“When was the last time you got a picture printed?” asks Sandy Harrison. After half a minute of silence while I struggle to recall the last photograph I printed, framed and hung on my wall, she continued. “That’s the problem! Pictures don’t get printed anymore. They’re just on phones.”
In what can seem like a sea of self-trained photographers, photographic artist Harrison is a breath of fresh air. Harrison uses her vast experience as a photographer and an artist to create classic style portrait images and oil paintings.
“It’s a certain lighting, certain posing I’ve learned from master photographers and master artists,” says Harrison of her signature style. “It’s a classic pose,” she continues, gesturing to a painting of a young girl in a dress resting her head on the arm of a chair. “You have no idea when I took this picture. It could be five days ago or it could be twenty years ago. Timeless is what it is.”
Harrison has experimented with different styles throughout her more than thirty years experience as a portrait photographer, but she found that ultimately she – and her clients – kept coming back to that classical style. When she moved her business and her family from NoDa to Mint Hill three years ago, Harrison made a choice to focus on the classic style of portrait photography and painting she found herself gravitating toward.
Harrison specializes in museum-quality portrait images and paintings. The first step in the process is a consultation with Harrison where clients discuss their vision for the portrait or painting as well as where the canvas will hang in their home. Step two is taking photos. Depending on the client’s vision, Harrison can take photos in her Mint Hill studio or on location outdoors. After taking photographs, Harrison reviews the photographs with her clients, projecting them on a wall and framing them with sample frames so they can visualize it on their wall.
From that point, there are a few different options. “You can get oil highlights on canvas. You can get a partial painting where I actually do the painting on the portrait itself, on the canvas. Or the ‘masterpiece’ is me actually doing a charcoal sketch of it first and then going in and painting, that.” Creating an original oil painting using a portrait photograph as a reference takes three to four months. “That’s going to be your heirloom,” adds Harrison.
Harrison’s product is different than the gallery or CD of images we’ve come to expect when we get family photographs taken, but Harrison is adamant that it is worth your while. “I’ve never met a person who had regrets about getting a family portrait taken. What you’re getting from me is a piece of art,” says Harrison. “It’s more than just a picture.”
“I have a slogan,” continues Harrison. “One moment, one click of a shutter, and time stands still forever. That says it all.” She pauses. “Is that cheesy?” she laughs. “But that’s what I do. I’m capturing that moment.”
Look for Photographic Elegance at Mint Hill Madness, where Harrison will be giving away cards for a complimentary in-studio photography session with no obligation to purchase. Also look for her column right here in the Mint Hill Times where she’ll offer tips on topics like making the most of your phone’s camera and how to take great photographs outdoors.