Thursday, March 30, 2017

Advice for photography professors and students of photography

When I first became interested in being a photographer, I knew it was the human portrait I wanted to focus on.  I knew that what makes a portrait powerful is the communication and interaction that needs to take place between the photographer and her/his subject. It's crucial, especially in a studio environment. I don't know if it's my personality or that I began photographing people in my mid-twenties but I never had a problem asking people if I could photograph them and explain why and what I want to pose them like but that might just be me.

Which brings me to today's blog topic. As an art model, I have rarely posed for photography simply because I always felt it was a conflict of interest since my photographs are of me but over time, and the need for money, I changed my mind - at least in the realm of classes. I still won't pose for other professional or art photographers unless we are collaborating, but when it's for students, I have realized it's not a conflict. They are learning.

 So the last 2 days, I posed for two different photo classes at one graphic arts school and I would like to post my observations.

In a photography studio in a classroom environment, where a model is present, there is something I have noticed. One - the students are understandably shy (even more so if the model is posing nude, which I was.) so they are afraid to approach me at all. Two - they rarely have a clear idea in mind of what they want to photograph nor do they take a minute to think about it when they see me. I imagine with different models, some ideas will spark. 

In two days, each student took turns photographing me. They had to explain to me what they wanted. I am warm and friendly and also since I was nude, I wanted to try and make it less "painful" for them as possible...or so I thought it would be.

Out of 20-25 students, I only posed 4 different ways, basically - curled up for close-up abstracted body parts, me looking dead, me moving around like an animal being caught (not sure what to think of that one) or me completely straight and frontal. I did get asked to dance for movement by one and there was another who projected designs on me. Not one wanted portraits. I posed briefly in a costume and NO ONE wanted to photograph me that way. When I lied down nude looking "dead", however, it was as if the paparazzi was all over me.  

Also, the students were more concerned with shooting fast and playing the image back than they were with connecting to me the model. Ah, the problem with the digital age. But in the end, no one explained much nor directed me but I did get a "thank you".  Luckily, I am so wonderful, that I didn't need any direction, anyway (ha ha ha ha).

Side note: There was the setup. There were 2 backdrops - one white paper one and one blue paper one. OK, not a lot of imagination there but if they were studying light and were just starting out, it's what they need to use. There were many lights ready to use but it seemed harsh monolights that had a change of either cool or warm tones were the only ones used. No one experimented with diffusers or moved around the barn doors to see what the light did.They did move the lights around but it was when the professor suggested they did. I am also not sure if they "saw" what was happening with the light as they moved it back and forth and such. I think more playing should have taken place but, ah, my apologies, I completely digress.

At the end of the classes, I thought to myself that maybe things were not really explained to the students about working with models. Whether I am right about that or not, I want to say here that it is very important that the students are talked to about what a model/photographer relationship consists of. Making a model feel comfortable, conveying clearly what he/she wants the model to do, not be afraid to fix the clothing/hair, etc. and just to be in constant interaction.

I also think that students need inspiration that is not always just the current fashion trend in magazines. I realize that many aspiring photographers want to work for Vogue and the like, but they need to see that some of the greatest fashion photographers were inspired by painters, sculptures and other forms of art. They should look at the photography of Annie Liebovitz, Herb Ritts, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and then even Sara Moon, Helmut Newton and Ellen von Unwerth.  Look at Old and New Masters in painting and study composition and have the students research why they want to photograph people.

My two cents worth as a portrait photographer and a model....

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Spring Equinox/Art through an Open Door

No matter what religion you follow,  Spring has arrived in whatever form you wish to take it. The common denominator here is that it is a time of renewal. I like to take this time to do a mental "spring cleaning" to take stock of where I am and what I can get rid of and what to do to progress next. I can't say the "getting rid of" works all the time. There are some thoughts that are persistent, whether accurate or not and it takes a long time to rid them, if at all.

There is a lot of wheel spinning and getting nowhere but what I have done over the last decade is keep a lookout for a door to enter from the wheel, and there have been doors I have successfully entered into.

Sounds a bit too poetic, huh? No not really. It's like my art. I spent over 2 years working and working on something that I thought was it in terms of ideas. I couldn't come up with anything new and my mind kept going back to the same concepts over and over but the door that I saw was this blog. I began writing about memories and about my past. All of this fueled the work that finally gave me substance and a reason to do. "Rêves et Souvenirs"

I am making more pieces to add to this series but I have also stumbled upon some YouTube Photoshop tutorials that led me to play with an idea that I wanted to try for a long time - creating the look of wet-plate collodion, tintype and other alt-processes that were invented in the 17th and 18th centuries without using the chemistry. Yay. The tutorials, as usual, or a starting off point and if you know Photoshop (or the gist of it), you can elaborate and add your own knowledge to the any other art, of course.

So while I try to find open doors for other things in my life that are hard to get off the wheel for, I will stay here for now.

A new one from "Rêves et Souvenirs" - "Hopeful"
And two alt-process experiments:

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Life happens and happens

2017 has already started off on a bad note. Trump became president, my mother passed away (late December) and yesterday, I learned that my beloved dog whom I had to leave in New York has passed. She was my heart and my connection to her was almost like no other animal I ever had. The choice to leave her and my kitty Lancelot with my ex was the most difficult decision I ever had to make and not a day has gone by that I wish I could have changed that and the 2 would be with me. Well,

I am not going to write the details but just want to write this post to tell myself again that I spent the last 3 years changing my life in maybe the most extreme way and because of that, I have hit so many challenges and frustrations. My happiness lies in two things - that I have met, fell in love with and married my true mate. Without this man, I could not imagine what my life would truly be like. I love him unconditionally and will until death do us part.

The other thing that makes me happy is the ability to create. If nothing else, these last years have fueled my art and I have been able to break out of an art block that I had for awhile. I spent most of 2015 and middle of 2016 working on pieces that I finally came to realize was not "me" so I dug a little deeper and went back to my artist statement  to re-read it. Fairytale, dream-like imagery.....the birth of "Rêves et Souvenirs" and I have posted a few pieces here already and more on my website:

So,  I trudge along and try to deal with all of the other things that make me feel sad, angry and hopeless. And if I can't deal with them, I'll turn them into something.

But here is a simple photograph with just a little Photoshop magic added to it, but not too much. This says it all at the moment.