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Magic Rekindled



During a tough year of shutdowns, Jessica Drossin used her Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 VC G2 for intimate portraits of her kids and to reboot her creativity.


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By Jenn Gidman
Images by Jessica Drossin



Californians in Los Angeles County have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, with some of the nation’s strictest lockdowns and protocols during the worst of the COVID surges. “I felt like a pioneer during the earliest parts of the pandemic,” fine-art portrait photographer Jessica Drossin says. “I was cooking, baking, doing laundry, taking care of my kids and helping them deal with everything—just trying to get through each day. For the first time that I can remember, I struggled with taking pictures. Nothing felt magical. I didn’t even want to pick up my camera.”

What Jessica created instead of her traditional fine-art images: portraits of her kids and, as the pandemic wore on, other unconventional vignettes that helped reboot her creativity. The Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 VC G2 high-speed zoom lens has been instrumental in her photography, both before and during the pandemic, and for sure afterward, too. “I really enjoy using this lens,” Jessica says. “I’m very impressed with the level of detail it offers, especially on facial features, whether I’m shooting indoors or out. The 24-70 perfectly captures whatever I want to capture.”

In the first phase of the pandemic, in early and mid-2020, Jessica concentrated on editing the outdoor photos she’d taken with the 24-70 before everything went into lockdown. “Especially for the first three months or so, I didn’t do much of anything except stay in my house and venture out occasionally to the grocery store,” she says. “So I dove into post-processing. It was a time to revisit my older work.”

© Jessica Drossin
24-70mm (35mm), F/3.2, 1/640th sec., ISO 200
Click image to view larger

© Jessica Drossin
24-70mm (24mm), F/3.2, 1/1600th sec., ISO 200
Click image to view larger

Because there were no school photos in 2020, Jessica next decided to create traditional portraits of her kids so they’d at least have an official-like photo from that unforgettable year. “I captured all three of them on the same day, on or near the same chair, with the same light source—soft light coming in through a French door to camera left,” she says. “The light changed a bit on me as the shoot progressed, but not a whole lot, so I was able to achieve a consistent look throughout all three portraits.”

© Jessica Drossin
24-70mm (70mm), F/2.8, 1/200th sec., ISO 1250
Click image to view larger

Jessica’s youngest was the most challenging to photograph. “She was preschool age at the time, and a little more fidgety,” she says. “I’d put her in the same chair that I’d had the boys sit in, but she kept slouching down and putting her knees up, and I couldn’t get a great pose. I finally just had her stand next to the chair, so I was able to achieve a similar style of portrait with the same green background, but with much a better posture and overall look.”

© Jessica Drossin
24-70mm (58mm), F/2.8, 1/250th sec., ISO 1250
Click image to view larger

Keeping these portraits authentic was important to Jessica. “During the pandemic, I would scroll through Instagram and see these beautiful, elaborate photos, but that didn’t feel true to my world and what we were experiencing,” she says. “I wanted to capture the simplicity of that time, for my images to feel personal and intimate.”

When Jessica photographs her kids, she always promises them she’ll take just 10 minutes of their time and then they can go. “I’ll simply ask them to take a deep breath and look at me so I can capture the details of their faces as they let their guard down,” she says. “And that’s where the 24-70 helps me tell a story. They’re not doing anything, their expressions are relaxed and kind of neutral, and thanks to the details I’m able to get in the light that exists there, I’m able to fill that emotional space.”

© Jessica Drossin
24-70mm (70mm), F/2.8, 1/200th sec., ISO 1250
Click image to view larger

It was in November of last year when Jessica truly got her creative juices flowing again. “I put my kids’ toys into rotation—when they get gifts for Christmas, for instance, I’ll put some of them into the garage and then swap them when they’ve become bored with the toys I’ve left out for them to play with,” she says. “We were obviously starting to get bored during the pandemic, so I dug out a mini-billiards set that had been in hibernation. That’s when I started thinking that could serve as a prop for a surreal portrait with my youngest and our dogs.”

© Jessica Drossin
24-70mm (36mm), F/2.8, 1/100th sec., ISO 5000
Click image to view larger

After the pool table shoot, Jessica created a “girl playing poker with dogs” scene, as well as other quirky themes such as her daughter running a beauty salon for dogs. “Then I started documenting things going on around my house, like an immense laundry pile, and having fun with it,” she says. “The dogs were my daughter’s best friends during the pandemic, so it made sense to include them in the photos.”

© Jessica Drossin
24-70mm (24mm), F/3.2, 1/160th sec., ISO 4000
Click image to view larger

© Jessica Drossin
24-70mm (24mm), F/2.8, 1/100th sec., ISO 320
Click image to view larger

Jessica shot all three of these images in her kitchen, on or near her kitchen table, with large open doors behind her so that natural light could stream in and light her subjects’ faces. “I thought maybe during the pandemic I would teach myself some more about off-camera-flash lighting, but that didn’t happen,” she says. “Luckily, I was able to get the light in my kitchen exactly how I wanted it to be, depending on how my daughter and the dogs were positioned.”

It wasn’t hard for Jessica to draw out her daughter’s expressive reactions. “She’s a ham to begin with, so all I’d have to do is say something like, ‘Oh no, the dog looked at your hand and wants to steal your cards—how does that make you feel?!’” she says. “My daughter would immediately fall into character. Or I’d make a funny face and she’d imitate it or embellish it. She had such a great time doing this with me.”

To prompt the dogs to look in the same direction—and as if they were staring at the little girl’s cue ball or poker hand—Jessica would place the pups where she wanted them, then have her daughter hold a dog treat in a certain spot so that the dogs’ eyes would be trained on it. “These images were composites, so all I had to do later on was edit out the hand with the treat in it and edit in my daughter,” she says.

As for the dogs’ smoking habit, Jessica assures her viewers that no pets were harmed in the making of these photos. “Those are not lit cigars,” she laughs. “That smoke was edited into the pictures, obviously.”

For Jessica, these change-of-pace photos were just what she needed to spark her creativity and pull her back into the photography world. “I wanted to do something that made my family and me laugh,” she says. “Other people got a chuckle out of the images, too. These photos pulled me out of a creative funk. It all ended up being really cathartic.”

To see more of Jessica Drossin’s work, go to https://jessicadrossin.net.






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