There are certain people in this wide world that you just happen to stumble upon. You think that one day, it would be so lovely to meet them. But you don't plan it. And then, they just happen to be there. And then you happen to be in their home photographing their beautiful little family. The Fitzgerald's just happened to be these people.
It was a fun story. I had been dragged to Portland a day early to be with two silly, very talented humans. We had only just met, but it seemed that we HAD to spend the week together. I had a hotel booked, but cancelled it to stay with my new friends. One night, we had a little tortilla soup party. Before I could turn around and drink my Mexican coke, James Fitzgerald walked through the door. I knew him. Of course I knew him. Any film photographer worth their Hasselblad knows who he is. So you can imagine my reaction when he walked through the door for dinner. Shortly after a quick trip to the grocery for wine, Jame's beautiful wife Joy - the very talented calligrapher/illustrator of MADE BY SOHN - walked through the door with their brand new little baby, James Fitzgerald (the IV). To be surrounded by such company, such talent, made me a little giddy. One week earlier I had been staring at their faces in the Kinfolk Table cookbook and thinking of attempting Joy's Hwe Dup Bap recipe. These people were magic. And now, here we all were, sharing soup in the same living room.
When it came time to visit the Fitzgerald's in their lovely little apartment just off Division, I knew that I would have trouble taking their photos. Not because they didn't make me feel welcome or that they weren't the worlds most beautiful looking family to photograph - but because I was so ridiculously excitable to be in their company, yet again. I had to breathe. Remember to keep checking my images. Not to get too worked up worrying about Jay checking in on my photography skills... The trouble I felt earlier quite quickly disappeared. Instead I was humbled by feelings of utter admiration towards their remarkable kindness, their love for each other and their entire life situation. Here they were, two exceptionally talented and creative freelancers and their one month old baby, living a sweet little life in Portland as a happy little family. I left feeling so very inspired, so very happy to have been in their company, and so very grateful to have stumbled upon them.
What projects are you currently working on?
JAMES - This is a slower time of year for client work, which means I'm taking advantage of the down time to focus on refining myself personally. This includes improving my photography skill/eye, tuning up the vision for my work and of course always drumming up new ideas for Ransom Ltd., the business my brother Parker and I run together.
JOY - In all honesty, my illustration and calligraphy work has temporarily paused as my biggest "project" is being a mother to my dear 2 month old son. But most recently, I've been tying up illustration work I did with San Francisco based children's clothing company, Leitmotif.
Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?
JAMES - I draw inspiration from a mix of classic photographers including Bresson and Capa, as well as newer platforms such as Instagram and Tumblr.
JOY - I love studying old handwritten letters, back when letters were the only form of communication. I also get inspiration from other art forms - ceramics, florals, fashion.
Why a photographer (James) and a calligrapher/illustrator (Joy)?
JAMES - I've always enjoyed creating, but never thought I'd found my 'outlet.' A few years ago, after dabbling a bit in photography, my brother bought me an old Canon F-1 with the specific instruction that I actually use it. Something about the rhythm using film camera fascinated me and I've felt called to the craft ever since.
JOY - In my early 20s, I had the realization there wasn't much I could offer that someone else couldn't offer better. But there is something very specific and special about what each person produces with their hands. I spent my whole life unintentionally studying the handwriting of everyone around me and found it astounding that everyone had a different mark. This realization combined with my natural enjoyment of both drawing and penmanship led to MADE BY SOHN ("Sohn" in Korean means "hand.")
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, would you be so kind to share some of your favourite artists?
With so many things demanding out attention these days, we both, oddly enough, prefer to work in silence.
Do you have a morning ritual?
Our morning starts when our son decides it's time to wake up, which can range anywhere from 5am to 9am. We spend a bit of time just enjoying each other's company in our warm sheets. We try to have a simple breakfast together at home with coffee or tea before we officially get ready for the day. If we're lucky, we'll get some reading in (these days it's C.S Lewis).
What's your idea of a perfect Friday night?
Dinner either at home or at our favorite Portland date spot (Navarre), some wine, good conversation and relaxation. It doesn't take much for us to have a good time.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Currently, South Korea is on our list for the next place we really want to go. We would love to spend time in the countryside and also very much want to visit Joy's grandmother. Also, Middle Earth.
Best piece of advice you've ever given or been given?
JAMES - My Dad always used to say, "Better to let everyone think you're an idiot than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." It sounds rather harsh but it instilled in me the importance of intentionality with words. Intentionality is something I strive for in everything, including my relationships with others as well as my art. I suppose I would say to my son - be intentional in everything you do.
What's for dinner?
Rice bowl with roasted & pickled vegetables, a fried egg, arugula, topped with avocado slices.
The best part about being a creative?
We would be lying if we didn't mention the fact that we love not living most of our days under fluorescent lights in a cubicle (the environment we were both in prior to becoming freelancers).
The best and worst part of being creative is being stretched and challenged to think beyond what's in front of us. There isn't an instruction manual on what it means to be creative and produce something worthy.
The worst part?
Day or night? Day
Old or new? Old and New
City or Country? City, but country for vacation and respite
Coffee or Tea? Coffee
What do you enjoy most about living in Portland, OR?
The city has so much of what we're looking for. There's breathtaking nature in all directions, amazing food, and great people. The city can be as small or large as you want it to be.
Thoughts for the future:
We're intimidated and excited to experience being freelancers as well as parents. We're not sure what the future holds, but it's definitely not going to be boring!