It’s no surprise that the last 30 years have seen a rapid increase in technology, both in its complexity and its involvement in our lives. As technology improves, perhaps no career has been affected the way photography has. Speaking with Jim Talenda of Silver Pixel Photography, who has been a photographer since 1990, it’s clear that although the times have changed the way he photographs, they haven’t changed his passion for it.
Silver Pixel Photography is based out of Wilbraham, MA, and is unique for many reasons, one of them being that it is a husband and wife team. Jim and his wife, Barbara, regularly team up to do work that one person would struggle to capture, and it has not only made them happy, it’s made their business.
“One of the best memories,” Jim said, “was a wedding back in 2014 that I did with my wife. We were newly married back in 2012, she’d been helping me with the weddings, but that was the first wedding that we began working as a seamless team. I remember how happy both of us were because we knew what each other was doing, what each other wanted, and we were actually circling the oriental gardens in Elizabeth Park, where they have that oriental bridge. We were working that, and I was with the bride and groom, but she was on the opposite shore, and we managed not only to stay out of each other’s way, but we got exactly what we needed and quickly. It was just beautiful how it all came together.”
For Jim and Barbara, photography is just as much personal as it is a business. The people they work with, when they work with other photographers, have always been family and friends. “I can tell you,” Jim said, “I’ve never put out a job application or want ad for help.”
Although Jim has been in photography since 1990, Silver Pixel was created in 2004. I was interested in how his work had changed since involving his wife, as well as what the benefits and difficulties were.
“First off, just working as someone who’s self-employed is difficult enough.” Jim said, laughing, “Being the boss, being the one who calls the shots, can be a blessing, but it can also be very challenging. Working as a husband and wife is obviously nice because it gives you time together and time to work together, which a lot of people don’t get. It can also be a little more stressful because you’re working with your spouse, and you need to step back sometimes and realize that it’s not your typical time in a relationship to talk. It’s very easy when you need something to get done, and you’re doing things, to forget that you’re working with your spouse and not just somebody who’s working with you.”
Jim and Barbara have incredibly diverse portfolios, ranging from portraits to weddings, anniversaries, dance competitions, collegiate sporting events, musicals, and more. Throughout it all they’ve maintained a positive attitude. When I asked if Jim had a least favorite event, I was surprised to hear him say, “I’ve not had something that I’ve been asked to or had the privilege to photograph that I look back at and say ‘Man, I wish we hadn’t done that.’ If we get a job, it has a lot more to do with the people, for us, as opposed to what you’re photographing.”
As grateful as they are, it hasn’t always been easy to work as a photographer.
“In order to survive as a photographer,” Jim said, “you truly have to constantly reinvent yourself. There are people who tell me, ‘oh, my company sent me here,’ or ‘my company paid for training’ and the fact of the matter is that when you’re self-employed, you do have to do that all yourself, and plan for it all yourself, and pay for it all yourself.”
This approach to constantly reinvent himself has paid off. It’s clear that, as much as he knows about photography, Jim is humble enough to know when he needs to learn something new. And yet, it’s his earlier experience that constantly informs the way he does things now. From his days working with film, Jim has become a master of setting up the shot. Through his study of posing and lighting, he has a true professional’s eye, to the point that he usually knows whether or not a shot is going to be good even before he snaps it.
“I’ve seen so many young people come in and instead of learning how to do those things, they just move in and say, ‘I can do everything, because I can just look at the back of my camera and it looks good.’ Sometimes, just because you think it looks good, if you haven’t learned how to light and pose, then you’re just allowing the camera to control things, and that won’t let you take good, professional photographs.”
Beyond his work as a professional, Jim has a deeper connection to photography as a safeguard of memory. Just as he works with family and friends, it was his family that really inspired his love of pictures.
“I remember when my grandparents passed away, and my dad and I were cleaning out the house. There was a picture box-it had photos of entire generations back. If I asked my father for pictures of my first birthday party, I know he could find them, because they’d be in the box. You can see how important the keeping of memories can be. Your phone, computer, or cloud isn’t the place to keep pictures,.” he said.
One of the most interesting things about Jim is his desire to preserve memories. It’s a passion that feels both earnest and heartfelt, and one that has made Silver Pixel Photography into the incredible photography studio that it is today. Pictures aren’t just a pastime for Jim and Barbara: they are their gift to their customers.
“There’s going to be a generation of kids who sit down one day and want to show pictures of their childhoods to their children. And if those pictures don’t exist, what do you do? Sometimes we get a phone call, months after a wedding where we’ve made sure to take photographs of all the family members, saying our photograph was the last photograph of someone, and that they need it for the funeral. I hope they view the pictures I take as important. One of the things you learn is that, until you lose somebody, you don’t realize how important pictures of them really are,” he said.
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