Capturing the subject

I write this as we are about to see the first ever close up photographs of that distant tiny outermost planet of our solar system, Pluto. Excitement can’t describe what both scientists and lay people alike feel at being able to view something so far away, so undocumented, so unknown, until the eye of that robotic camera was turned upon it.

We live in a visual world. Today it’s all about the image whether on a tablet, an iPhone, or a photograph. Media bombards us and saturates us with images, shaping how we view our world. We all have become photographers, easily snapping thousands of everyday images thanks to the high quality lenses that come with our smart phones and tablets. The technology has revolutionized taking pictures just like, but going beyond, what the box camera/Brownie did for a previous generation.

So how does a photographer manage to “capture” a subject in a new and fresh way?

Many books have been written on the topic of what makes a great photograph and techniques to use to achieve that goal. However, the best photographs, the ones that draw the viewer in and evoke an emotional response, always begin with the person behind the lens. It’s not the camera, or the technology, or all the digital darkroom techniques, but the soul of the creator melding with the subject matter that produces the most spectacular results.

Lion

As we can see in our current exhibit’s artist Sharon Curia’s photographs, she doesn’t do any Photoshop manipulation. Just uses her camera and lenses and her eye for good composition to produce outstanding photographs. Her subjects vibrate with color and texture. Some photographs, like her lion, look as if she posed the subject! Others, like her bridge over a stream, have an outstanding depth of field and color combinations. She is expert at capturing the heart of her subject matter.

Here are quotes from three other photographers on their approach to subject matter:

“As an artist I try to communicate, with camera that which I can only hint at with words: my love for the visual experience. I endeavor to capture moments from my own experience that have been more substance than shadow; instants timeless and random, where routine existence seems to give way to a heightened sensibility.” – George Garbeck (www.georgegarbeck.com)

“In a world saturated with visual images, I make certain that my photographs and montages are unique, original and have genuine interest to me. As I look to my environment, I carefully choose subject matter that begs to be photographed, whether serious, mundane, romantic or whimsical. I have become increasingly aware of my surroundings, looking to discover images from everyday and unexpected sources.” Charlann Meluso (www.charlannmelusophotoart.com)

“Today, digital photographers have so many options for capturing and manipulating their images…The final image should not be judged by how closely it echoes reality but how well it communicates the message.” – Caryn Seifer (www.carynseiferphotography.com)

(The above quotes are excerpted from the artists’ statements presented with their works in Gallery U Boutique’s July Photographia exhibit in Westfield NJ. http://www.facebook.com/GalleryUBoutiqueWestfield)

Photographs preserve memories. They evoke emotions. They reveal the soul of the picture taker and the object captured. They are ubiquitous in our lives and yet singular and precious. So go pick up your camera, tablet, or smart phone and shoot away. You might never exhibit them, or even post them to social media. But you will have captured a bit of life, unique to you as a human being living upon the third planet of this solar system.

Altering Reality

On Thursday July 10th Leona M Seufert did a wonderful artist talk on how she achieved the effects in the artwork on display in our current gallery exhibit. “Reflections – From Real to Surreal” uses a variety of techniques to alter original unaltered photographs. She used old-fashioned cut and paste collage, drawing with markers on the ink jet printout, and a variety of Photoshop special effects. 15 of the pieces used only the camera and trick positions of herself or her hand to get eerie reflections in the final image. 

Before the advent of digital cameras, there were limited ways in which a photograph could be altered. Most photographers relied on the camera itself to attain strange effects or in the printing process in a physical darkroom. Today, not only Photoshop but a variety of other computer programs can assist the photographer in attaining altered realities. And of course we are very aware of the misuse of this software to alter images for a variety of devious reasons. So much so that the word “Photoshopped” has become part of our everyday vocabulary.

Look at any fashion magazine cover and you can see how this software helps the person achieve better quality skin, eliminate wrinkles, and even look thinner! Devious? Well, fashion was always about illusion whether it be manipulating makeup on a model’s face or manipulating pixels! Devious is when someone uses this technology to post an altered image of themselves on a dating website. On the positive side, Photoshop has helped restore old and damaged photographs in a way that never could be achieved by hand.

However, there is a dark side to the use of Photoshop. It is easy to scan in a document and change information on it, for instance dollar amounts or paste in a completely different signature. It has also been used to “erase” elements from a photograph or place things in a picture that didn’t exist. More common in the early days of Photoshop you can still find it happening today. Visit this website listing the biggest Photoshop scandals of our time to find examples of just what has been done using photoshop. These range from darkening OJ’s skin to slimming down newscaster Katie Couric.

Unaltered photograph

Unaltered photograph

Altered in Photoshop

Altered in Photoshop

But for an artist, Photoshop is just another tool to assist in realizing a creative goal. Leona did that very well with many of the pieces in this exhibit. She’s been using this program for over 10 years to achieve her creative visions. She states “I am a digital artist who uses Photoshop to transform reality. In a dialog between my eyes, my soul, and technology, and using Photoshop to manipulate the images, I aim to unlock the story within the image. Each artwork is the result of many experiments, the process is an artistic delight for me and hopefully the result is enchanting to the viewer.” Altering reality to create these unique images is what her art is all about.

Enter Leona’s Weird Digital World!

You have to see these photographs to believe it. 15 were not touched by any form of digital manipulation (except cropping and light/dark enhancement). Then she rolled up her sleeves, and got creative, altering each by a different method.

Reaching Out From the Other Side

Reaching Out From the Other Side

Talking about the first series, which she did in 2013, “My first series of reflections photographs were unaltered images. Inspired by this serendipity, I then started to not only to look for these happenings, but to actually create them using only the camera’s viewfinder. Gallery exhibits netted a wide range of images as the reflective glass and lights on the hung artwork played all kinds of tricks depending upon the viewing angle. Many of these photographs were ‘staged’ compositions resulting in spectacular eerie effects.”

The Cosmic Fashionistas Arrive

The Cosmic Fashionistas Arrive

For this series she pulls out all the stops: “I had two goals as I worked on this series: Have fun, and try to relate the second image to the first. Some make a statement on the original, others take it and distort it so that it becomes an abstraction, while others were created to elicit a laugh.”

On Tues June 10 you’ll have a chance to meet her and as you view each image ask “How did you do that?”!