Thursday, May 28, 2009

Focus On: House Of Six Cats


Nearly two years ago, House of Six Cats, a.k.a. Bill (or House, as many of us refer to him) opened his photography shop on Etsy. Right away, his wit and affable personality allowed him to make lots of friends on the site. House has a unique combination of blunt honesty and kindness that make him trustworthy and someone to go to for information and inspiration. I was lucky enough to meet Bill right after I opened my own Etsy shop shortly after his, and it's with much pleasure that we've all gotten to know him and his family. I'm quite certain his friendliness and entrepreneurial spirit have encouraged many others to create their own photography shops and galleries.

We had a chance to talk earlier this month about Bill's life as a photographer, some of his favorite techniques and what's he's up to these days.

Ann: Here's one thing I've always liked about you and your work -- you've taken the time to scan your work from your earlier days with your film camera. The results are wonderful. What have you learned over these years?

Bill: Wow, OK, so you're gonna make me think, huh? Well, this might have something to do with the fact I didn't pick up a camera for more than ten years before I got a DSLR and fell back in love with the art. When I started taking pictures seriously again, I went through all my old slides and negs looking for images that might be marketable. While doing this I started to remember why I fell in love with photography in the first place! I felt like I was learning to shoot all over again. It's like riding a bike, I mean, you know how to meter and expose an image. However, the nuances of creating an image, and not just a picture, isn't as easy. Looking through my hundreds of images really helped me remember how to compose an image. Now, whenever I'm looking through the viewfinder, I'm thinking to myself, "composition, composition, composition!"

A: Your Etsy shop announcement shows your exhibiting in the Portland area! Fantastic! When did you start doing art shows? What's it like -- nervewracking or exhilirating -- and why? What do you like and dislike about art shows?

B: I was invited to do "Hip Happening" in the Sellwood district of Portland in March, and it was my first show. I had a great time. I earned my table fee back, and I did tons of networking. It turns out that Hip Happening is held every second Saturday, and I did it again in April. I did much better at that show and got a few leads on local shops, and I started collaborating with some local artists, too! I plan on doing this event every month. Every show I tweak my setup and always get rave reviews of my stuff! So far, I love doing the shows! I love meeting other artisans, and it is all about the networking! Almost everyone I've met at the shows are friendly, helpful and always willing to talk shop.

Because of a connection I made at a show, I got a lead on a new retail gallery opening at the end of May. I e-mailed the owner, and she accepted me just from what she saw in my Etsy shop! The place is called "Love Art", also in the Sellwood district of Portland, only a few blocks from where the monthly show is. The grand opening is June 5. I'll be taking photographs at the opening for advertising and press releases. The gallery is a collection of local artists, and we'll always have space in her gallery and a catalog of our work for patrons to browse. I am VERY excited about this, as you can well imagine!

A: Tell us more about your TTV (Through The Viewfinder) photography.

B: I discovered TTV images on Etsy nearly two years ago. I fell in love with the look and feel. While visiting my wife's grandfather in August, 2007, I asked him if he might have any old cameras lying around in his attic, and I totally scored! He had an Argus 75 in excellent condition, and he was awesome enough to let me have it! On that same day, I created a make-shift contraption for the camera to be able to take TTV photographs. During that trip, I must have taken over 1,000 photographs, and nearly half of them were TTV images! Since then, I've made a much nicer housing, and when I go out to shoot, I must decide if I'm going to shoot TTV or not. I find it too much of a hassle to try to shoot both ways every time I go out.

A: Can you briefly describe how to make the TTV contraption which links your digital camera to your old camera? Have you found any good tutorial links on the internet you'd care to share?

B: Well, first you need to determine the shortest focal length of your lens, and that should be on the lens somewhere. Then measure that distance from the viewfinder and see if the image is in focus on your digital camera. Now, find a box or cardboard that's long enough and can go around all four sides of the old camera. Next, you will need to experiment with how you want the cardboard to fit the old camera body and new camera lens, so the image on the viewfinder is in focus and the whole thing is comfortable to use.

You can see my rig here.

I've found another tutorial which is extremely helpful. And, this one on Flickr is also good.

A: If you had the freedom to spend an entire day doing nothing but taking photographs, how would you spend that day? What would you look for?

B: Well, that's not an easy question to answer. I have quite a few ideas and locations I need to find the time for. I'd want to have a fellow photographer along with me, but most likely I'd go out on my own. I want to go up to the mountains to shoot there before the snow melts. I want to go out and drive around looking for abandoned barns. I need to get to downtown Portland and shoot some architecture. There are more, but those jump to mind first.

As far as what I'd look for, that's easy -- seeing the world just a little differently than everyone else!

Dewdrop Trail

Thanks, Bill!

A world traveler and self-taught photographer, look for Ann wandering around city streets and tromping through woods and hiking trails with her camera. After owning an international transportation business for many years, Ann has found her creative spirit again through the lens. See more at Ann's shop and her website, and say hello to her on her blog too.


Pam said...

I saw this interview comming when I was thinking about writing my weekly post! And I just knew it would be a good one! I didn't peek early, but boy was I tempted! lol

Ann, way to go, very well put together interview! I really enjoy reading your interviews!

Bill, I love your work and as Ann said, your work is inspiring. If I had to choose a favorite image of yours I am not sure I could! Seaside Memory has always been one of my favorites!

I can't wait to see your future images, as I know they will be wonderful!

readingsully2 said...

Congrats, Ann. Lovely shots.

Lady Farrah's by Locklear said...

I absolutely LOVE Bill's work!

Ann Wilkinson said...

Thanks, Pam! Hey, Bill just posted some images of the art gallery in Portland, Love Art, he'll be hanging his work. check it out:

Looks like a fantastic space, and anyone in the Portland area, or anyone visiting, please make sure to visit. It looks like an easy place to drop a few bucks and feel good doing so!

houseofsixcats said...

Ann, thank you so much for the great interview! I had fun answering your questions and it looks great!

Pam, thank you for the warm comment!

Made by SwirlyGirl said...

Great interview and absolutely incredible photography! Thanks for the inspiration! Laurie

loriotndorr::sloriot said...

great interview...lovely shots!

Karen Casey-Smith said...

Loved the interview! Bill's work is amazing, and I love watching how it evolves. He's definitely an inspiration and a catalyst for action. :)