Telling A Family Story With Photographs

Lori Adams

Workshops with Lori Adams at Desmond-Fish Library

By Alison Rooney

Photos courtesy of Lori Adams

The studio where photographer Lori Adams works is a testament to her many converging interests.  With floor to ceiling windows open to the nearby woods, the large, inviting space is filled with disparate objects:  a stack of newly-published science texts for young children placed next to botanical prints, an odd-looking creature swimming in a bowl, large blow-ups of vegetable still-lifes including an eggplant in purple splendor, a larger-still image of kids holding skateboards, gathered in an urban setting,  an old-fashioned nightgown, artfully blocked with a blood-red substance, ready for Halloween, and of course the contemporary photographer’s must-have, center stage, a computer.
No doubt that put together, these objects and beings unite to illustrate part of the story of Adams’s life.  If she were to photograph them all, she could then assemble the result as a “story in images,” which is exactly what she will be teaching others in a series of free, two-and-a-half hour workshops, which began this week at Desmond-Fish Library.
The course description states that, “Participants will learn about photo reportage through a visual tour of successful photographic stories, from the far-reaching stories reported in major news publications to the personal family story, like baby’s first day at home, the wedding of a sibling, a family reunion, or a vacation. They will develop an idea they wish to pursue, create an outline, discuss photographic concerns (like lighting and shutter speed) and learn which settings on their cameras to use for best results. Editing options and techniques will also be discussed.”  Other topics to be touched upon, according to Adams, will be pixel resolution, and scanning.
“The best story is one that the storyteller is interested in,” says Adams.  The first of the workshops (and if you have missed it, you can still come along to sessions two and three), will address the content: what makes up telling a story?  “If you immerse yourself in something, you will figure out what’s most important and you will make your photos more descriptive.  In fact, if you can tell a story well about something you’re not interested in—you’re a pro! The first point is: what is the story, and what makes up telling the story?”
Adams has told many stories through her work.  Her commercial and advertising work has involved the usual big events like weddings and bar mitzvahs, studio portraits, and also fine art photography including images of paintings, ceramics and more, among many other subjects.  Additionally, Adams has collaborated with scientist Dr. Helen Pashley on two books for children, the first of which dealt with the odd creature swimming in the bowl, which turned out to be a Triops, a pre-historic crustacean which (sort of) resembles a small shrimp.  “Helen as a scientist and me as a photographer think about things the same way.  She comes up with the ideas.  I then start to photograph.  She fine tunes, and we work together on layout and editing.  Our books take a different approach to teaching, in that we first make an observation, then ask a question based upon the observation, and invite children to find the answer.”  For a soon to be published new book, entitled Look, Ask and Learn About Butterflies, Adams kept caterpillars in her studio and recorded their transformation in stop-action photography, with the exact timings noted, an effect with really brings the transformation to life for the reader.
To demonstrate the art of crafting a story in pictures, Adams uses simple storylines such as her daughter buying her first American Girl doll, and a cat chasing a chipmunk.  In conjuction with the exhibition of Lou DePuthod’s paintings, currently on view at the Library, Adams will also show a related book of text and images created by DePuthod’s daughter, Daisy, through After talking about the concept of the photographs, Adams will address the “output options” i.e. will the images be displayed in a digital slide show, or in a scrapbook, or via an offset printing process, such as Blurb, complete with layout?  For those intimidated by digital display, Adams notes that you should be unafraid to print things out and put together scrapbooks or similar through companies like Kolo (sold at Barnes & Noble), which makes “wonderful supplies.”  She will teach how digital slide shows can be put together through photo sharing websites (the easiest way to go), and she will also touch upon using sites such as, or to create and self-publish actual offset books which you can design yourself. Adams notes, “this is a great way to present your work. A number of photographers are now using that type of printing as their portfolio.”
In the last session participants will actually assemble their images into their format of choice to tell their story.  Adams points out that “if you miss the first session, you’ll still gain something from each part.  There will be outlines given out, covering each session’s content.”  This is a brand new workshop for Adams, and she is excited to see how it turns out.  She says that this workshop is designed so that participants don’t need a lot of technical knowledge in order to benefit from the classes.  We’ll just scratch the surface of software — in fact we’ll just concentrate on one software, so people get the overall idea.”  She has been giving “Get to Know Your Digital Camera” workshops for some time now (including multiple times through the Philipstown Recreation Department).  The digital workshop has attracted a broad spectrum of participants, from professional photographers just now making the transition to digital to those who “have never picked up a digital camera . . . before receiving one for Christmas”¦last year . . . which has remained untouched.”
Adams grew up in a household with two teachers, and she “saw the pleasure that people get from sharing something they love.  If you really want to get to know a subject well, teach it.  You need to see your subject from 360 degrees in order to understand it.  My father taught me photography when I was 13; he was incredibly patient.  My parents taught ceramics workshops out of our garage when I was in my teens.  So much of what I do is a mix of nature and nurture—it just sinks in.”  Adams has now gone “totally digital, but I still have all my equipment, and I will shoot film again, because I love the cameras.” (Her favorite film camera is a Leica M6.)  She currently teaches black and white film photography, along with color and advanced color classes, at Dutchess Community College (DCC).  “What I love about DCC is that in every class I get all ages, high school students, painting students, nursing students — they make the best printers because they nurture the negative — to business students.  It’s fascinating for me to see where people go and what they take.  The best part is looking at students’ pictures.”
Adams has three rules of photography:  “1. It’s always the light; 2. Know your gear; and 3. Take the credit—never claim that “it was an accident.”  An artist’s statement on Adams’ website says, “A successful photograph communicates a strong idea visually. I want my images to have “eye-time.”  Eye-time is the magnetic attraction that causes the eye and brain to linger over the simplicity combined with intricacy of the lines, colors, shapes, moments and emotions in a photo.  A photo has eye-time if it creates the illusion that you could be there.  Your eyes explore and your mind savors details in an image with eye-time.
The remaining two workshops will take place on Nov. 4 and 11 from 6 until 8:30 p.m . For more information visit or call 845-424-3020.

One thought on “Telling A Family Story With Photographs

  1. Lori is a really good photographer as well as being a wonderful person…good article!…