My friend, Kathy, had mentioned that she really enjoyed a workshop she took, How to See + Make Photographs, led by Kim Weston at the Kehler Liddell Gallery in Westville, CT. After reading about Kim’s work, I was thrilled to discover that she planned another, How to See + Make Photographs II, in conjunction with the ArtEcon Initiative (www.ArtEconInitiative.org). I signed up in April knowing that there would be a gap over the summer as I geared up for my portfolio development class at Southern Connecticut State University.
Years ago, I was a florist in New Haven, CT, and based my designs on the study of Ikebana or Kado – the flower path. My approach was intentionally minimalist so folks could appreciate the individuality & beauty of each blossom. A client gave me a book of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photos of flowers…and I promised myself to put together a body of work that inspired me as much as those photos. In 2001, closed the shop and went back to school to study photography and graphic design. I have been photographing flowers in earnest for over ten years. Magic occurs for me when using a macro lens & standing very close to capture a tiny detail. Equally “magical” is the ability to change something as small as a single pixel and not deal with the unpleasant odors & chemicals of the darkroom. Perhaps, most magical, is the chance to get in so close & capture something not obvious to the human eye. Maybe even crop closer so as to wonder about what the final result describes. I totally love flowers…they make me happy…some more than others. I love to consider them as individuals and love to explore their colors, centers, forms and lines…and am thrilled that much of my work reflects this. Just take a quick glance upwards at the mosaic header. And, I feel that my journey has just started!
Although I went in many directions for school and work, kind, positive & supportive people helped me to stay on track and also encouraged me to see & create with a wider perspective. It’s nice to come back again to this promise made in 1989 while at the same time, Kim’s workshops help me move forward at a time when I hoped to kickstart my creative energies for the fall semester.
In May, Kim announced another workshop, Through the Camera Lens to the Photographic Print. At first, it was enjoyable to push forward knowing that by the fall there would be some new work for me to show at the university. To be honest, I tried some things for the sake of trying and although the images were interesting and technically proficient I really did not enjoy most of the work and realized that the person I needed to please was me!
It became increasingly challenging to offer an informed opinion without meeting resistance and the interactions felt unpleasant. It was difficult for me to internalize several carelessly “pronounced” as dogma, principles, some of which hardly made sense. One, in particular, “only people who are good at it should do video,” struck me as odd. Another, “I don’t enjoy explaining the technical stuff about using the camera.” And, another, “I don’t want to see images of dogs, flowers or cuba.” Eventually I realized the futility of offering an alternate opinion, left the workshop and just kept counting the seconds until the start of this fall semester.
However, during the summer workshops with Kim, I tried very selective focus, high key backlighting and intentional defocus…some techniques were relatively new for me. This allowed me to photograph deliberately arranged, fairly usual botanical subjects in a new way and to concentrate on the abstract components of light and shadow and still make images that please me.
It’’s really hard for me to pin down a favorite part of these workshops but with all due respect we were introduced to the work of several unfamiliar artists, I was inspired to learn more for days and really enjoyed this part of the learning.
Over the years, in fact, since the early 1970’s, I have taken a number of university level photography courses, specialized workshops and even private instruction to learn and grow as a photographer.
It was such a relief to know that I could look forward to the value of each university class and leave energized, satisfied and inspired…more to come on the value of this type of formalized learning.