Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Aversion Therapy

I recently read a book by Chris Orwig, entitled "People Pictures".  It's about portraiture, a subject I am loathe to pursue. However, I am forcing myself to because I want to expand my horizons and grow as a photographer. In his book, Chris says that "photography requires more than a selective mind, it requires a selective eye...it refers to the way we use the space within the frame." He goes on to say that "composition isn't reckless, but well thought out. Great composition brings order and peace to an otherwise cluttered and confusing world."

Well, I agree...mostly.  There are times when I'm out shooting where I just want to see what happens. Shooting floral abstracts in macro requires intentional composition.  The line and flow of the image as well as the flower itself can provide an absolute meaning or an abstract one (metaphorically speaking).  It isn't something to be figured out; rather, it requires a different way of seeing...or feeling. This is how I feel about portraiture.

I went to Old Towne in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a few weeks back to practice "shooting" people.  I pulled out my telephoto lens and away I went.  It was a weekday toward the end of tourist season so I was surprised at how many people were there.  Once I parked, I walked a short distance to find a group of local musicians playing.  I sat and took a few shots trying to be inconspicuous, but really, how inconspicuous can you be with a ginormous lens on your camera?

From there, I went over to the church, then ambled around the plaza. My goal was to practice shooting people pictures, since that's my least favorite thing to do. Armed with my telephoto lens, I soon discovered I didn't have to be right in someone's face to shoot them and get a relatively decent image.  That's what's great about shooting with a telephoto lens.  Since you're relatively far from the subject, no one pays attention to you and their actions are natural and unimpeded by being consciously aware you're there and taking their picture.  There were all manner of interesting sorts out that afternoon: artisans, more musicians, tourists, homeless folks, restaurant workers, families, people who lived nearby and me...trying to be as unobtrusive as I could.

As it turned out, it was a really fun experience.  I captured some truly candid shots and while they weren't anything I can add to my website or portfolio (yet), I can use them here in my blog to hopefully encourage another photographer (professional or otherwise) with the same "people portrait" aversion I have, to get out there and give it a try. You might find that you actually like it and decide to add it to your repertoire.


While the above images are not on my website, you are still welcomed to visit my galleries at www.kathleenmessmer.com, www.instacanv.as/kmessmer53 and http://kathleen-messmer.artistwebsites.com.  I'm also on Facebook (www.facebook.com/kathleenmessmerphotography) and Twitter (@kmessmer53) if you want to stop by and chat.  I could talk about photography all day long!  :)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Why Photography?

Someone asked me recently, "why photography?"  Why did you choose photography over all the other arts out there?  Well, the answer for me, is easy.  And while I could go on about how it's my passion, how it feeds my creativity, blah, blah, blah...it really does.

My day job in the entertainment industry, which I truly love, is great.  However, it doesn't allow me to be creative in any sense of the word.  It's logistics, plain and simple.  So, photography feeds me creatively.

I was never interested in the other arts like painting, primarily because my artistic talent for it never evolved beyond stick people.  And when I go to museums or see the "great" masters in a book I have to stop myself and ask, "why is THIS good?  A first grader could paint this." (HUGE eye roll here.) Admittedly, I look at some of the really well known photographer's work and ask the same thing.  It's not that I don't appreciate great art, but my perception and (naturally) my opinion play a definite role here.

Consequently, I'm always hyper critical of my own work.  Weirdly however, I love getting critiques (though I HATE art speak) because it forces me to see another's point of view and puts me on a path to improvement. Even now, after all the art education I've had, I'm still surprised at what comes out in the image I thought I saw through the lens.

When I'm out shooting, time, people, sounds, thoughts, all disappear and it's ALL about the photography. From the time I first picked up a camera, it was always a surprise to me that what I saw in the camera and resulting image was similar, but somehow different.  It either made me feel something emotionally or it didn't. What does that mean, you may be asking yourself.  Well, it means that while I may have an idea in my head when I begin, it may or may not follow my thought process in the way I thought it would when I was looking through the viewfinder.  It may be better or worse than I expected, but either way, it's something of a surprise.  It produces an emotion.  Whether that's a good or bad thing, is in the eye of the beholder.

Early on in grad school, I started shooting artificial flowers for a project.  I had an idea in my head, but the result was entirely different than what I had in mind. The images below prove my point precisely. The color image is what I saw through the lens.  The sepia version is end result.

I am passionate about photography because even though I like to think I'm in control, I so am NOT. The camera continues to remind me that it is my nemesis AND my friend.  It's almost as though when I think I'm moving right along, it slaps me upside my head to remind me that I need to stay on my toes to be (and become) a great artist.

A very good writer and photographer friend of mine once wrote, "find your passion and embrace it...passionately!"  I do.