Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Relationship to Photography

Aperture? Shutter speed? F stop? Before this class, I had no idea what any of those did or how to work them. I was a point and shoot type of photographer. Every once in a while I would get a great picture but would have no idea how or why and would not be able to do it ever again. I liked looking at pictures, I could tell what was good and what wasn't, but I had no reasons to back up those opinions.

This class gave me the ability to be a knowledgeable photographer. I will never be able to be a point and shoot person again. Now, I have the skills to change the exposure of my picture so that it comes out bright enough but not too bright, I can delay my shutter speed to capture movement when and where I want it and now I find my self thinking 'this light is perfect!'! Each museum we visited, each time we looked at each other's photographs allowed me to understand the whys of pictures - why I like them, why they are good and how they can get better. I also have purpose for my pictures now. I know what I need to do to get the picture I want and (even better) I know how to manipulate the camera, light and surrounding so it comes out perfect.

I waited a while to write this final blog post for a reason. I wanted to see when I came home how my relationship with photography really changed. A few days after I returned I was at a doctor's office and was looking at a picture on the wall and commented to my mom "that is way over exposed". Just yesterday I was at my brother's orchestra concert and took the camera I used on the trip. Instead of taking the typical, boring pictures that I always took before, this time I played with the exposure, changed from spot to metered focus, and changed the shutter to make some cool effects of the bows and conductor's arms. After sitting through my sister playing in an orchestra for 15 years and this is my brother's 8th year, these are the most exciting and different pictures of a concert that we have!

When I signed up for this class, I had no idea what I was going to learn. I figured it would be fun to go to Paris and London for 2 weeks, take some amazing pictures and meet some great friends. Little did I know that it would change my view of photography probably for the rest of my life. No picture that I take or see will ever be the same again - and I am very grateful for that.

Thank you for such a great trip, a great class and lots of great pictures!

Here is the link to my final picture set: A Day in Your Life. These were all taken in a way that I see the world. They show what I think is beautiful, what captures my attention and how I like to spend my day.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Psychological Differences Between the same subject, Painted and Photographed

Walking through both the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery today, I realized I like both painted and photographed portraits but for different reasons. Photographs capture a single second. A single moment that will never be replicated again. A moment frozen in time. I think there is something magical about being able to bottle up time. It is amazing to think that this photograph actually happened. A room looked exactly like this picture, or these people posed like this at some point in their life. At the same time however, it doesn’t always capture the soul of the situation or sitters as a painting could. There was one set in the National Gallery that had a painting of a young couple at their home and a picture of a different, more modern young couple at their home and the painting was able to get across the more homely feeling. The painting captured and brought to life something that was missing from the photograph. I could see the essence of the people in the painting but the people in the photograph felt staged and flat. While this might have just been the pictures that they put together, it made me think about the differences. On the other hand however, you can never be completely sure that a painting is what something actually looked like or was like. There is so much interpretation of a painting – the people, the situation, the time – that cannot be faked in a photograph. A photograph is a snapshot of a moment in time where as paintings take time to create so an artist’s vision can change or become altered in some way. 
I think the take home message here is, both have their pros and cons. Photographs are believable because they are a slice of time but they can be staged and the essence can be lost. Paintings are capture the soul of a situation but at the same time are mysterious – you never fully know if what you are seeing actually happened. I like both and don’t think I could pick a favorite or one that I always prefer. It changes based on what I am looking at and what I think it is getting across.

Here is the link to the set for the day: A Sense of Time and Place These pictures have a contrast between now and some other time. Whether it be between Marilyn Monroe and Janna, or when they decided where the Prime Meridian is and today there is some distance between when something was created and my picture. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Response to a Photograph

There was a picture today in the Light from the Middle East exhibit that featured a party that had happened with four people in it. The picture was left all the same except for the people’s faces and skin  - which were totally whited out. This was done for protection of the individuals because parties of this kind were not allowed – women had skin showing, there was drinking all around and it looked like a typical American party however, it was prohibited. I thought this picture was really captivating. It looked as if the people were photo shopped, as if they were not supposed to be there (which technically they weren’t) and were put in by a computer. I also found it interesting how making all aspects of the skin completely white made the people look as if they were comic book characters in a every day setting. I found these quirks beautiful and shocking. I’m sure the way the people looked and the light that was on their faces looked nice (after all this picture is in the Victoria and Albert Museum) but it’s sad that the faces and skin had to be taken out for protection. I think the realness of hiding identities or else these subjects might have been killed makes the picture which might have been arbitrary in any other capacity, very deep. It also illustrated how much the human face brings into a picture. Without the emotion on someone’s face or where they were looking with their eyes, there was much to question. Faces give away a lot of information so without it, I felt like something was missing. Perhaps that was the photographer’s point, that our faces make up who we are and create us as an individual and without it, we are just part of the background and surroundings. Even if that isn’t the point of the photograph, I thought it was really interesting to see and definitely left me wondering. 

Here is my set for today: The Human Street All of these pictures show the hustle and bustle of modern day life and the crowdedness that society has - and that crowded feeling can come from people, places or things. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Letter to Fox Talbot

Dr Mr. Fox Talbot,

First off, can I saw how wonderful of a home you have? It is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen and I absolutely loved it. If you can spare a room I would love to be roommates!

Next, I wanted to say thank you for your work with photography. Photography is one of my favorite things to see, experience and do. Being able to capture one specific moment for all of time – to immortalize one second, one feeling is a beautiful thing. Photography has taken me to places I would never get to go to and let me see things that I wouldn’t be able to see.

Photography has become a huge part of my life and it would be much different if it hadn’t been invented when it did or how it did so once again, thank you. Thank you for helping create this entity that has shaped how I see the world and freezes moments in time. It really is a wonderful invention.


Here is my set for the day: A Sense of Light and Time In all of these pictures I tried to play with the light source and (because of the whether) was able to get some great pictures!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Journey, so far...

The past 4 (really 5 for me because I arrived a day early) have been so crazy, fun, exhausting, and great all at the same time. When I arrived in Paris, I had no idea what it would be like. I didn’t know if people spoke English at all and I would never have an idea of what was happening or even what the city would look like. I didn’t know what type of photographer I was and certainly had no idea of different techniques that we have learned. As the days evolved, I gained confidence in my ability to navigate the city and in my photography skills. Before this class started, I was a point and shoot picture taker. I would just take a picture and hope for the best. But now, I am starting to figure out how to deal with aperture and shutter speed to get the best lighting and am starting to get the hang of different exposure techniques. I am also using iPhoto editing for real now, not just pushing the enhance wand and letting it choose the changes for me…which I am very impressed at! This trip has been great not only for learning about photography but art in general. I have loved all of our trips to the museums even if we haven’t seen a lot of photography because it has made me think about what type of photographer/artist I want to be. What do I want my pictures to get across? What do I want the subject to be? Do I have a style? And every question makes me work harder at getting that one perfect photograph. I really loved Paris. It was absolutely beautiful with gorgeous architecture that photographed lovely but I am ready to take on London! If I have figured out and learned this much in just four days, I can’t wait to see what I am going to be able to do by Sunday!

Here is my set for the day: USA in the UK These pictures are all what I see (as the USA) in (or in route to) the UK. It shows my journey to the UK and what I saw while there

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Constructing Identity Through Photographs

Photographs are tidbits that a person can use to show their life. They can show their interests, what they do, what they like and virtually anything else about them. All the photographs that I am personally connected to are either about how I see the world or how the world sees me in a certain instant. If I am taking the picture, other people are able to see the world through my eyes and get my point of view which helps them understand me. If there is a photograph that I am in, it shows my relation to the world and how I interact with it. It shows in a certain instant, what I was like and how another viewed me. Allowing others to see these types of photographs lets them come up with their idea of what I am like which in turn helps me create my identity. Our identities are made up of reflections of how others view us and photographs creates that perception. Photographs also allow us to see what we look like to others in the world and so we can figure out how we present ourselves, what we are like and put together some of the pieces that make us one human being. The pictures in my set for today are of me, but mainly how I view the world, what I think is important or interesting and little things that are symbolic or representative of me and my life.

Here is my set for the day: A Sense of Self These pictures show me traditionally (my place, my face, what I am eating) but also show what I see so the world can see how I view it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Photography and Death

Thinking about death can be weird. Trying to comprehend something that no one can explain what it is like and what it is like after is a bit daunting. However, the way I see it, photography keeps a person alive after they physically die. A picture of someone is a way of letting people remember the past and what that person meant, which as long as the memory is alive, the person can be alive too. Mexicans believe that a person's soul does not depart until after the last person who remembers them dies. If there is a photograph of a person that gets passed down through generations, technically that person could be alive in spirit forever. Photography also lets moments that die after they pass continue to live in our memories. Seeing something that once was and bringing it to life in your mind - whether it is a person or event - brings it back to life and lets it live longer than it did physically.

The pictures from my set at the cemetery are focused on flowers and plants. I chose this because I think it was interesting to see that after someone is physically gone, their memory remains so much that others bring objects - such as flowers - to keep the memory fresh. I also like it because of the juxtaposition between the humans who were dead under the ground and the flowers that were mostly alive above ground but whose roots were in the ground on top. I think flowers can bring a sense of hope and light to the typically dark idea of death and by photographing these graves and their flowers, I am helping keep the people in them alive in spirit just a little while longer.

Set for Cemetery pictures: Cemetery of Piere-Lachaise
Set for Eiffel Tower Pictures: Eiffel Tower

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Sense of the Other

Leah: I met Leah on the day we met at DU. We got to the building early and talked and our friendship began. We met at the hotel a day early to stay together and I have learned so much about her. Leah is a very old soul. She is a poet and can find good art anywhere in anyplace. She writes poems as we are on the go whenever she feels inspired and comes up with verse that has very deep meaning. She is also incredibly directional smart and can figure out any map or location we need to get to. Leah and I also have a lot in common that we have bonded over - particularly shopping and food. We both love to shop and have the same taste in foods. I like walking around Paris with her because we find so many fun stores to go into and always encourage each other to buy things we like - even when we shouldn't. I think if it were not for this class, Leah and I may not have met and so I am very glad we have become friends on this trip. The picture that I took as Leah's portrait shows her artistic and comedian sides.

Vanessa: Vanessa and I knew each other a little before this trip. We both work in the same psychology lab back at DU so we have seen each other for Undergraduate Research Assistant meetings and while we work but we never hung out before this trip. Vanessa is one of the sweetest people I've ever met. She always has a kind thing to say and is nice to everybody. She also is very artistic - she takes pictures and shots that I wouldn't have thought of and they turn out really neat. Vanessa is one of the best people to photograph as well. You can't take a bad picture of that girl...she is always camera ready. The portrait that I took of her I believe captures her beauty and kindness.

Link to the Sense of Self and Portraits set: Sense of Self & Portraits
Link to Paris du Nuit set: Paris de Nuit

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Sense of Place

Today, I woke up with no sense of place - I couldn't remember where I was, or what was happening - but over the course of today I think I have found my place as a photography student and a sense of this place called France.

As we were walking around the Palace of Versailles today, I was blown away by how grand it was and the fact that it once was someone's home. We walked through corridors, rooms and gardens but throughout I kept trying to think what it must have been like to live there and to have that be your home. I think one of the most important places a person can get a sense of is their home and the fact that this one was so huge and beautiful blew me away. Trying to understand what Marie Antoinette felt like living there mad the place a little more real to me but at the same time, it felt distant, as though all the crazy history that I had learned about it didn't really exist. Also walking around the gardens, I felt like I was seeing my all time favorite movie and book, Pride and Prejudice, come to life. That was an amazing feeling. I felt like I was back in the 1800s being Lizzy Bennett, strolling through Mr. Darcy's gardens. I've often thought of what it would be like to experience that type of life and being there gave me the sense, if only for a second, that I was Lizzy Bennett and experiencing the novel first hand.

However, as I was walking around this morning on our hotel street and then later in Versailles, I realized that I feel like I am in France. It is finally hitting me that we have arrived and I am experiencing this place that I have dreamed about for years. I've decided that I really like this place. I like the feeling of the city, the foreignness of the language and the different sights and smells that Paris has. I always have felt like I wasn't born in the right time period but now I am pretty sure I was just born in the wrong continent. I love the feeling that Europe has, so refined and regal, and it's a place that I could get quite used to.

So what is my sense of place right now? It's here. In Paris, France. On a trip that I can already feel is going to change my life.

Here is the link to the flickr set I created for the day. It has some of where I feel here, some of my best photos from the day, and some fun ones: A Sense of Place

Friday, November 23, 2012

Journeys, Physical and Psychological

Oh traveling...what difficulties you bring into my life.
I left home on Thanksgiving morning and arrived in Paris Friday morning, it's now Friday night and I have no sense of what day it is, what time it is, or where I am...I think I need some sleep!
Traveling and journeys are difficult for me to wrap my head around. At one moment, I am in the USA and the next I am in Paris in a completely different day. Whenever I am on the plane, I loose track of time. It's almost like being in frozen time. The day does not exist. Time does not exist. But you know you are there for a long period of time and at the end of that time you know you are going to be somewhere new. While I know that I traveled over the ocean, I still have a hard time comprehending that this trip is finally here! We stayed up to acclimate ourselves to the time change but I don't think it will hit me that we have actually arrived, that I am in Paris, that this class has started until tomorrow when everyone is here together. It may not even hit me until we finish the trip! But I know in the end, when I am flying back home to Colorado, I'm going to struggle with the frozen time in the plane and go through the process of comprehending what just happened all over again.
Here are some of the pictures of my transition from Colorado to Paris: A Sense of Transition Photography Set they combine the pictures of being a typical traveler with adjusting myself to Paris and transitioning to world traveler.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Before Departure...

History of Photography

Nicephore Niepce: Nicephore Niepce was a french inventor who took and produced the world's first permanent photograph in 1825. Having not been a good drawer, Niepce used lithography, a camera obsurca and bitumen to capture the image. The process took over 8 hours to complete! This was the first time that a photograph was taken and didn't fade away.Without Niepce's contribution to photography, it would have taken longer to figure out how to keep a permanent image, which would mean photography would not be as high-tech as it is today. This is his first picture, called "View From The Window at Le Gras":

Louis Daguerre: Daguerre was a french artist and physicist who worked with Niepce to develop the technology for photography. After Niepce died, Daguerre created a process called the Daguerreotype - where he exposed a thin silver-plated copper sheet to iodine crystal vapors which created a coat of light-sensitve silver iodine which was then exposed to the camera. He refined the process by adding vapor given off mercury to speed up the process. The plate produced the exact image but laterally reversed. To be seen, the image had to be lit at a specific angle. Because of the chemical compounds, the surface was subject to tarnish so the image would need to be sealed under glass or mounted in a case. Also, because of how the process worked, there could never be any duplicates of images. This was important to the history of photography not only because it made the process faster than it was with Niepce, but because of how the pictures were taken, people could get portraits and could capture memories much easier than they could have with  a painting or drawing. This is a picture called "Boulevard Du Temple" which is the first photograph of a person who is only in it because they did not move for the 10 minutes of exposure. This is also why there isn't any traffic in the picture: 

Henry Fox-Talbot: Fox-Tablot was a British inventor who created the calotype process and worked on photo-mechanical reproduction. The calotype process uses paper coated with silver iodine to take a picture over a minute or two and then use a chemical process to develop the image. This process also created negatives so that duplicates of the image could be made. This invention made the photography process even faster and allowed for one picture to be taken and several copies to be made. Without the invention of the negatives, there might still be one picture for ever photograph taken! This picture was taken at Lacock Abbey in 1835 by Talbot. The negative that this print came from is the oldest in existence!

Hippolyte Bayard: Bayard was a French photographer who invented direct positive printing and also put on the first public photography exhibition in June 1839. Direct positive printing is a process where silver chloride paper is exposed to light which then turns the paper black. The paper is then soaked in potassium iodine then is exposed in a camera. After exposure, it is washed in a hyposulfite of soda bath and dried. The exposure for this process was about 12 minutes and the paper had poor light sensitivity, however the result was unique and could not be replicated. This method was used for still subject matter (such as buildings) but it was sometimes used for portraits. Bayard also came up with the idea of combining two negatives so that the sky and other landscapes were properly exposed in a picture. One of his most famous pictures is called "Self Portrait as a Drowned Man" in which he created the first staged picture in reaction to unjustness he felt that he had been treated with. 

Julia Margaret Cameron: Cameron was a British Photographer who is most famous for the portraits that she took. She only started photography when we was 48, after she received a camera as a present. Cameron developed soft-focused "fancy portraits" and the majority of her pictures were either closely framed portraits or illustrative allegories. Cameron photographed many celebrities of her time including Charles Darwin, Alfred Lord Tennyson and George Frederic Watts to name a few. The portraits that she took were very close cropped around the face and soft-focused. Her photographic illustrations were typically about historical scenes or literary works and she designed them to look like oil paintings. This picture is called "Annie, my first success" and was taken in 1864. It is the first picture that Cameron felt satisfied with and you can see her style of closely cropped and soft-focused easily: 

Lady Clementina Howarden: Howarden was also a portrait photographer however, she focused more on the background and environment than the faces of the people. Howarden started off taking stereoscopic landscape photographs but then moved on to images of her daughters which influenced her style of photographs. She used natural light for her photographs - which at the time was considered as being daring - and would put mirrors to reflect the light naturally. This is one of the pictures she took of her daughters - she would dress them up and strategically place them in their environment and surroundings.

Nadar: Gasparad-Félix Tournachon (or Nadar) was a French photographer who focused on portraits but was a pioneer in many other aspects of photography. He was the first person to ever take an aerial photograph and use artificial lighting (specifically for when he photographed the catacombs in Paris). One of the most famous photographs he took was of Victor Hugo on his death bed in 1885. He also did the first photo-interview and took erotic photographs. This is the famous Victor Hugo photograph:

Gustave Le Gray: Le Gray was a French photographer who not only pioneered photography but also taught some of the other famous photographers (such as Nadar). He was selected to be one of the first five photographers to document French monuments and buildings and also help found the "first photographic organization in the world". He was the official portraitist of Napoleon III and took famous pictures of seascapes. Le Gray improved paper negatives and used combination printing to create his seascapes. This is one of his seascapes called "The Great Wave":

Diane Arbus: Arbus was an American photographer who is most famous for her black-and-white squared pictures of deviant or marginalized people. She saw photography as a medium that could be cold but that ultimately reveals the truth. She liked to develop strong relationships with her subjects and photograph them for years. Arbus helped form The New York School of Photographers. This picture is called "A Jewish Giant at Home with His Parents in The Bronx, NY" and was taken 1970 and showcases her theme of unique individuals:

Susan Sontag: Sontag was an American writer, filmmaker and political activist. She wrote a book which was a collection of essays called "On Photography" in 1977. In the book, she examines modern-day photography and capitalism, as well as photography and American ideals. Sontag also argues that photographs make all events equal and the meanings are all level as well. She says that if someone is trying to record, they cannot be present in that moment so the moment caputred is separate from the person. This is a portrait of Sontag

Olympe Aguado: Aguado was a Franco-Spanish photographer in the 1850s and 1860s. He studied under Le Gray and was a pioneer for several photography techniques. He developed the carte-de-visite which added portraits to visiting cards. He also photographed Napoleon III and his wife and took staged portraits that poked fun at the empire and nobility. Aguado developed a process for enlargement of photographs but there are no pictures from that original development still around. This is a picture called "La Lectura" which is one of his staged portraits.

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