Saturday, October 4, 2008

Photographer's Favourite

Photographer’s Favourite features two specially selected images from a Photographers of Etsy team member, and their personal thoughts about them. The first photo is from their own collection, and the other is from a fellow teammate.

Today's selection is particularly special. It has been chosen by Linda Woods of MoonbirdHillArts. Linda was kind enough to give us an intimate glimpse not only into her favourite image this week, but also into her past and present daily life and artistic point of view.

Linda writes:

I have been taking pictures for as long as I can remember. When I was in college, I majored in ceramic arts and minored in photography. My teachers were Ed Hill, Suzanne Bloom, and George Krause. The spark was there before I took their classes, but the wildfire started in college and has continued.

Much of my work revolves around nature themes. What I try to do in my work is to capture the spirit of the animal I am shooting. It’s the life force, the drama, and the beauty of nature that keeps me coming back to it as a subject. I strive to take pictures that are so much more than a simple photo of a cow, horse, bird, dog, or whatever. Sometimes there is a joie de vivre captured in their eyes or body language. Other times it is simply the curiosity and engagement in their eyes that draw me into their world. I also enjoy injecting humor or spoof into some of my work.

We live in a farmhouse in Chappell Hill, Texas. In 2006 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. We had had our farmhouse exactly one year when I was diagnosed. The first year we had our farmhouse was the happiest year of our marriage. My nature-starved husband and I immersed ourselves into every day we spent here in a way that we had not lived before. I often stated that I could “hear” the energy of things growing here, and new life. It was certainly sensed, and a sharp contrast to our city life in Houston.

When I was diagnosed, the farmhouse became “the healing house.” I took a year off from work from my job as an elementary/middle school art teacher to take care of myself as I went through treatment. During that year, I taught my writer-husband, Chris, how to handle a camera and I also taught him Photoshop. It was a wonderful experience to have that time with him to do that. We opened our Etsy store mainly with photographs taken during this time. Indeed, the healing house extended into the healing yard, the healing view, the healing community, and the healing life forces all around us in the area. Our photography became our daily addiction, passion, and diversion as we waded our way through my treatment time. Nature was our cure as much as the medicine. And now, I am cancer free.

The photo I have selected as my favorite from my own images of the day is “Sanctuary".

I made friends with a neighbor who has 11 horses and I often spend time in her meadows with these horses and my camera. I feel like I have landed in heaven to be permitted by my friend to be free in the pasture with them anytime I wish. Many of my recent photos feature these beautiful animals, as I have grown to know their personalities. No two are alike.

The two white horses in this photo are rescue horses. When my friend adopted them they were starving. They had their own healing to do out in my friend’s pastures. Now they are two well-fed, content and inseparable mares. There are a lot of big and small rituals in their day. Spending time under this tree is one of them. What excites me about this image is the strong composition featuring the v-shaped split in the tree. This V shape creates the feeling of a window into their time and place. The bold and dark lines of the tree are a wonderful contrast to the mysterious softness of the atmosphere and the horses.

I have a Sony DSC-H9 camera. This photo was shot using the manual shutter speed setting. I worked it up in Photoshop; however, I needed to do very little to the image other than tweak the saturation a bit. I love playing in Photoshop and view it as a tool to enhance just about any photograph. Knowing when NOT to use it is the key. It’s great fun to have the option to choose what to do with images using this tool.

The image I selected as my favorite by another photographer is “Learning to Fly,” by Wrenay Gomez Charlton of wrenphoto from San Francisco.

What drew me immediately to this image is the mystery of it, as well as the skill and imagination of the photographer. I love a photo that mystifies me, and this photo did just that. I felt entranced as I looked at this girl in the act of learning something that all humans have wished at one time or another to be able to do. A bit spooky, this image is captivating in its blurriness and by the glimpse into this child’s trance-like state as she takes her first flight. Another thing that I love about this photo is the masterful control of the brilliance of the red dress and the dropping off of other colors. The contrast of the highlight and shadow in the tree is soft and beautiful. I feel like a voyeur as I gaze at this otherworldly image.

I have never done any manipulations with a Polaroid and know nothing about how it is done, so I wrote to Wrenay to ask her more about her image. Here is her beautiful explanation of her series and the meaning behind this photo:

The image “Learning to Fly” is part of the series, “Inheritance.” I base the photos on childhood incidents and memories. As children, we are not aware of our mortality, and are often convinced we possess abilities beyond our human capabilities. This idea is the genesis of all the photos in the series. Conceptually, I am interested in the transformation that happens during the space of childhood and how we are shaped by familial and societal idealizations of childhood and reality.

The work is created with an SX-70 Polaroid camera. My particular model has manual controls that allow me to control the focus, which is how I create the in-camera manipulation of these photos. I clean up any dust and make color corrections in Photoshop.

"The photo “Learning to Fly” is one of my personal favorites from the series. The red dress and Mary Jane shoes are, to me, quintessential little girl icons. I think the action of pretending to fly is something we have all done as children, and this gives the image a timeless quality."

In many ways, the mysteries of the animal world parallel the mysteries of the human world. Animals are indeed mysteries to us as we are not one of them. We can imagine that we know what they are thinking; however, we cannot actually talk with them about what they think. Clearly, they have feelings. The mind of a child is another area that is a mystery to us as adults. We can remember our own childhoods, but we are never to experience anyone else’s childhood as our own. As photographers, we venture into these worlds with curiosity and awe, attempting to tell a story. We click our shutters at what moves us. We want so much to have others relate to our images, to feel from them, and to move them into uncharted territory. We are so much richer from the experience; otherwise, our cameras would remain on a shelf. I celebrate the sharing of ideas and techniques available through this blog. Learning together, we are growing into better photographers.

Thank you Linda!

Photographer's Favourite is compiled by Rhiannon Connelly. She’s a professional portrait and fine art photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Most of the photographs she currently shows on Etsy are what she calls “Polaroid Paintings” – using the nearly extinct SX70 Polaroid film to create dreamy images halfway between photograph and painting. One of the best things about this technique is that after taking the photograph most of the work is done in a cafe! See more in her Etsy shop , her website and her blog.

Please contact Rhiannon if you would like to participate in a future Photographer's Favourite.

1 comment:

Pfeiffer Photos said...

Now that is inspiring. The story about the house and the healing and the horses...just lovely all around. Thanks!