Supporting local businesses is integral to my design philosophy. Authenticity, honesty, beauty, and simplicity are the tenets of House of Funk, and I look for these same qualities in the businesses and vendors I work with. Photography is a delicate, nuanced art that requires a practiced knowledge of composition and spatial relationships. A great photographer is one that uplifts their subject, taking advantage of angles and lighting to present the best impression, while also evoking specific moods and emotions, all in the space of one image. Michael Stahl is a Montclair-based portraiture specialist who truly understands the subject behind the lens. I caught up with Stahl to talk inspiration and top photo trends. Bonus: Check out this behind-the-scenes video of what goes into a shoot.
How did you get into the business?
Several years ago, I was in my darkroom printing images of my dog Chester. I made a few larger ones and showed them to my wife, Wendy. “Maybe people would like portraits of their dogs,” I said. So I started a business to offer handmade dog portraits. It wasn’t long before I started including children with the dogs and a family portrait business was born.
How did you and Wendy meet, and what is it like to work together?|
Wendy and I actually went to high school together on Long Island. We were in the same circle of friends but we were not dating. Shortly after college, we are at a friend’s wedding and connected there…a mere thirty-six or so years ago! Working together is great. The biggest challenge is finding the on/off switch.
Why did you decide to set up shop in Montclair, NJ?
By the time I started the photo business we had been living in Montclair for about twenty years. We’ve had several locations over the years but are now permanently settled in our Midland Ave. studio.
In three words, your photography is:
Emotional, evocative, and classic.
What makes for a great photo?
A great portrait draws you in and even has an element of mystery to it. Our favorite reaction to a portrait, more than “that’s beautiful,” is “That’s my child.”
What are your favorite scenes to photograph?
I love creating individual portraits and also relationship portraits that tell the story of the special bond between two people.
Where do you look for inspiration?
First, into the eyes of the person in front of my camera. Then, I also take notice of people in the environment and think about ways I can incorporate the things I see into my studio work.
Which current photography trends are you loving?
The iPhone is not the devil. I use mine all the time for snapshots. Rather than unimpressed, I am concerned that people don’t have printed images anymore. So a trend I love, and hope to see more of, is the emergence of more apps that let you easily (and VERY inexpensively) print images from your phone. Right now I’m using one called FreePrints. I love having prints I can toss in the shoe box. There is no question future generations will be able to enjoy them.
If you could photograph any person in the world (from any time period) who would it be?
That’s a toughie. But from any time period, I might like to go back and photograph Ben Franklin since we only have drawings of him and I think he would be enthralled with the camera.
Your dream photo shoot locale:
Total dream: Mars! Reality Dream: One of several national parks at sunset.