,000 high school juniors, many of whom had never been to the theatre. The show brought me to tears (if you've seen it, you know!), but just as moving during this particular performance was the visceral feeling in the theater of their reactions to the story as they invested their hearts and engaged, often audibly, with the unfolding twists and turns of the story.

At the end of the day, who else could get nearly three thousand high school juniors to cheer during a debate in a cabinet meeting about the structure of state debt?

Only Lin-Manuel Miranda.


To learn more about the Hamilton Education Program please visit:

On the evolution and origin of this program: Gilder Lehrman Institute and Hamilton Education Program

To view a great video about the program: PBS segment about the Hamilton Education Program

To see the student performances from the Denver tour, please visit the Denver Center’s post featuring videos.

Also check out the Hamilton App for lottery tickets, and weekly inspiration from the cast & show


ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Jennifer Koskinen is an internationally published theatre, dance and stage production photographer based in Denver Colorado. She is the production photographer for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival after having photographed multiple seasons for the Denver Center for Performing Arts Theatre Company. She has also volunteered with the Denver School of the Arts Theatre Department, capturing actor headshots and staged productions for the past 6 years. Her photos have appeared in around the world, and in publications such as the New York Times, Playbill, American Theatre Magazine, The Denver Post, and Broadway World, to name just a few.

Destination: Denver | Kamryn's Urban Senior Pictures

This fabulous high school senior traveled all the way from Dodge City, Kansas to have her senior pictures photographed with me in my beloved Denver, Colorado.

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And I just loved getting to host a “destination” senior session right here at home! I think Denver is a pretty great city: it has grown a ton in a short amount of time to become quite a hub of culture, fashion, music and theater.

Seeing my city through the eyes of someone who doesn't live here is always so refreshing, and we had a blast wandering downtown for her urban high school senior session.

We started in the neighborhood around the Tattered Cover LoDo. I love this part of town for its gritty alleyways and proximity also to some more "natural" photos later in the session as we approach the bridges over the creek.

Kamryn's fashion choices were so much fun to photograph. Starting with her cute black dress, amazing tall suede boots, fuzzy wrap and wide-brimmed hat, right from the start I loved working with her and capturing her sense of style.

Next up she had fabulous leather jackets in different moods from hip chic to more casual with jeans.

I loved the variety of well thought out and super fun wardrobe choices she brought in her rolling suitcase to the session. From adorable to street savvy in black leather, to happy 1970's vintage chic, accessorized perfectly with Queen t-shirt, bell-bottom jeans, fuzzy sweater, hat and sunglasses. Awesome.

And the autumn afternoon we got walking around the city was perfect. It's funny how often I think that, but seriously, I live by the "work hard and you'll get lucky" motto... to me the luck often manifests itself in the form of weather, which seems to be with me on this more often than it's not. It's almost uncanny how often I feel that we find the perfect light to match each outfit for every spot we discover together on senior portrait sessions.

The variety and texture in her wardrobe was so much fun to photograph. And to top it all off, the sun we got on my favorite old bridge with this amazing vintage outfit was enough to make me jump up and down while watching the whole look come together through my lens. Backlight magic for the win!

Loved working with Kamryn -- I'm so happy she trusted me with her destination senior portrait session!

NOW BOOKING SENIOR PORTRAIT SESSIONS FOR CLASS OF 2019! DON’T WAIT (had to turn away too many end of season clients last year and it broke my heart!) Use the button below to open your email browser and send an email to set up a consultation. Be sure to include your name and a parent or guardian's name, phone & emails, your school, and your yearbook deadline (if you know it)... and be sure to check your spam folder if you haven't heard from me in a day or so!

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: I’m a fun-loving Denver high school senior portrait photographer specializing in bringing out connection and personality in the eyes of my clients. I strive to do more than just take senior pictures for yearbook. Instead my focus is on creating an unforgettable experience. Together we are telling a part of your story with pictures. I collaborate with each of my clients to design an immersive and empowering portrait experience, custom tailored around his or her personality, style and interests. I’d love to tell a high school senior story about YOU. Let’s grab a coffee and chat about designing an amazing high school senior photo shoot for you!  

The Senior Portrait Experience | Class of 2019 Magazine

Welcome, Class of 2019 (upcoming) SENIORS!!

(or, Welcome, Class of 2018 senior who is getting ready to graduate and missed out on wonderful senior pictures.... BUT still wants to book an amazing, once in a lifetime portrait session before heading to your next adventures!!)

I just published my NEW senior portrait magazine, designed to visually walk you through the process of the senior picture experience in a bit more depth.

We'll discuss ALL of this in person at your consultation (and I'll have a paper copy for you to peruse) but until then I hope this provides some inspiration for things you want to try in your senior portrait session, including in depth examples of different kinds of locations and photo stories from several kinds of sessions we can have in and around Denver, from urban, to natural to mountain and beyond. You'll also find ideas for styling, tips for hair, makeup and wardrobe, a bit more on how the process works. Plus LOTS of pictures to get you excited to tell YOUR story.

{ feel free to view the magazine in full screen mode -- note that clicking full screen will open a new browser window }

Hopefully if you're reading this we've already set up your consult, but if you've found this post on your own and would like to know more, please click this link to drop me an email (be sure to include a phone number, your school, and please check your spam folder if you don't hear from me within a day or two!)

Or call me at (970)708.2065 and let me know a good time to reach you! Let's grab a coffee and you can tell me how YOU imagine your senior pictures.

I'm so excited to start our creative collaboration to celebrate your senior year with artful portraits!!

Cheers,
Jennifer

GABE’S GREAT SAND DUNES ADVENTURE SENIOR PORTRAITS

Holy crap you guys: my son is a senior in high school...

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... And yes, it’s April so this is not exactly new information. It has been a thing for a while, but life moves so fast and we’ve been so busy the whole time that it still kind of catches me off guard, usually in the middle of the night when my mind drifts to a time just a few months in the future when he’s heading off to a new adventure. Chasing opportunities, facing fears and tapping into raw potential (the kind which is limited only by barriers we set ourselves) are the presiding themes of our conversations these days.

It’s scary. And very, very exciting. And sometimes you've just gotta laugh.

So, after years of him assisting me on other people’s senior portrait sessions, this year it was time to get his gorgeous mug on the other side of the camera. We knew, just from having struggled to find time for his headshots, that actually scheduling his photos was imperative. So we decided to go big, book it in the calendar and turn it into a mini family adventure. A “destination senior session!”*

Early on he had mentioned a desire to take his senior portraits at the Great Sand Dunes National Monument in southeastern Colorado. We hadn’t been there since he was about ten and the idea stuck, so to the Sand Dunes we road tripped.

Where we found surreal light, wind-blown sand, mind-bending landscapes and mosquitoes. Lots and lots of mosquitoes (PSA: there's a "mosquito hatch" season over Medano Creek and we discovered it -- which is why that picture below is the only photo we have near the water!)

Indiana Jones inspired senior portrait with photographer Jennifer Koskinen, Merritt Portrait Studio

Since he was old enough to get lost in stories, Gabe has been keenly interested in the details of the characters whose stories have captivated him.

From baseball players to Indiana Jones, from Leo diCaprio’s character on the Titanic to the superheroes that captivated his attention for years, he has studied and resourcefully created elaborate costumes to wear for Halloween and Comic-Con. So it was fun to watch him view his senior portrait session as a chance to express his own character in the stark and cinematic sands of a rare Colorado desert.

We had a blast, discovering our own balance on the rough sandy breeze, somewhere between cinematic portrait and comedic experience.

And of course all this happened while lugging wardrobe and camera gear across the desert sands, blinking frequent wind driven clouds of rocky dust from our eyes (it was the first time Gabe's camel-length eyelashes were more than just pretty -- they were functionally practical!)

Shooting at the sand dunes is not without its challenges.

Intermittent and unpredictable winds mean flying sand is always a threat to your equipment (meaning essentially you need to pick one lens and stick with it).

In addition, the distances are much greater than you imagine so you spend a lot of time trudging across thick sand to get to “that hill right over there” (which is never actually right over there), and the light is surprisingly fast moving and oddly difficult to predict with so many bright surfaces to bounce it around.

But when things click into place, it’s incredibly exhilarating.

I mean, check out the ephemeral light bouncing off the dunes in these black and white photos... flying sand everywhere (but you can see it especially well at the edges of the light near the surfaces of the dunes)... and dramatic shadow lines stretched out before us from the quickly setting sun.

There's a lot of magic in those dunes.

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All in all this was a fantastic and memorable experience. It inspired me to want to offer destination sessions to my clients.

With some advance planning and permitting, it's a great excuse to book some family time outside the everyday.

I love that the final photos are a fun mix of editorial, storytelling, fashionable and adventurous feeling.

We also caught a beautiful sunset, which, over the dunes with mountains behind and water underfoot, was completely surreal.

Quiet and majestic.

Gabe… my lil' buddy who is becoming a man... watching you grow up and step into your talent inspires me every single day. I love you with all my heart and can't wait to see what adventures await as you embark upon this next chapter of the story you are writing...

YOU ROCK!!

 

Even the camera roll on my iphone tells a fun story of its own (below).

NOW BOOKING SENIOR PORTRAIT SESSIONS FOR CLASS OF 2019!

DON’T WAIT (had to turn away too many end of season clients last year and it broke my heart!)

Click below to send an email to Jennifer. Be sure to include your name, parent's name & email, your school, a PHONE number, and then please check your spam folder if you haven't heard back from me within a day or so!

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: I’m a fun-loving Denver high school senior portrait photographer specializing in bringing out connection and personality in the eyes of my clients. I strive to do more than just take senior pictures for yearbook. Instead my focus is on creating an unforgettable experience. Together we are telling a part of your story with pictures. I collaborate with each of my clients to design an immersive and empowering portrait experience, custom tailored around his or her personality, style and interests. I’d love to tell a high school senior story about YOU. Let’s grab a coffee and chat about designing an amazing high school senior photo shoot for you!  

cinematic portrait of high school senior walking off into the desert, photographer Jennifer Koskinen, Merritt Portrait Studio