Here in Michigan, we wait patiently, patiently, and then very impatiently, for the summer sun. We spend more than half of our year in the cold and coolth, somewhere from early-September to even mid-May. And every year, somewhere around early to mid-March, I abandon my winter wear out of principal alone, even if a bit prematurely. I’ll venture out in a 20 degree white squall in a sweater or turtleneck alone just to make my point.

So, when summer does make its way to these parts, it’s with great surprise and relief that it ever arrives. We relish the long light, dinners linger late on decks and west-facing back porches, I begin shooting at 6:30 and 7:00 to ensure we capture that soft, golden light. By late August, all of my senior portrait clients are boasting their late summer tans.

But being from the North, I admit I have a bit of reverse SAD (seasonal affected disorder). Unlike most people, I actually long for the winter months most of all. I become a bit “interior” during the cold, dark winter. Admittedly, it draws out a bit of my melancholy side, but with it comes my creative mind.

That being the case, I love photographing in the beautiful winter light. The dark shadows, the earlier days. Winter light is intimate, interior, introspective. And with that in mind, I knew the perfect place in mind to photograph little Jack on our cold, January day.

It had been many years since I set foot in John King Books. It sits right off of the Howard Street exit of the Lodge (the 10) Freeway as you round the final curve and spill into the heart of downtown Detroit. A sturdy four-story building of mottled and chipping light blue white paint sits proudly and blends artfully into the urban backdrop of Detroit.

Formerly the Advance Glove factory building, a relic of the bygone days of Detroit’s manufacturing, the building had actually been “picked up and moved” 600 feet to make way for the 1940s freeway construction that now ushers you to its front door. John King, overflowing with books from previous locations, bought the building in 1983.

King himself is of a kind, quirky sort. A bit imposing at first, he looks as rare and well-worn as his books, the corners of his feathered pages softly curled together and bound sturdily into a well-worn leather soul. With his long-ish curly hair and signature spectacles and a befitting warm sweater on the day we visited, I imagine him as he must have been in the 1960s, curious and eclectic and an idealist who believes in the power of the printed word. The day we photographed Jack, King was on site — as I suspect he most often is — and begrudgingly posed for me in the stacks. I wondered if we were all California Dreaming on such a winter’s day.

The history and character of John King Books add a certain sense of magic and meaning to the place, no doubt. It is the very antigen to the sterile, soul-crushing corporate Barnes & Noble sort. What I came for, ultimately, is the amazing winter light.

We made our way to the fourth floor, not because the light is necessarily better, but because we thought we might be left alone. When we walked along the outer corridor, there was plastic insulation over the windows. As with all old buildings, the place is like Swiss cheese and must cost a fortune to heat in the cold Detroit winter months. Little did Mr. King know, he not only created an ideal “candy shop” for a photographer (a location full of character and curiosity), but he even installed the perfect soft studio natural light. Thank you, Mr. King.

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