For me, one of the wonderful gifts of photography is the sheer delight of playing with lines, shapes and colours.
An image doesn’t have to have an identifiable subject to fascinate or move me. It doesn’t even have to have a relatable subject. It doesn’t even have to capture my imagination, although I love photographs that do that as well.
It just has to speak to me on some unconscious level through lines and shapes and colours. It can be distilled down to pure perception.
For me, the same has always been true of painting, so I guess this makes some sense. I’ve always loved the non-representational. I’m a huge fan of abstract artists like Lawren Harris, Wassily Kandinky and Mark Rothko, to name only a few.
I was thrilled to discover that I could make my own abstracts with photography, and I always wonder why I don’t do it more. I guess I get caught up in using photography to record and represent my observable reality in a way that is more or less recognizable. And let’s face it, that is what photography is most associated with.
But then from time to time, I get startled out of this mode and I’m able to see things in a more abstract way. The other night we were driving in the rain. It was very dark and the world outside looked mysterious. The colourful lights of the other cars and of the passing city made striking patterns on the windshield. The wipers left tracks on the windshield on top of the blurry lights. I woke up and grabbed my camera.
I recently stumbled upon a young photographer whose work also has the effect of waking me up. Her name is Felicia Simion and she actually started taking pictures at 13. Now only 20, she has developed an utterly incredible body of work and received many awards and accolades.
I love that Felicia has not become super-specialized in only one genre of photography — she does portraits as well as landscapes as well as surreal dreamscapes as well as street photography and on and on. She says: “I was never able to stick to one genre of photography. I had to know about and experience them all. The world is too vast to fit into a landscape or a portrait. It needs to be painted with so much light that it would lead the sun towards eternal blindness.”
The prompt for the August Break today is handwriting — and I was all set to go in that direction — until I spotted this beautiful face and exquisite face-painting at a puppet festival in town. I thought it was appropriate.
How’s that you say? It reminded me of Japanese flower painting, which reminded me of calligraphy, which is a form of handwriting, so that’s how I made the association…(my mind is weird that way…)
Now for another treat. I just discovered the work of Elle Bruce, a Canadian photographer, through 500px. When I entered her site, I immediately knew this was someone whose photography I wanted to see more of.
I have started to dip into her blog and am thoroughly enjoying her posts. Too many landscapes these days are way overdone in my opinion — contrived and over-processed. Elle’s are quiet and subtle, but they get under your skin.
Drink in the cool stillness and refresh your soul…
I have to say that I’m thrilled with some of the new features of Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop CC. Straightening lines and removing distortion has become so incredibly fast and easy. Problems in perspective and converging verticals used to plague me. I would stay away from photographing buildings and architecture because of that. But no more.
Here’s a great little video about five features to love. Julieanne Kost, Adobe’s Principal Digital Imaging Evangelist, is one of my favorite teachers — direct, to-the-point and easy to follow. Whether you use PS or Lightroom, she knows all, and teaches all, so well.
You may already be familiar with Julieanne and her tutorials. But did you know that she is also a fabulous photographer? Because she travels so much for her work, she found herself taking lots of pictures out of airplane windows. This resulted in one of the most beautiful and astonishing collections of “window seat” images I’ve ever seen. Why not take a trip with Julianne?
For anybody wondering if they have a recognizable photographic style or worrying that they don’t, have a look at this great article by Guy Tal. He has a very different view of the issue than you find on mainstream photography blogs.“A word of advice: stop searching. Forget vision; forget personal style; forget unique voice. These are not goals, they are by-products. The most meaningful art you can make should not be about visual effects but about the way you respond to and interpret the world.”
Both Tal and Sloma agree that a style is actually a moving target.
Guy Tal, whose landscape work is quite magnificent, points to the fact that some of the greatest artists in history did not begin and end their careers with one style that never changed. In fact they are known for distinct periods in their work. He says that what many photographers have these days is a “trademark” look designed for saleability, not a unique personal style.“The only way to find a style, once and for all, is to stop evolving as a person. When you change, your style should change with you. Allow yourself to explore, to follow your inklings, to experiment, to adapt with new knowledge, skills and experiences.”
If your goal is truly developing yourself, Kat Sloma offers some direction:“Create more opportunities to explore the parts of photography with which you truly resonate. When you find those interests, follow them but never stop testing them. Explore new things in your photography, both variations on what you already enjoy and completely new directions. Continue to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. And as you do, ask yourself – is this still where I want to be? Does this direction resonate with me? When you answer yes or no, you refine your path. You hone the edge of your style by continually challenging it. You either gain clarity on your current path or you change your direction, forging an even deeper connection with your images.”
The way I see it, if we follow this advice, we can quit worrying. We can relax, enjoy the process of exploration and our images will reflect who we are and then who we are becoming.
“Today is…” a kick-back-and-appreciate-life kinda day on my August Break…
And a cuppa tea or coffee (take your pick!) always makes everything better, don’t you think?
And another thing that makes everything better is spending a little quality online time with Dotti Rinehart and Terri Porter and the rest of the remarkable women behind the Focusing on Life blog: Judy, Kim, Carol, Leigh, Linda, Kelly, Susan, Cathy and Deanna.
I always find something to delight me — or inform me — or challenge me — or sometimes even comfort me — on this collective blog. And oh the visual treats! They just keep on coming.
And while each contributing photographer/writer has her own aesthetic and voice, they all blend and complement each other beautifully on the blog.
This past winter Dotti invited me to contribute a guest post. It was quite a thrill to be included in such an accomplished group.
If I were ever to meet Dotti (and you never know, maybe some day I will!), I’m sure she would serve me tea in one of her huge assortment of mugs and we would have a grand old chat about books and granddaughters — and photography, of course. We would sit on her porch and then she would show me her garden. I would be in heaven. I am such a fan of the magic Dotti makes with her phone and her DSLR.
I also feel very fortunate to own an actual piece of FOL herstory. Last year I entered their giveaway and emerged the lucky winner of one of Terri’s collage posters — a striking collection of colourful barrio doors. It is now mounted and hangs on my wall for my ongoing viewing pleasure. (I do so love pictures of doors and windows!)
Here are some recent FOL posts I’ve particularly enjoyed and admired, both for their insights and their imagery.
- Of Transitions and Treasures by Dotti
- The Awesomeness of Aging by Terri
- Pretty in Pink by Kim
- Overcoming the Zeigarnik Effect by Judy
- Ripe with Inspiration by Kelly
- ‘Simple’ PS Summertime Tip by Susan
- Turning Sixty by Cathy
- Summertime and the Reading is Easy by Carol
- The Less I Did, the Less I Did by Linda
- A Look Back by Leigh
- A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words by Deanna
I want to mention Carol Hart here too because she is a former member of the group whose photography chops are also impressive. As is her garden!
So if you’re inspired by women who talk about the joys and frustrations of their creative lives — and all the rest of their lives — with candor and courage and compassion, and take splendid pictures to boot — then stop in at Focusing on Life for a wee while. You can also join in by adding your photos to their flickr pool and participating in their monthly themes.