inspiration

Inspiration: Berenice Abbott

Today’s post is about inspiration.  We all need it from time to time, especially if we’re in the business of creating art for a living.   One of my favorite places to turn for that inspiration is in the past.  History is a passion of mine.  It’s not about dates or events; it’s about the people who lived at that time and how it must have felt to live through those pivotal events.  They are people like you and I with the same depth of feeling and thought, struggling with different challenges but they struggled just as we do.  They loved and laughed and saw their world changing as we see ours changing.   I love the early 20th century photographers.  This was a renaissance time for photography – there were no camera phones or Instagram.  Cameras were big, bulky and every image had to be developed and printed by hand.  If you wanted your images to be seen you had to hustle, submit your work by hand or mail and develop relationships with publishers.  Honestly, I find inspiration in that kind of work ethic.

So, when I turn to history for inspiration, I tend to gravitate to the women photographers who blazed the trail in the early 1900’s.   Women like Dorothea Lange whose iconic images of the great depression were printed in newspapers and magazines around the country and put a face to the hardship.  Margaret Bourke-White traveled around the world and documented wars and the faces of not only the men who fought them, but also the leaders who shaped and influenced our culture and society.  These were incredibly strong and courageous women who made their mark on a medium that was previously documented by men.  They brought a unique perspective to their work; their sensitivity evoked such wonderful vulnerability and ease in their subjects.  They were a powerful combination of compassion and strength and many of them created their art before they had the right to vote.

Today I want to honor Berenice Abbott.  Berenice’s images documenting the rapid changes in New York in the 1920’s are fascinating!  She was born in 1918 and as a young woman she moved to New York to study sculpture and later Paris and Berlin to continue her studies.  It was in Paris that she discovered and mastered photography, first becoming an assistant at Man Ray Studio.  She moved back to New York in 1929 and was struck by the rapid changes to the city.  On the eve of the great depression she began her series of documentary photographs.  These photos are a living history of that time and until the day she died she advocated for this style of documentary photography.    She was truly one of the more influential photographers of the early 20th century and a huge inspiration to me. 

Who is your inspiration?

Summer iPhone Photo Tips

Tip#5 – Moments Pro Camera App.   I’ve been using this app for a few days now and I’m very impressed by it.  Unlike the photo editing Apps on the market the “Moments Pro Camera” app interfaces with your camera and turns it into a fully functioning DSLR.  It allows you to control white balance, shutter speed, aperture, ISO settings, dual focus and exposure points, and like a DSLR, if you press the shutter lightly it will focus and then press harder and it will take the photo.  One of the coolest features is the “long exposure settings”.  If you have a simple iPhone tripod you can increase the shutter speed and play with long exposure shots!  This is the hottest app on the market right now and it’s available for both ISO and Android.

The design of the app is simple, elegant and intuitive. Even if you’re not experienced shooting in manual mode on a DLSR, this app will show you in real time the changes in your photos as you play with the different settings.   It gives you options to shoot in JPG (the default for all camera phones) or for you DSLR buffs out there; it will even shoot in RAW format. 

Separate focus and exposure points.

The app isn’t free; it’s $5.00, which is the price of a large Latte and it’s well worth it. There is educational support if you want to learn more about the functionality in the form of YouTube tutorials or weekly newsletter tips.  This app is a game changer for unlocking the true potential of your camera phone.

Happy shooting!

Inspiration: Photographer Grey Villet

Long before Facebook, Twitter and viral videos, magazines like National Geographic, LIFE and TIME were bringing powerful images into American homes.   We still see them on the Internet today. Most of us scroll through these images without giving a thought to the photographers who went out into the world to capture them. This was the heyday of photo essays and journalistic photography, and the average reader wouldn’t recognize names like; Alfred Eisenstaedt or Margaret Bourke-White,  but you would most definitely remember the iconic images they took that made their way into the American Zeitgeist through LIFE Magazine.

Grey Villet isn’t a household name, but as a freelance photographer, commissioned primarily by LIFE and TIME magazines, Grey was given assignments to create  photo-essays that capture the essence of some of the most poignant stories and social movements of that time.

 

Gay rights in New York. – This issue is obviously close to my heart, especially now with Gay men being rounded up, put into camps and tortured in Chechnya. It’s easy to loose track of how far we’ve come in the United States when it comes to Gay rights, but in the 1960’s, the movement was just beginning. Here in our own country, the people who were tasked with protecting the rights of citizens were raiding gay bars and arresting men simply for being homosexual. The birth of the gay rights movement here in the U.S. was a powder keg of anger and passion.   Grey Villet was tasked by TIME magazine to cover the protests. These were some of the first images that actually portrayed individual Gay people, their struggles and the passion behind their cause.

 

Loving vs. the state of Virginia – As gay men and women were fighting for their rights in the 60’s, there was an interracial couple in Virginia who were also fighting for their right to love and marry, a right that Gay couples fought for just a few years ago, and in some states, we are still fighting.   Mildred and Richard loving were married in Washington D.C. in 1958. It wasn’t until they moved back to their home state of Virginia did they realize that they may be subject to arrest for the crime of miscegenation (mixing of races). In fact, Virginia lawmakers told them that they would indeed be arrested and face 25 years in prison if they didn’t leave the state, (and their family and friends). They weren’t the first interracial couple to get married, but this case captured the attention of the whole country.   The images that Grey Villet captured of their life, along with the accompanying story in LIFE magazine, made a huge impact in the heart of the country. Sure, the images didn’t change everyone’s mind, but putting a human face to the issue makes it just that much more difficult to hold on to one’s racist views.

At a time when there was no digital photography and no Photoshop, the job of a good photojournalist required patience, technical skill and the ability to really understand their subjects. Photographers whose images graced the pages of TIME, LIFE or NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC we’re empathetic, astute observationalist’s and masters of their craft.   We owe thanks to these courageous photographers, like Grey Villet, for their legacy of images, images that tell the story of all those who came before us, braved the trail to give us the rights that we may now take for granted.

 

One man, six different photographers with very different results

My friend Michael sent me a link to this article today and it really moved me. The focus of the article and accompanying video was on the artistic eye of the photographer; specifically, how portraits can be shaped by the photographer’s point of view rather than just the subject being documented. In this video, the same person was photographed by six different photographers – the twist: Each photographer was given different information as to the background of the subject. The subject’s backgrounds were varied and fictional. The result: incredibly different portraits of the same man.

In my work, I strive to bring out the personality of each subject I photograph. Getting to know who that person is shapes the style and direction of each portrait. It’s one of the most rewarding aspects to my craft. This article really hit home and reminded me of how important a photographers eye and vision is to portraiture.

Canon-Portrait-video

Enjoy this contribution from www.shutterbug.com

Thank you Michael Armentrout for sending me the article.