Monday, February 18, 2013

"Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens"

I found myself relating to so many different aspects of Annie Leibovitz's personal take on photography, as well as what being a photographer has truly come to mean for her over the course of her life. Throughout the entire film, Leibovitz stresses the importance of a photographer's entire life being his or her subject matter, and that when it comes to "capturing" any given person or situation, "a lot can be told from what happens in-between the main moments."

I could not agree more.

That quote, followed by her recognition of how often times something that never seems like it could turn into anything actually turns out to be something--something great--rang incredibly true to me on so many different levels. And as I continued to watch, I noticed an incredible similarity among my methodology of utilizing facial expressions to inspire my subjects and Annie's way of making faces at her subjects, whether it was to purposefully direct them to make a specific face or to simply losen them up and have them relax. Every single time I witnessed this, a huge part of me lit up inside, because I've been known do the exact same thing when shooting. Regardless of the specified "field" of photographic work one gravitates towards, I have always believed there to be a tremendous amount of difference in the outcomes of shoots where there was clear incorporation of humor on the photographer's end to do whatever he or she felt to be necessary in order to get his or her model to exude the particular mood or visual effect the photographer originally had in mind on camera. As was said about Leibovitz, "she makes a difference, in part, because she provokes people."

Another quote that caught my undivided attention was that "there are photographer's out there, but they don't really obsess and annotate their work like Annie does." I could heavily relate to this, as my own reputation for perfectionism and over-analyzation practically mirrors Leibovitz's personal reputation in conjunction with how she has always gone about criticizing her work. It is very comforting knowing that another professional photographer who has "made it" in the majority of the eyes of the public is just as nit-picky and particular about the quality of her work as I am with mine, and that she will not hesitate to remain stubborn until she gets her way, with regards to both the conditions of a photoshoot before its commencement, as well as the expected shots afterwards.

There are too many things in life that are mediocre. The way one feels about his or her artwork should not be one of them.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Duane Michals

Duane Stephen Michals is an artistic prodigy when it comes to the aesthetically daring realm of creative photography. 

A fellow University of Denver alumnus, Michaels went on to continue his studies at the Parsons School of Design in Greenwich Village, New York--though his sole focus at the time was in graphic design. Finding questionable solace in the United States Navy after his incompletion at Parsons, it wasn't until a holiday well-spent in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics(USSR)when Michals first discovered his innate passion for photography, the photos of his trip coincidentally comprising his first exhibition of works at the Underground Gallery in 1963. 

Known for his innovative story-telling photographic sequence series with hand-written, descriptive text, Michals' work is a captivating mix of literary and philosophical visual portrayals of his ideas relating to the subjects of death, emotions, gender, and sexuality.     

"No American has the right to impose his private morality on any other American."

"Christ cries when he sees a young woman who has died during an illegal abortion."

"Frederika wanders across the field at dusk looking for the moon. The wandering moon crosses the sky looking for Frederika."

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Day in my Life

Day #10: An Update on my Relationship With Photography
When it comes to the practice of photography, I truly believe that all subject matter—if captured in the right light and taken with a fair amount of technical skill—has the potential to make for a quality photograph. It is the intent behind said photograph, however, and the schematic capturing of this conceptual intent which has the potential to make a true impact on one’s perspective audience and urge them to experience a specific set of feelings—quite possibly the very same emotions felt by the photographer when the photograph was taken. Before the commencement of this class, I was genuinely satisfied with going out and aimlessly taking photographs of everything and anything, for the sole motive of proving that I could, in fact, make anything look artistic and meaningful. Over the course of this trip, however, I realized that I was only halfway correct. Yes, a skilled photographer really can make anything—a garbage can, a homeless man, the bright blue sky, you name it—look artistic, but one’s ability to capture something and portray it in a truly meaningful way that moves an audience towards a specific mixture of emotions is an entirely different story. I really loved how each of our photography assignments were themed throughout the trip, as this tamed my curiosity just enough so that I was able to have at least some direction in mind before aimlessly documenting the captivating cities of both Paris and London. In terms of my relationship with photography changing over the course of this class, I would definitely say I am a lot more confident with regards to my photos pre-editing process. I’ve always been a perfectionist when it comes to my art and modes of self-expression, and this has always led me to edit each of my photos until I am literally blue in the face—pretty much taking all of the enjoyment out of the process. This class really opened my eyes to the beauty of my pictures the way they were originally taken, and I am proud of my transition from what was once possibly over-editing to the point of digital manipulation, to only necessary touch-ups that merely enhance what was strategically captured.

To view this complete set of photos, click on the following link to my Flickr:

A Sense of Time and Place

Day #9: Psychological Differences Between the Same Subject, Painted and Photographed
I have always considered photography to be a much more realistic portrayal of the world in comparison to painting, because no matter how accurate one’s artistic abilities may be with a paintbrush (or any other tool), the final product will never be a direct reflection of who that person or object actually is on the physical surface, inevitably distorting their being as well as their surroundings based entirely off the painter’s skill and interpretation of his or her subject. I was wildly taken aback, however, after meticulous observation of a painted portrait done with acrylic on linen by Jason Brooks entitled, “Sir Paul Nurse,” that was on exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in London. I soon realized that it is skill, indeed, which can make or break any medium’s portrayal of a subject, whether it be painting as well as photography. Just as a painter can entirely distort a subject with the wrong brush strokes, a photographer has almost more of an ability to distort who or what something is, all depending on the light the subject is captured in, as well as what that subject is captured doing, who they are captured with, what they are wearing on that particular day, what their body language undeniably expresses—the list really could go on and on. Just because someone is captured on film, it does not mean that the way they are portrayed in the picture is a direct representation of who they really are or what they’re all about. A picture only shows what is on the surface at that exact given moment in time, and it is up to onlookers to determine for themselves how they wish to interpret the picture and circumstance captured; and onlookers will be faced with this challenge with any artistic portrayal of “reality,” because that is so much of what the enjoyment of art is all about—being able to determine for oneself just what an artist’s work means, both in terms of what they think the artist’s intention was for the mass public as well as how they interpret the message of the artist’s work for themselves as individuals in relation to their personal lives.

To view this complete set of photos, click on the following link to my Flickr:

The Human Street

Day #8: A Day of Museums
“I think of a photograph as a receiver of sensation. Sensations are intangible and I try to organize them through the act of photography.” 
–Tom Wood

Of all the photographers whose work was put on display at the Photographer’s Gallery, I took special notice and appreciation for Tom Wood’s knack for not only capturing people, but capturing feelings and the actual atmosphere of situations. I really began relating Mr. Wood’s style to my own, in terms of capturing a subject’s light in a photograph and making a statement based off of that subject’s “spark.” There is this fleeting spark in each particular emotion felt which always seems to present itself, and there is such a genuine pureness when a person’s true self comes out to shine. You can tell so much from a person’s facial expressions and body language, and I really enjoy taking portraits of people with this goal eternally in mind. I truly believe this is what sets average portraiture apart from meaningful portraiture. Anyone can snap a shot of someone, but not everyone utilizes their human ability to urge another person’s personality to come alive. This is by no means easy; I often do it by making a face at my subject (depending on what kind of mood I’m going for, I’ll make a funny face, glare at them, pout, etc.) right before I take the plunge and make the “click” (of my camera). Nine times out of ten this immediately loosens my subject up and takes away whatever pressure they were feeling in front of the camera.

To view my complete photo set from this day, click on the following link to my Flickr:

A Sense of Light and Time

Day #7: A Letter to William Henry Fox Talbot
Dear Sir William Henry Fox Talbot,

I would just like to start off by saying thank you—thank you so, so much for allowing my fellow classmates and I to tour your magnificent home and get a feel for the rich history that is so deeply embedded in its walls. Chills began to consume every inch of me as I approached the sacred oriel window where you snapped the earliest known photographic negative to date. There was such a holiness—a sacredness, if you will—that came from not only standing in front of that historic window, but actually being able to capture as many angles of it as I could from my perspective lens, 177 years after you did. Learning about history from a book or word of mouth is one thing, but experiencing history for oneself is something almost ineffable. This most likely once-in-a-lifetime experience at Lacock Abbey gave me so much pride in my interests and contributions to the world of photography, and I can only dream to leave my own historic mark on the world through my art before I die.


Breanna Demont

To view this complete set of photos, click on the following link to my Flickr: