Photographer Harper Cowan from Harper Pictures is a documentary style photographer based in Kingston NY. Harper Pictures shoots both film and digital, as well as Super 8, and captures natural, colourful and candid photographs.
Where are you based?
I am based in Kingston, New York but travel a lot for work, I’ve done weddings in France, Spain, California, Rhode Island, New York City, Massachusetts, etc! Next year I’ll be adding Michigan and Maine to the list.
How would you describe your style?
My photography style would be referred to in the wedding world as documentary style - it’s candid, colorful, natural, but with a twist. There’s a bit of a sense of humor to it, and definitely a bit of a curatorial eye, but I love authentic moments with energy and color. I try to be really present on the day and capture what really happened, I don’t force anything or need any cookie cutter moments.
What is your most memorable career moment?
One big career highlight so far was being published in Vogue, when I found out that the photos were up, I was in a wetsuit shop in Wales, on a rainy day, and the shop dog’s muddy paws were on my chest as I turned my cell phone data on to find my friend, so it was very surreal. I was on a trip with 4 of my best girlfriends, and they have 5 kids, who are like my nieces and nephews, and that evening we had a little Prosecco celebration in a yard with a bunch of sheep nearby and a pink sunset, and the kids sang “For she’s a jolly good fellow” and they were so excited, even though they do not know what Vogue is, and there’s just not a nicer situation I could have been in to celebrate that exciting news.
What inspires you?
What really inspires me is little acts of kindness that people show each other. When I’m photographing weddings and events, I’m always looking for how we show each other that we care - what our eyes do, what our hands are doing, how we greet one another, how we make people feel. I find those things so moving and so beautiful. Outside of weddings, what inspires me is nice light, eccentric women, charcuterie boards, country music, weird folk-art objects, Leonard Cohen, and documentaries.
What motivates you to do what you do?
What motivates me is the desire to preserve memories, and make people feel worthy of being seen, noticed, documented, remembered, appreciated, witnessed. It’s very fun and rather rare to celebrate people, and celebrate the good things in our lives, and so weddings are an incredibly nice moment of taking stock and appreciating each other. On top of that, there are so many visually FUN elements! Like ribbons and bows and flowers and candles and cocktails, amazing shoes and dance moves. So, it’s the best job ever.
How would you describe your working style?
I think my working style appears laid back to people who are not living inside my brain. Inside, there’s a lot of multitasking going on, but I also feel like you show up prepared, with cameras loaded, you know how everything is supposed to go, and then you can just let it go and be really open and receptive to creativity and play, being observant and finding inspiration. I don’t like my couples to feel like they’re at a photoshoot, I want them to be able to genuinely enjoy and live the day, and trust that I am there watching thoughtfully and documenting what I feel they might like to see, and how beautiful and loving they look.
Do you shoot digitally, on film or both?
I shoot a mix of digital and film, film is oftentimes a big part of the day, and I make sure to capture a lot of key moments and a lot of important portraits on film. Before weddings, I ask my couples if they have a preference of where/how film is used, but usually they leave it up to me.
What is a favourite product or service that you offer and why?
Two things - I definitely love bringing a lot of film to the game, just because film photos have that special quality and they feel more unique and like a true moment captured. I also love bringing my associate photographer with me, because it’s just great to have that extra coverage, another set of eyes, more angles, cover more ground. I think we’re an amazing team and we add a lot to the day, to help my couples feel really well covered and cared for.
What is your advice to couples getting married?
My advice to couples getting married is don’t read your vows off your phone. And find a photographer who’s eye you’re excited about!
Where would you love to travel to for work?
I always want to spend more time in France. I also love coasts and shores, California and Maine especially.
Who is your dream client?
Maybe Diane Keaton?