Photography in the Facetune Era: Lyd and Mo
Husband-and-wife team up to offer timeless portraits and more
By Emily Glory Peters
“When photographing portraits, you have to bring out the essence of a person,” says Mo Cee, co-owner with his wife Lydia Tam of Lyd and Mo Photography in Pasadena. “Too often I see photographers too focused on their gear—but photography is having a connection with the subject.”
You’ve probably seen Lyd and Mo’s work without knowing it. These three-time “Best of Pasadena” winners have carved out a name for themselves around town, working with many local businesses, nonprofits, entertainers, even the Doo Dah Parade. But capturing an “essence” that jives with the subject’s view of themselves requires a lot of finesse, especially in 2019.
“The rise of phone photography hasn’t impacted our business financially, but you’d be surprised at how much Photoshop people want done. People look like anime versions of themselves!” jokes Mo. Lyd explains it is part of the reason why the couple works so well as a team.
“Getting a great portrait is about flexibility and keeping someone calm. If we see they’re nervous, we slow down and let them be themselves,” she says, noting how she tracks outward details so Mo can focus on shooting. “I make sure we don’t lose the narrative along the way. A little art direction can do a lot to show someone’s confidence.”
In addition to her skill as a photographer, Lyd’s corporate background supplies a business mindset to the studio, while Mo brings more than 25 years of experience behind the camera. The pair focuses heavily on business, fashion, events and lifestyle photography, but both have their favorite projects—Lyd favors weddings while Mo enjoys environmental portraits. Their sizeable studio sits snugly in Pasadena’s Playhouse District, affording them a higher level of exposure than they might have had otherwise.
“We’ve only been here four years, but we’ve risen up as someone to notice and host a lot of activities and events,” says Mo, “including free singer/songwriter showcases the last Friday of every month, music workshops, creative dance, even free meditation classes.” The community can also walk in simply to enjoy Lyd and Mo’s work.
“It’s a public space, a gallery,” explains Lyd. Plus, coffee and tea are always available to any passerby. “We have an open door policy.”
What those passersby will see are the faces—styled, certainly, but real—of the many Lyd and Mo clients the pair has shot over the years. As artists, they also understand the practical use of a good portrait—and even with the impact of celebrity and social media on our outward appearances, the couple remains hopeful about photography’s future.
“I predict a return to more authenticity. Like with the mall glamour shots of the 1980s, I think this level of manipulation is a trend that will eventually fade away,” says Mo. “Millennials and Gen Zers want to be told honestly what something is and what it is isn’t. There is way to create a heightened sense of beauty without going into silliness—and I think we’re headed in that direction.”
Lyd and Mo Photography Studio and Gallery is located at 27 N. Mentor Avenue in Pasadena. For more information, contact Lyd and Mo at lydandmo.com or by phone at (626) 652-8302. You can email them at email@example.com and follow along on Facebook @lydandmophotography and Instagram @lydandmo.