Member of the Month
Member of the Month August 2014: Melody Smith
by Hillary Becker
August 15, 2014 —
All images © Melody Smith
Good portrait photographers are easy to come by. Great portrait photographers are few and far between. Melody Smith is on her way to becoming one of the greats, with a distinct tonality and a delicate, feminine aesthetic that carries through in all her photographs. Just like a lot of our members, Smith considers herself a newcomer to the WPPI stage. But what’s apparent from her work is that she’s just starting to receive recognition she deserves. She just won her third accolade from WPPI after only joining in 2013.
Smith knew she was an artist at the age of 6: “I loved everything about [drawing] and painting,” she says. “I became more and more obsessed with master painters, and mostly faces.” From high school to college, her medium evolved into photography and her collection of portraits grew out of control. “I don’t know why, I just find something utterly fascinating about faces—I love to paint them—which is why I do all the hair and make up in the studio, and I love to photograph them,” she writes.
“I've met two psychics in my life: one told me to be a lawyer, the other told me that I would be bored with life if I did not do photography above all things, that it would never get old, it would change every day, and I'd never quit growing. Well, I didn't want to be boring.”
Smith’s professional career had focused on weddings until 2012: “My husband and I had gone through a year of pretty crazy changes in the studio and I was pretty burnt out and just tried of dealing with weddings.” After a life-transforming vacation to Kenya with her husband, Smith came back refreshed and with the confidence to quit weddings and launch a studio for just portrait work.
Smith discovered WPPI after a conversation with a friend when the topic came up of how to receive critique on her work. “Generally, I post[ed] in groups [and] ask for [feedback], and I’d get ‘Wow, that’s awesome’ or “Ohhh, ahhhh,” [but] I really want[ed] to know how to fix what I was doing wrong. It’s an obsession more than shooting is, fixing what’s wrong.” That’s when Smith decided to try WPPI and after booking her hotel and flight, attended the 16x20 Print Competition’s live judging where she had entered into the Premiere and Composite categories. “During judging, I was a wreck! Someone announced the next print would be the last one before lunch, and Jerry Ghionis walks in the room. Then, they reveal my image and all four judges got out of their seats to look at my image. It was probably the most profound moment of my life, other than my son being born,” jokes Smith. Smith walked away from her first WPPI competition with a gold award and a second place. “It was a moment where years of living in a world of art and dreams just finally came true.”
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