Local Photographer Captures ‘Quirky’ Small Town Life

August 2011

Photographer Gina Long

What makes a small town like Sierra Madre a great place to live? Surely, a number of things come to mind. But in the end, most of these reasons are essentially derived from being a part of a close-knit community. It’s something that tends to get lost in bigger cities.

Walking down the streets, being greeted by friends, family and neighbors alike has a certain feeling; a feeling of camaraderie. Meeting for BBQs, parades and picnics in the park are some of the things that truly make a small town special.

With that in mind, it’s easy to see how, for a photographer, Sierra Madre just may be the perfect town.

Just ask Gina Long, who says she lives for bringing out those extraordinary small town moments: the unexpected glimpses of joy in the lives of her subjects, the surprises, and the simple beauty of a town that prides itself on its uniqueness and splendor.

Long moved to Sierra Madre, along with her husband Steven, because she was happy with the educational choices for her son Nolan, now 7-years-old. Her family has since found their niche here. And now, Long is the first photographer to ever have an exhibit on display at Sierra Madre City Hall.

Her photography, on display until Aug. 19, is collection of “life’s moments and quirky things,” she says.

While Long says she does shoot traditional portraits, it’s the quirky shots she enjoys capturing the most.

“I’d like to make the quirky more common and the common more quirky,” she said. “I would also like to draw attention to some unusual subjects and show the world that you can find beauty in everything when you seek it. I especially love taking striking and interesting photos of people who don’t like to be photographed.”

Long’s portfolio features some beautiful family shots, intriguing neighborhoods, curious pets and children photos that are so cute they might bring a tear to your eye.

So why call the show “The Unexpected Portrait”?

“I’m not traditional and I wanted my name to speak to that,” Long said. “It would be horrible for clients who hire me to be disappointed by the results of their shoot and I look for adventurous, out of the box type subjects.”

At Home in Sierra Madre

Sierra Madre, and the audience she has found here, are very meaningful to her work, Long says.

“With a nudge here and a bravo there, I gathered enough self-belief to bring my photography to others. It has been really fulfilling.”

Long was greeted by many art-loving attendees during her show’s official opening on July 22 at City Hall. And Long is quick to thank Community and Personnel Services Deputy Director, Kristi McClure and the members of the Arts Committee for putting together the event.

“I think it was really successful. I love having my work at City Hall,” Long said in an interview following the reception.

Some Favorites

“Comfortably Numb”

One photo Long featured, “Comfortably Numb,” was snapped outside of Sierra Madre and is one of her favorites. “I love “Comfortably Numb” because it juxtaposes the timeless beauty of a restored old train sitting at the Santa Barbara station with the reality of the life in a cart position of the homeless man who is basically living there un-restored and watching the trains come and go in this beautiful place from a place most people can’t and don’t understand,” Long said. “I feel I was able to convey a sense of how every person, place and thing has many sides, some that you see and some that you don’t. It’s truly an “Unexpected Portrait.”

Another favorite is a picture of her son bringing in the mail entitled “On Arrival.”

“On Arrival”

“I took it the weekend we moved into our house in Sierra Madre in a very innocent and cute moment when he was gathering our mail for the first time from the post box and bringing it into the house,” Long said.

“It’s also an “unexpected portrait” and, in fact, the “Unexpected Portrait” which inspired the name of my business and is on my business cards. It truly represents my work.”

For those who take a serious interest in photography of their own, Long offers some advice.

“Take your camera out with you and shoot,” Long said. “Make up a story in your mind and shoot the photos that tell it. Use your eye. We are all photographers and we each have a unique way of seeing the world, find the parts or patterns or activities you love to translate through the lens and shoot, shoot, shoot!”

Long says aspiring new artists should remember one thing, “Art is so subjective. Take both praise and criticism open-mindedly and make what moves you. It will move others.”

Try to catch Long’s display during City Hall’s normal business hours and, who knows, you might come away inspired.

And for those who like what they see, Long offers her photography services on her websitewww.theunexpectedportrait.com, and is available to visit your home to snap those special moments during birthday parities, holidays and other special events.