In the last year I’ve made my work more personal. I’ve also made a great effort to stop worrying about whether or not people like my work. Don’t get me wrong, I do hope that my work will be enjoyed by someone other than myself, but there’s a balance to be found. Before, I was letting public opinion (such as number of “likes” on social media) get me discouraged and define my worth as an artist. That is unhealthy and it was stealing my joy. The majority of people who make up the social media populous, even photography-oriented sites, are mostly untrained amateurs and hobbyists. That doesn’t mean I think you have to be art-educated to appreciate my work, nor am I saying you’re a philistine if you don’t like my work. It’s all subjective. But the images that rack up the “likes” are usually cliché images of cats, sunsets, scantily-clad women, and heavily visited (and over-photographed) landmarks that are far from unique or creative. I have no interest in conforming to that so I decided I’m done with the numbers game. Since then I’ve found great pleasure in creating art for me, by me. And even if it still doesn’t get a lot of “likes” I am proud of what I have created and the direction that I am going in. Here’s to another year of learning, growing, and creating. Thanks for reading.
I began this abstract architecture series in 2013 as a way of focusing my work and developing my vision as a fine art photographer. Prior to this series my photography was all over the place in terms of style and subject matter. One day I asked myself, “Why am I making photographs?” While reflecting on this question I realized that my natural inclinations have always been towards fine art and personal vision rather than creating or competing for commercial purposes.
Prior to becoming a teacher I worked as a professional graphic designer and what I learned from that experience is that I didn’t really enjoy creating art for other people full time. There were many things I loved about being a professional designer but it was exhausting and I got to the point where I barely ever created art for myself anymore. For this and other reasons, I’ve never desired to make a business out of my photography. I am confident in my abilities, and I do enjoy working with and for other people, but I don’t think I would ever be happy doing it full time.
In light of this revelation I decided that I needed to put some serious effort into developing my vision as a fine artist. I figured that the only way I will make an impact in the art world is to have a more coherent portfolio of images that show the world how I see. I needed to make my work more personal and stop worrying so much about whether or not people like it.
Around this time I also began to notice, while making casual snapshots with my iPhone (i.e., when I wasn’t really trying as hard), a natural preference for abstract and minimalist composition. I now believe this is a direct result of my years spent studying and working as a graphic designer. It took me a while to connect the dots and realize that, if I am doing this without thinking about it, it’s probably a very natural expression of me, coming from my subconscious, and I should probably let it out and become better acquainted with it. It was when I consciously began to explore this aesthetic that I began to be truly inspired and make images I was really proud of.
In the beginning of this series I made the choice to stick with a square format since I had originally discovered my preference for this subject matter and style when using the Instagram app on my iPhone (which also uses the square crop). A few images into the series I made another decision to work solely in greyscale to further give the portfolio visual harmony as a body of work.
More recently, I have also incorporated long exposure techniques into this series. I have enjoyed the ethereal ambiance that the moving sky adds behind my interpretation of various architectural structures. Adding physical movement to my images and, hopefully, a new level of complexity, was an exciting boost to re-energize my vision. It may sound contrary to talk about minimalist simplicity and then simultaneously talk about complexity but that really is what I’m striving for. I want my composition design to be clean, minimal and timeless, but I also want it to hold something deeper for the viewer as he or she spends time engaged with each image. In other words, I’m seeking elegance.
Elegance, to me, is solving complex problems in a way that is stylish and simple. I don’t know that I’ve yet achieved elegance in this portfolio of images, but I am actively working towards it. Architecture is my subject matter but my photographs are not about the architecture. Each image here is a study of abstract elements such as shape, space, volume, line, rhythm, etc. Each image is an experiment in how to interpret and illustrate those elements in the tones of a monochromatic image, and arrange them within the square frame in a harmonious way that is pleasing to the eye.
I’m a pretty meticulous person by nature but long exposure photography has proved to be a wonderful exercise in discipline for me, forcing me to slow down and be even more intentional in pre-visualization, composition and craftsmanship (both in-camera and post-production) as I create my images. On average, it takes me about twenty minutes or (usually) more to make the shot in the camera. I begin by walking around and exploring my subject in three dimensional space, visualizing how it will look from each point of view. When I find a vantage point I’m interested in I will put my eye to the viewfinder and explore how the elements interact with the edges of the frame. Then, I fix the camera to the tripod and begin fine-tuning the composition, carefully watching for lines that are connecting to the edges or corners of my frame, and examining the visual weight of the different parts of my subject and how they will pull and lead the viewer’s eye.
With the composition sorted out, I then take a meter reading and begin planning my exposure settings. I make a test image with a fast shutter speed to examine my composition and exposure. If I am pleased with the result, I screw on the ND filter and do the math to convert my exposure settings to a long exposure. I program my shutter remote for anywhere between 2-6 minutes and then make my long exposure. Usually with this approach I get what I’m after on the first shot because of the work and care that went into planning it. Sometimes I’ll make a few more exposures with the same settings and composition, just to see how the clouds are behaving and then I wrap it up and head home. I must say, it has been nice to come home with just a few images on the memory card rather than dozens and still have exactly what I set out for.