James Moes' portraits of our family in the woods.

A few years ago, I was reading an article when the accompanying photograph caught my eye. It was attributed to James Moes. There had been someone by that name in the very small ethnoreligious group in which I grew up, a younger sibling of my schoolmates. It didn't take much sleuthing to determine that yes, it was him, and he was now a Seattle-based photographer with an art degree and a breathtaking portfolio.

His work was different from the slightly overexposed, closely cropped photos I seemed to see everywhere else. He made great use of landscape in his portraits, and wide-angle lenses, and shadows. I followed his blog (now defunct, unfortunately), and joined his 1.2 million (yes, you read that right) Pinterest followers. I didn't enquire about hiring him because he lived in Seattle and didn't feature any family shoots in his portfolio. Also, he didn't post his fees on the website. The last time I enquired about something without a price tag was at a Granville Street art gallery, and they began by offering me financing. 

What follows is one of the reasons I'm still on Facebook - because for all the nothingness on there, there's the occasional prize. Pete's cousin posted a link to an auction that was to be held to help fund an adoption by James' cousin. I idly scrolled through the list of items, and, buried in there among gift baskets and wooden benches was a photography session with James Moes. This was it. I was certain that (a) few people in our shared community of origin would truly recognize the extent of James' talent, and (b) they wouldn't be willing to pay for it even if they did. Culturally-ingrained frugality runs deep in this group. 

I couldn't make it out to the auction, but there was the option of submitting a maximum bid online. One of the host's friends would act on the absentee bidder's behalf. Though I wanted to point out the conflict of interest in this setup, I went ahead and entered my bid and contact information. My phone rang minutes later. The caller apologetically told me that she had received my entry, but unfortunately it was garbled. She laughed and told me the ridiculously excessive bid amount she had received. "That IS my bid," I told her. The call ended awkwardly for both of us.

Next morning, I received the email announcing my win, at 2/3 of my bid limit. And it really was a win, even though I'd paid for it. 

A few months ago, James and our familly hiked up to Quarry Rock in Deep Cove. We've lived here for almost eight years, and the forest and water, trails and sword ferns, feel like our natural habitat. I love that they feature so prominently in the portraits. Here's a sampling:

You can find James at his website, on Twitter and on Pinterest.