Monday, March 31, 2014

Make a Statement

by Carol

Can't see the forest - it's the trees

One of the curses of being born between 1946 and 1964 is that it's very hard to achieve originality. No matter what terrific ideas we baby boomers come up with, it seems someone else has always been there and done that.  I'll take it a step further - baby boomers invented the phrase "been there and done that!" So all that we can hope to add to the dialogue is our personal take on the subject.

A while ago here, I wrote about finding your style. That post was met with a lot of comments. Many people said "designating a style for myself would limit me and I like to take photographs of everything." But I am going to keep making the case that finding your style does not limit you - it furthers your story. In the style workshop I took, we were all asked to develop artist statements. We added pieces to them throughout the workshop exercises, and we have all kept adding since. Now that I am entering pieces in juried shows, many entry forms ask for an artist's statement. Some want a general statement like the one from the workshop. Some want a statement relative to your series of shots for the particular theme of the show. Often the statements are hung with the photos.

Here is a partial list of features that I've discovered my shots have in common:
     *  warm , deep colors, or black and white - few brights or light pastels
     *  a very close crop
     *  stillness - very few shots denote motion even when my topic is moving
     *  there are NO people in my photos

A close crop rather than the whole dog

Stillness even in the presence of motion
Having to think and rethink about style has improved my photography by great lengths. In one of the first lectures I ever attended on photography the teacher said that you need to look for the "OH!" moment. It's that moment when you walk by something - no matter what the subject - and say "OH!"  As beginners, we tend to take the whole field - the house with the picket fence in front. But as you become more intentional, you realize it's the flower peaking through the fence into the light that made you go "Oh!" Spend your time there and you will make a better image.
subtle color

This was really brought home to me this week. I took a class last Sunday on hand-coloring your photographs. (more on that in a different post). Prior to the course we were asked to print out the pictures we wanted to use for various coloring exercises ( with colored pencils, pan pastels and water color). We were sent articles to read, and websites to sample, but the over all direction was to print out pictures with a lot of white, and pictures that are bold and simple. Well, here's the thing - I went through five years of archives - thousands of my pictures, and I could count on one hand the pictures I had made that were bold and simple. Apparently I don't do bold and simple! Put that on the list for the next artist statement!

     *details everywhere - never bold and simple

details, details

And now when I enter a shoot I think differently about how to tell my story. I take a walk in the forest and I see a great scene. SNAP  Then I ask myself, where is the "OH!"  What made me gasp and stop and say I have to have that shot? Maybe it wasn't the forest - maybe it was one tree; SNAP  Maybe it was a detail on the tree; SNAP  a texture; SNAP  a reflection;SNAP   a nest, the bark, the angle of the sun.   SNAP SNAP SNAP  And then I take one last step - I turn around and look behind me and around me.  I often find a unique take this way that defines me and my experience of that forest. And that's how I make an image that is different than the rest of the baby boomers holding cameras similar to mine.  That's how it becomes "intentional." Dotti, Kelly and Kim all touched on this recently. If my heart is in that image - if  my soul is reflected in it - the resulting photo has a much greater chance of capturing your heart and soul.

Show us some of your intentional moments. What drew you in? I look forward to getting to know you better in Flickr, Instagram, or 365.  And comment on what you see in each other's images - sometimes it takes a view from the outside to see inside.


Sarah Huizenga said...

I know those "OH" moments. They make you stop and really look. I go through phases of style, but always come back to quiet, simple, close crops and a natural color palette.

Viv@within the Frame said...

I know what you mean everything seems to click into place it's that sweet spot. I get so excited when that happens. Out and about I tend to zoom in on one element , a hand a blade of grass and so on.

Peggy said...

Thank you for today's post by reading your thoughts and perspective on the photographic process I become a better picture taker. I have no access to classes so when I read articles like yours it helps me enhance my skills. I will look for the Oh moment.

Cathy H. said...

Great post this morning! I didn't think I had a particular style, until I took a class about it. That's when I realized I do have a style, it includes details, close-ups, and shapes. That's not saying I don't try different styles, I do and I always learn something. But, my best images are back in my style, the one my heart sees. The ones where I say "OH!"

Dotti said...

Excellent post, Carol! One worth reading more than once. Whether we recognize it or not, we do each have our own style. That's not to see we don't stretch ourselves and try new things, We should, in fact, do that. But more than likely, at then end of our shoot, the best work will be that type of photography that speaks to our hearts. And it is that which defines our style. Yes, definitely something to keep pondering. Really great post, Carol! Kudos.

gina said...

Thank you for this post, it's very helpful. I'm still trying to define my style, I seem to be all over the place. I love that "oh" moment -- for me that's what photography is all about.

simply bev said...

Great post this morning! Thanks for sharing your info with us!

terriporter said...

Love this post! For a long time I thought I really didn't have any kind of style. But the more I shoot the more I realize that I gravitate toward color and the tiny details of things. I'm more apt to shoot the center of a flower than a whole field of them. That's what makes me say "Oh" and those are the photos that make me happy after I take them. So I suppose you would call my style "colorfully detailed" :-). As Dotti said, this is a post to read over again and I'm going back to do that right now!

Kim Stevens said...

"OH!", that's how your post makes me feel :) Yes, that oh moment and for me it's the same thing...I basically stalk my subject from every angle, get to know it and how it makes me feel. Like Terri, I'm all about the details, all about up close and personal. Wonderful post Carol!! xo

AFishGirl said...

I came back and read this twice. It's great. Thank you, food for thought.

Cathy said...

Yes, I too read this twice. It took me doing a 365 before I understood my style. I had to let go of perfect and understand I am more about capturing my everyday, simple moments and following the light. Like Dotti I try and move outside that box and stretch myself, but when I look back, the style is there. Great post Carol.

kelly said...

i think the idea of style is quite liberating actually. for me it's settling in and being comfortable with the way i see things. my own 'oh' moments. regardless of what it might be or how it might be different from someone else's 'oh' moment. and now that i feel confident in my vision, it has brought a renewed joy in photography for me. wow...a wonderful post carol! thank you for this.

Sue said...

Such a great post. I have been thinking around this for some time now but you make me realise that I do need to pin my style down. Not as a limitation but as a focus of my work so that I can do what I like even more!

Post a Comment

Thank you for sharing part of your day with us. If for any reason you are unable to leave a comment here on this post, please leave your comment on our Facebook page or in our Flickr discussion group. We love hearing from you!

© Focusing On Life