On the Self

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Again, it comes to my attention that self portraits are very important to being a photographer. It forces you to know what your model is going through, and understand that sometimes the most flattering position, is not the most comfortable, among other things.

Being on both sides of the camera gives you a sense of what you need to do as the photographer to improve everyone’s experience on set. Self portraits allow you to practice lighting, retouching, poses, camera angles and especially focus.

And of course, all technicality aside, self portraits are a perfect outlet for expression. Expressing oneself through a model doesn’t always end up with the result you’re seeking. Their face might not be just right because they don’t feel what you feel. Sometimes, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself…or something like that.

{For more of my work, visit my Instagram}

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Quirktastic

 

There’s something I’ve always loved about weirdos. They’re unique. Not afraid to be themselves. I know I can be pretty weird myself, so naturally, I like to  show it in my work.

I love the idea of beautiful people doing weird things. Completely opposite of what the general population would find attractive. I suppose it’s what I find attractive. I feel it adds something different to your average portrait of someone. A portraits purpose is to show the person how they are, so why not add a few of their personality traits?

{For more of my work, visit my Instagram}

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Creative People in Public Schools: An Essay

Ok, so it’s not really an essay.

Look, here’s the deal…

I don’t really like venting to the general public, but there are some things that really just need to be said. Today’s topic: creative people in public schools.

Now, I’m sure many of my fellow creatives have been told the same thing as I have: ‘art doesn’t pay the bills.’  As a young student, generally grades K-12, kids are encouraged to take “elective” classes: art, photography, ceramics, etc. And that’s all those classes are. Electives.  But to some of us, they’re not just electives. That’s what we want to do with our lives. Only problem is, nobody tells you about art schools in high school,* it’s like it was forbidden or something.

*Yes, the is a generalized statement, there are some schools that do mention art colleges, but the majority of public schools in this country like to push people more towards academic schools. (Especially after they cut major funding to the arts and physical education departments nation wide.)

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For the longest time, I never wanted to go to college. There was nothing there for me. I’m not good at math, I’m ok at english but I don’t want to be a teacher or journalist, science is cool and all, but it generally involves, you know, math, and electives are just for funsies, right? No. Stop telling people this.

There was a teacher I had in high school, Brett Tujague. who always supported my love for photography and was the one that convinced me, in the end to go to college. Not necessarily for photography, mind you, as he was in the same boat the rest of them were with the whole art thing. But never the less, he encouraged me to go to a 4 year college to ‘see what I liked.’ And I will admit, the two years I spent at CSU Monterey Bay weren’t completely wasted. I took some amazing classes that I feel made my education a little more rounded. Feminist theories, beginning business, communications, science, and of course, photography. I definitely enjoyed my time there, and had a really fun job as a CSO Officer at our campus police station, which also broadened my horizons as a person.

At some point during my time, I was doing some photography research online and found this school, Brooks Institute, that specialized specifically in commercial photography. I sent out for a course packet to see what they were all about, and that was that. I was a Brookie from then on.

The point is, you can be a professional photographer or artist. Instead of telling people it can’t be done, you really need to get into the reality of the situation here. You just have to be smart about it. Don’t get in the mind-set that art can’t be taught, because believe me, it can. Especially with a technical medium like photography, it’s really important to go to school and learn all you can about your art form. Brooks Institute and the amazing teachers there* taught me more about photography than I had ever hoped to learn. It’s a difficult, (and expensive) road, and you’ll get a lot of rejection and struggle along the way, but you can, in fact, be an artist for a living. You’ve just got to look at it a little differently. 

*Shout out to Ralph Clevenger, Paul Meyer, Eliot Crowley and Bill Robbins!

There are a lot of artists who won’t sacrifice their vision for money, and I get it, we’re usually a pretty stubborn bunch. But for the rest of us who don’t want to be stuck at a desk job, or customer service knowing we will never be passionate about it, we’ve got to find a way to do what we were meant to do. It’s ok to gear yourself towards a commercial form of art. The way I see it, commercial art is still creative, and it pays the bills. You can always do your own art along the way, but at least your day job isn’t slowly killing you inside.

“Ignoring your passion is slow suicide. Never ignore what your heart pumps for. Build your career around your lifestyle, not your lifestyle around your career.” – Kevin Claiborne

{To see more of my work, visit my Instagram}

**On a more sad (and horribly ironic) note: About 2 minutes after posting this blog and tagging my totally awesome teachers in it, Paul Meyer replied back saying they just announced TODAY that Brooks Institute is closing for good on October 31st, 2016. After being open for 70 years of higher education, I am proud to say that I am one of the ones who graduated before it all ended. I would not be the same person I am today without the inspiration and knowledge given to me by the wonderful faculty of Brooks Institute. It saddens me to know that future generations will not be able to experience Blue Spheres, 6 Pack, Grey Box, Black Glass, (whispy-dos and whispy-dont’s included), and many other tedious assignments that turned people who like to take pictures into professional photographers. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

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Sisters

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As a photographer, I’m constantly bombarded with my own ideas. Ideas that I may or may not be able to execute due to budget, lack of location, models, etc.

There are times though when the mood strikes that I really just need to get an idea out. It’s not always a large production with professional models, makeup, hair, wardrobe. And to me, I feel like that’s what gives it character. I don’t want to always see models. I want to see people. Real people.

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Meet Siobahn and Anstiss. Two close friends of mine that are always down for a spontaneous photoshoot, even if it requires standing in the southern California sun in a blazer. I love the idea of shooting siblings with a little bit of a twist, and their unique looks both bring something extra to the images.

This particular shoot was a bit of a struggle for me. I will admit, shooting in natural sunlight has never really been my strong suit, (as odd as that seems), and I’ve been making an effort to practice more. It’s difficult for me to even out the contrast of dappled lighting and capture lens flare in a way that doesn’t wash out the image. It’s something I’ll need to work on I think, so I’m sure there will be more of these spur-of-the-moment shoots to post about in the future. As they say, practice makes perfect.

Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection. -Kim Collins

{For more photos from this series and others, visit my Instagram}

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The Photographer’s Dilemma

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The Idea: The Main Vision

Any creative person would agree that sometimes ideas just kind of pop in your head.  It can be triggered by pretty much anything; a thought you had, something you saw, read, felt, etc. Half the time, the idea is unexplainable to the general public and then you have to try to come up with something that they’ll understand, but really, you saw the image in your head and thought it would look cool. I feel like a lot of people want to know exactly what the artist was thinking when they created their masterpiece, or the reasoning behind it, what they were feeling. Personally, I lean more towards art that I can interpret my own meaning from, and hope that the people who view my work do the same. Yes, there are times when I do have a specific meaning or mood behind my work, but ultimately, I don’t want to have to explain myself, because not everybody is going to understand. Why do I put facial hair on my models? I dunno, I just like to.

The Inspiration: The Problem With Pinterest

Once the idea hits, now you want visual stimulation to keep you on the right track. This is where Pinterest usually comes in. Problem no. 1 with Pinterest: what the hell do you type into the search bar? ‘Edgy models with moustaches,’ ‘fashion editorials with shoulder epaulettes,’ ‘naked women touching themselves, but not in a pornographic way?’ Not everything comes up the way you want it to, and there’s no real saying you’re going to find what you’re looking for to keep your inspiration going. And you HAVE to keep the inspiration going.

Problem no. 2 with Pinterest: the inspiration you need pops up, but so does a lot of other cool stuff. This is where the inspiration overload comes in. This is where your ideas change, and evolve into what you will eventually attempt to create.

The Idea: Again

After way to much inspiration, you kind of have to start at the beginning. The idea has become something different, but relatively along the same track as where you started.

The shoot: Technical Difficulties

As with everything else in life, things don’t always go as planned. Don’t worry, you’re still going to get your vision out there, it just may not be as easy as you planned. Or maybe it will, who knows. I find that about half of the shoots I plan out, I have one idea in my head, but when I get there and I’m shooting, it doesn’t quite look the way I imagined. This is where you kind of have to just roll with it.

I’ll admit, I’m kind of an unusual artist. Most artists go with the flow of life. Their creativity comes easily and they can just create, create, create. My process is actually quite structured. I have to really think about what I’m doing and plan accordingly. That being said, this step in the process is where I’ve had to really learn to let go. Instead of getting discouraged when something doesn’t quite look the way I plan, I have learned to alter my process as things come up. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my moments of frustration, but in the end, I know I’ll still have workable images, even if it’s not what I originally pictured in my head.

The Post Production: The Part the General Public Pretends Doesn’t Exist

This is the most painstakingly slow part of the process that a lot of photographers hate. This is also the part of the process that the general public likes to ignore. “You can shoot this event for me for $50 right? I need 150-200 images.” Do you know how long it takes to do the post production for that many images? No. Absolutely not worth it for that price. But at the same time, fashion magazines and celebrity photographers get so much crap for the amount of retouching they do. Let me tell you, EVERYTHING is retouched. If you’ve had your portrait taken, and it looks like an unretouched version, it’s not. You just went to a really professional photographer. You have wrinkles, but they are lessened. Your skin looks clean and not to shiny, that would be the patch tool. The idea is to give you the best version of yourself. It looks untouched, but it’s not. That beautiful photo of the Scottish countryside that must have been just that gorgeous? The saturation has been brought up, maybe a different sky put in, the random person in the background with their hand in a cows backside has been removed completely.

It’s tedious and time-consuming, but for me personally, the retouching is the therapeutic part. The part I’m most proud of. Look how good I made this photo look! Please don’t ignore the fact that I spent six hours making it look perfect so you can criticize how much I pushed someone’s arm in so the proportions look the way they would in person.

The Final Product: Completely Different From the Original Vision

No, it’s not ALWAYS different, but sometimes it is. And that’s ok. The point is to get your creative idea out there. You still have a beautiful piece that showcases your talents and gives you an outlet to express yourself.

The Submission: Picking the Magazine

In the end, we all want to get our work out there. Most of the personal work I do, I try to get published. It’s hit or miss, and more often than not, ends in disappointment. But I keep doing it, because there’s no point in not trying.

A big part of submissions is picking the right outlet for your work. If you shoot landscapes, don’t submit your photos to a fashion magazine and vice versa. Common sense really. That being said, I shoot fashion, and there are a TON of different styles and magazines that showcase different types of fashion. Picking the right magazine is very important, so study them all, and pick carefully.

The Waiting Game

The last part of the process, waiting  to see if your work gets picked. The tricky part is how long do you have to wait before trying a different source? Most magazines want exclusive editorials, and if they don’t decide to go with your work, they’re not going to take the time to tell you, “sorry, we’ve gone with another candidate at this time.” Some websites will have a submissions section that will say that if you don’t hear from them in about a month, then they probably haven’t picked your work and you can submit to somewhere else. Others don’t, so you just have to use your best judgement and hope that you’ve waited the proper amount of time.

The hardest part, is that during the time you’re waiting, you can’t post the images on any social media outlet or even your own website/portfolio. As I said, magazines want exclusivity, so if people have already seen the work, it’s a no go.

All in all, the process is long and tedious and sometimes frustrating, but every part of it is another push forward. Take your time, don’t get too attached to the work and just let your creative process flow naturally.

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