Story highlights

  • Photographer Jake Shivery’s large-format portraits are set to appear in a new book
  • Many of the subjects are from his hometown of Portland, Oregon
  • The book, “Contact,” was funded through a Kickstarter campaign

“My photographing process and intent are informing each other,” Shivery said. “I’m using a very large camera, which is a really slow, methodical, deliberate way of working.”

He jokes that there’s no “decisive moment,” in the famous words of Henri Cartier-Bresson. For him, it’s a “decisive morning.”

He likes that early light, and the pace his camera demands. He might ask a subject to join him for breakfast in his backyard in the St. Johns neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. Between setup and shooting, they often spend a few hours getting to know each other over coffee or beer or catching up on the months they’ve missed each other.

“I am not only completely dependent on my gear, I’m beholden to it,” Shivery wrote in an essay to be published later this year. “I do not operate my camera, I collaborate with it.”

The essay is part of “Contact,” a book of Shivery’s portraits to be released in April by One Twelve Publishing. It will debut during Portland Photo Month, alongside an exhibition of Shivery’s work at Portland’s Newspace Center for Photography.

“Contact” was funded through a Kickstarter campaign that drew more than $23,000 — far more than its $18,500 goal. It was “crickets and coyotes” at first, Shivery said, but as the funding deadline approached, support swelled.

It came from photo enthusiasts, art lovers, friends, neighbors and customers of Portland’s Blue Moon Camera and Machine, where Shivery holds a day job. Some supporters’ images will appear in the book; those “friends and heroes and people for whom I have affection” are among those who inspire his work and keep it going.

“It’s Portland that made it possible,” Shivery said. “I’ve never been in a place where I’ve been surrounded by so many interesting and productive individuals.”

Just as he likes to take his time and get to know people, he prefers to photograph them at what they love.

That’s why his images capture a jazz singer posed in a Cadillac and a seamstress beside a dress form dialed to just her size. There’s a man who works for the children’s museum, partly dressed in a robot costume he made, standing beside his father and the Airstream trailer he’s working on. There are people wearing the garb of their everyday lives, whether it’s blue jeans or a clown costume donned for a short film.

“The figures,” Shivery said, “are both sort of part of the environments and the narrative.”

Or, as he wrote, “somewhere between hopeful acquaintance and profound intimacy is where all of my portraits are made.”

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