lessons in frivolity

I could probably be described as a very lazy control freak.
I’m not saying I am, but that I could sometimes be described as such. Occasionally.
And that would certainly apply to how I approach my photography – When I know I can’t achieve the image I want, I don’t bother.  I’ll let the image find me.

Well, this year – or at least this month – I am attempting to shake things up a bit. Last year, I designated a Song of the Day for each of the 366 days of 2012. As much fun as that was, I didn’t think I could keep it up for an additional year (I may give myself serial challenges of one week here or one month there), so I’m taking on the challenge of posting a photo of the day. I know dozens of people who participate in creating and following user-generated schedules of what to focus on for each day (sky, trees, small objects, self portrait, etc.), but that’s just a wee bit too rigid for how I like to work. Maybe I’ll challenge myself to one of those months later on, but not for now. And obviously, this blog would be the perfect outlet for posting said photos, but I’ve been agonizing over when to post a collection of the images – at the end of each week, month, etc. – and of course 31 days doesn’t exactly divide cleanly for aesthetic purposes, so I’ve continued to put it off.

Well no more!  I have designated my 21 photographs for the previous 21 days of 2013 and that divides rather nicely!

Additionally, this becomes a lesson in letting go of that artistic control. The photos I select for each day aren’t the images that describe my point of view as a photographer. They aren’t even the most compositionally interesting. But they are my life. And that’s good enough for me.

testing the water

I’m actually writing this while editing my “year in review” post because I need to express something that would completely disrupt the flow I’ve spent the last hour cultivating. Now, to jump right in:

  • I am not a risk taker. I play it safe. But I like to pretend that I’m not.
  • Photography is my passion. I would spend my life making photographs. But I know now that, while I am still an amateur, I have no business in formal education (see: grad school).

Ok, I think I can say it now, after much reflection: I respectfully hated my latest photography class. Maybe I just wasn’t in-tune with myself artistically when I signed up, but I was never nurtured into developing an idea; I was pushed, almost dismissively. I did learn a lot regarding technique – and what types of photography were not my strong suit/invoking passion. It’s taken some time for me to get enough distance to realize that. I really (really) enjoy production photography (like you couldn’t figure that out), but because productions are few and far between, and my style is intentionally non-invasive, I could never find a way to tailor that to the weekly class assignments, so my final series was the result of awkward tug-o-war with my professor. Sure, I walked away with some striking landscapes and a better working knowledge of Photoshop, but I lost my voice as a photographer. I put away my camera, only pulling it out for staged productions and behind-the-scenes documentation during filming. All year. That’s it.

photo

I’m writing this during a naturally contemplative time (end of the year, start of a new one) and am finally able to admit to what I’ve said above. But I have another: I’m scared of photography. And I’m still trying to figure out what that means.

A few years ago I received a copy of Annie Leibovitz At Work as a parting gift at the end of an internship, and it confirmed for me that photography is an essential part of who I am. The way she captured so much from each of her subjects, either by creating the moment or discovering it (isn’t it always a little of both?) in such a way that the viewer couldn’t possibly know for sure. But taking this volume of pure inspiration and applying it to my life? I was terrified! I thought for sure I could never do portraiture. I was too timid to lead my subject in the dance. So I assured myself that passive landscapes and lifestyle shots (candids) were all I really needed, and I would supplement that with my waning passion in the theatre and produce thousands of images of production photography.

Untitled by elizabolt Untitled by elizabolt

Theatre is a gateway drug. It’s just one of those universal truths, don’t ask me how. So it comes as no surprise that my non-invasive style of production photography soon invited requests for head shots and I finally understood why so many great photographers shoot actors!  Comfortable with exploring gesture and character alone or with direction, actors rarely ever shy away from the camera (or at least the ones I know). I think I’ve always worried that my portraiture would look more like the awkwardly posed senior photos peppering the final pages of high school yearbooks than the striking images I see published in books and magazines. And for that, I’ve never let myself try. But I’m putting an end on that silly behavior once and for all. Because I’ve finally realized something important:  If I’m true to my photography, there’s no way I can fail. I’m just sharing how I see the world.

little by little

Good news! Sherman Still Life was approved and I’m hitting the ground with a speed-walk mall walkers would envy running! My next critique is tomorrow (in addition to a scanner/photogram assignment), so it’ll be a very busy night!
Incidentally, I got the first rolls of film developed from the Slim Devil and it might be my new favorite camera! Luckily, I’ve been stock-piling the rolls Tracz has given me the past few classes, so, between the Slim Devil and the Lensbaby mount for my Nikon, I’ll be shooting with greater focus over spring break!

Now for the less-stellar news: last week, we had a demo of unique techniques when making photograms and without even developing, my hands and legs have started breaking out. It looks like I’ll predominantly be working in the digital lab this semester. Additionally, my standard formula for my morning coffee is slightly on the disappointing side today. So it goes.

e.

en flux

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This is quite possibly my last weekend to work in theatre. I designed the lights for Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story at Austin College – and I JUST found out that one of my photographs of the show accompanies the official press release! It is a very bittersweet time. Auditions for our next show, You Can’t Take It With You, is this coming Monday, but I have decided that I need to take this time to focus on my photography. It was a difficult decision to come to, but I know it is absolutely the right one.

Another difficult decision I made this week is in regards to my series for Art Senior Conference. I had originally proposed to explore the relationship between women and their makeup through the application of tribal warpaint, an idea I’m still very interested in, but I have to put it aside for now. I realized this week that I simply do not yet possess the skill nor the time to fully realize my vision and am enough of a perfectionist that to dedicate myself exclusively to an endeavor that may, in my eyes, fail is a slight waste of time. So I am modifying my intent for the semester and shelving the warpaint idea, instead I’m tossing around a few possibilities, like a pictorial love letter to my hometown. I recognize that to grow as a photographer, I need to not only play to my strengths, but confront my weaknesses and while my biggest weakness is portraiture, my strengths lie in what I’m calling Sherman Still Life. which would be an AWESOME title for a show… I really don’t know which direction to go… Maybe I should meet with Tracz and talk it out or maybe I should meditate on it more. Or better still, maybe I should continue to challenge myself while photographing everything and see what themes shake out.

Feel free to take a look at an assortment of my work. I would love outside opinions!

e.

playing with toys

playing with toy camerasContinuing our work with unusual cameras (last week was pinhole – which I will post soon), my current assignment is toy cameras! I’ve borrowed the little black Slim Devil from the Art Dept. and am told to expect wide-angle shots with a little more lens flair. The Diana was a birthday present and this will be my first time to actually play with it, now that I can actually develop 120 b&w I have to send off my rolls of color, but the Art Dept should pay for it!!! and I haven’t used the little red since I was in the single digits, so I’m excited to see the results. The best part about my little toy cameras: I can easily fit all 3 into my purse!

I’m thinking of using this time, when I can find free time, to start WarPaint as self portraits and working outwards from there. If only color film processing was a little easier/cheaper, I’d do my whole series this way!