A Photographer as a Visual Artist

Jerusalem Hands P1000829

What are the limits within which a bona fide photographer must work and how far can he move outside the box and still call himself a photographer?

I have combined images before but not much. It was laborious when using Selection Tools but now that I’ve learned to use masks, combining images is much easier. The image above is one I did today.

Part of me resists combining images. What I’ve done so far in post is alter exposure, contrast and hue. Combining images would be a huge step. It involves structural modification.

With layers and masks, I can use collage to paint not only with color but with images. I have an old Wacom tablet that I have never used continuously. The tablet would enable me to use a pressure-sensitive surface to vary the heaviness of my “paint” brush and thus achieve texture as well as different widths of strokes. Somehow though I am starting to like the difference between painting and photography. They are both visual media but each has its own traditions and history that I rather like to keep separate.

I would be more inclined to use masks to combine images if what I am combining are not recognizable images but patterns or color blends that add depth and complexity to my photographic composition. I still think that a photographer, even a digital photographer, should restrict himself to tools that relate to qualities of light i.e. saturation, hue, contrast as well as color, lines, and shapes. The structure of the image he has to capture from real life. That’s the main ingredient to which he adds emendations as a cook adds spices and herbs to a pot roast!

In this I may be in a diminishing fraction and I question my resistance. All things change and it’s those who can think outside the box who lead the way.

Are we bound to preserve the limitations imposed on film photography? A digital camera captures an image conveyed to its sensor via reflected light. That image is what a photographer works with. But then he uses another gadget to process that image, a computer program to manipulate the pixels comprising his “image.” These two, camera and computer, share equal billing for today’s photographic output.

A visual artist may use matériel like oil, pigments, fabric, found objects from the garbage dump, hair, rope, wire, titanium sheets, vegetable matter, and yes, photographic images. His mandate is not just too keep the brain from going senile early; his mandate is to create a diversion for the eyes, a challenge to the mind behind those eyes to imagine and dream, to think the impossible, to believe.

To remain relevant art has to change with a society’s conventions, with its emerging technology. Maybe to be able to call oneself a photographer is not the point. Maybe we should think of ourselves as visual artists first and only secondarily photographers. The goal is the same for all who use the eyes as windows into the Soul.


Creating Products with Real Value


I am not happy with what I am able to do. Before I even think of offering services to the public I need to reach a higher level of quality. I want to use lenses and lighting better and be able to output a wider variety of print and digital products.
This link is to AMEX‘s Open Forum article on community-based marketing.

Among others, I found this worth remembering when setting up business, especially online business:
“consider a model that offers an experience that includes training, teaching, and sharing with other members of the community no matter what industry or product.”
Here’s another:
“To take advantage of the inherent benefits that this strategy offers you must begin to view your own business as a network instead of a sales organization.” This seems to me right along there with your idea of including models among the business proprietors. The idea could even be extended beyond this. The whole article is really worth reading.
The article also suggested subscription as a valuable feature, something Clayton or Jay mentioned.  But I still think we need to come up with our own unique product set, not just offer downloadable and/or streaming video or photo sets. If our products are truly standouts we can rely just on the quality for them to sell but I rather like the idea of architecturally structuring a product that is elegant both in content as well as attendant web-packaging for instance, what else can consumers get purchasing still photographs. Once people like something they are likely wanting extras and pennies for options often provide more profit. I read today, for example, that gas stations make more profit from beverages and snacks they sell than from gasoline! At Wal-Mart and other stores, those product shelves along the way to the cashier are an example of marketing. I am not into making a profit as much as offering products with real value to consumers. What I have not figured out to my satisfaction is just what real value is.
Helicopter shots are great but not necessary. I think as photographers our main advantage is our experience with framing, lighting and the creation of beautiful, emotionally riveting images. I did the workshop with Vincent LaForet on HDDSLR filmmaking over the weekend. He and Chase Jarvis are doing a greater percent of their work in filmmaking, which paradoxically has refreshed their take on still photography! I suspect the day is not far in the future when still photographers are also video photographers. The medium is coming together in the use of DSLRs.
I am interested in creating videos with models but I’m not interested in infomercials. I want my videos and films to be works of art, to be primarily aesthetically pleasing if not enthralling! So, if we’re going to produce wrestling videos, make wrestling videos that stand out for their aesthetic and dramatic effect. To do anything less is not worth it for me. There are way too many wrestling products out there. How to differentiate our products from the masses is the issue.
The natural progression of a still photographer into filmmaking (videos are falling by the wayside, relegated to people not as invested in producing superior quality products) is to becoming Directors of Photography (DPs) and art directors. For me I want to go all the way to becoming a director.



Christmas Is for Children Is for Grownups


The Magic of Jack


I’ve done over 80 images from the Bernard family portrait shoot last Saturday when I discovered a whole set of additional images largely featuring the two boys, Ethan and Jack. Ethan has a narrower repertoire of expressions, probably my fault for not posing him better but Jack was a darling! I told his cousin, Emily, whom I’ve shot several times now, that at this shoot she was second place to Jack. The boy was a challenge to shoot but his pictures are the most fun to process and post! For 2011 I want to do more children portraits, in addition, of course, to doing more portraits in general. I love shooting models but I think, as my skills and experience in photography grow, my interest too is expanding! It’s exciting and validating.


Yielding to contemporary tastes in portrait imaging

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If you can’t beat them, join them. The saying dates me and that’s ok. I’ve been processing my portraits and model pictures with traditional color correction but it seems everyone likes their pictures to look like what glamour and edgy for-young-trendsetter magazines display. Images are not longer for showing people’s “true colors” but for showing them in highly unusual color. Color is taking center stage, not far behind the actual image itself. Frankly I kind of like the new trends. My interest in photography started out as interest in simple shapes and color. When I got into people pictures I found out about white balance and skin tone corrections. Now finally I am coming back to my first love. People looking like Dracula, like the vampires that are popular with young moviegoers and novel readers. Maybe realism is getting to be too much with the plethora of reality TV! So, I’ll keep on exploring “special effects” on Photoshop because they seem to be what clients want and it’s going back to my first loves!