Sunday, February 28, 2016

Are we sharing the found treasure from within?

Photo courtesy of Shutters for Shelters
He pushes the shopping chart up and down the aisles like a dance! He stops to consider the mental list in his head:  Toothbrush. Check. Oranges. Check. Suddenly he stops in his tracks and wonders where in the store are the dog treats. But he has an even bigger question on this mind once he finds it. He turns to us and asks, " Won’t you let me unpack my groceries in your new forever home?”

It is amazing the stories that can be brought to life by photography. It is even more astonishing the narratives of animals captured by the non-profit known as Shutters for Shelters
"Won't you let me be the princess of your castle?"
Photo courtesy of Shutters for Shelters

This non-profit in Southern Colorado advocates for animals by capturing their personalities. They work with shelters to provide quality photographs at no cost. These photographs are a critical piece in helping animals find forever homes. The more animals that are adopted, the more space these shelters have and thus more lives are saved.

The hero’s journey in mythology involves developing your talents, finding a treasure and then sharing it with others. I believe this group fits this description. These are talented photographers whose treasure is their found love of animals. They use their skill, time and creativity to positively impact a serious problem of homeless pets. 

We can do the same thing in whatever arena that touches our heart. Like King Arthur, we need to pull the sword out of the rock. The sword, like acts of compassion, doesn’t do anyone any good unless we take action.   Will we take hold of all we have learned and use it to help better our community?

Feel free to share in the comments section your own hero's journey or those you've noticed doing amazing things. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Have we lost our inner child?

Has a critique early in life broken our creative spirit?
It started with a feeling. That is what I wanted to capture. As we cut out our eyes, trunk and ears, it was time to put them all together. I looked around and everyone was placing them in just the right places. But I knew better.  I glued them on the construction paper out of place, angled in the wrong direction and bent in some places. What resulted looked like a collaboration between Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. Because I did not follow directions in art class, I received an NI, which stands for “Needs Improvement.” I was taught that doing it like everyone else was right and being different was wrong. I eventually started doing art like I was supposed to and that destroyed my interest in it until after high school.

No one ever asked me why I made my construction paper elephant that way. I made it that way because the elephants I saw at the zoo were sad and I was like them. This art project was about expressing an emotion and connecting another creature on this earth with my experience growing up. That connection was dismissed by adults that didn't take an interest in what this project meant to me. It makes me wonder how many young creative talents have been broken or destroyed by the critique of an adult?

In some ways, I still feel like that child. Many around me really do not understand what I’m doing with my art and sadly won’t take the time to ask me. They instead look at it with wandering eyes if they look at it at all. Some make prejudgments about it and me. That’s why I’m grateful for those that did take the time to listen to what I’m trying to say. I have my first solo art exhibit coming up and have a radio interview about it.  I’m happy to report this show will be different than the other figurative works people may have seen!

I believe we are all artists in our own way. The exploration of our talent  can be be a difficult road because it opens us up to ridicule and critique. But it also offers a tremendous opportunity to invite people to look at the world and themselves in a different way. Have dismissive adults caused us to lose the inner child: the one that allows us to use imagination to create beauty from deep within ourselves?  Like all lost things, our inner child can be found again. It might take a patient mentor that encourages us to start up again. Are there people in our lives today that need us to do just that?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Will the camera or the heart be our Valentine?

I would slowly reach for one branch after the next.  There was sweat dripping from the brow as bits of bark somersaulted to earth. When I hoisted myself to the top, I knocked on the door. A muffled voice behind it call out, “What’s the password?” I gave it and was let into the tree house club.

Today, photographers are also trying to get into the tree house. They have been led to believe that having expensive cameras and equipment will gain them entry into the professional photographer club. As Ansel Adams once said, "The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it."  

Where will your heart take you?
With that in mind, my advice to new photographers is this: before you spend lots of money on equipment, start off by taking pictures with your cell phone camera (which can take good pictures). Since people usually take their phones everywhere, you can photograph anything during your day.  See what kinds of subject matter you become drawn to. You can then experiment with different ways of approaching your subject, such as camera angles and perspectives.  You will develop a vision  over time for what you want to capture, be it a mood, story or call to action. If your vision is being hampered by the camera you are using, you can make an informed choice about buying a new one that meets your needs.

The lens that really matters is the one deep inside us. Our creativity and vision makes a great photograph.  Will we learn to open our hearts before our wallets?

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Does nude photography promote stereotypes of the human body?

On the eve of the Super Bowl, I am reminded of the phrase, “football player build.” One could argue that such a build is necessary for the physical demands of the game. But is there a required body type for the nude model?

When artists like myself photograph models that are physically fit (in my case, males), some may ask if we are promoting stereotypes of the human body. I believe this is a legitimate question asked by sincere people. It does make an assumption that someone is chosen to model based on their body type. While I cannot speak for other artists, my view is that a fit body is merely a by product of the most important quality for a model to have: body awareness.

In modeling, body awareness is key
For someone to be an effective nude model, they need to have a great sense of themselves. This means knowing their physical capabilities and limitations, how their feelings affect their body and how to express themselves. Many gain this awareness through physical activities that they are passionate about. Still others push the boundaries of sensory experience in their lives through lifestyle choices.  These things put people in touch with themselves in a way that make them ideal models. They are able to take a concept presented to them by the artist and interpret it with their body at a moment’s notice. This is why models that have no previous modeling experience are able to come up with great interpretive poses. All I have to do as the photographer is articulate a clear vision of what we are trying to accomplish together and beautiful images emerge.  

A person can develop body awareness in a number of different ways.  It has just been my experience that the physicality of the models posing for me has been key in achieving effective images.  There is also the practical consideration of being able to hike for miles to reach the outdoor shooting location. Does nude photography promote stereotypes? I think the answer to that depends on how you approach a project. If you are interested in photographing the nude figure, ask yourself some questions: What is your project about? What level of body awareness do I need from the model to accomplish this? Am I basing my choices on superficial qualities that society promotes or my own authentic vision?  It's all about the artist knowing what they want, why they want it and the model's ability to render it.