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Narrative Portraiture: On Location in New York with Rodney Smith

with Chris Orwig

Video: Welcome

Chris Orwig travels to New York to visit with photographer Rodney Smith, sharing insights into portraiture and the importance of creating photos that both tell stories and ask questions.
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  1. 2m 13s
    1. Welcome
      1m 27s
    2. Introduction to Rodney Smith
  2. 31m 37s
    1. Creating serene photographs...spontaneously
      4m 37s
    2. Creating photographs that ask questions
      4m 43s
    3. What makes a photograph good?
      5m 28s
    4. Film, digital, and the importance of the artifact
      6m 1s
    5. Contrast, tone, and black and white versus color
      5m 0s
    6. The early years and photography today
      5m 48s
  3. 13m 16s
    1. First impressions: A portrait without the subject
      3m 52s
    2. The finishing room
      1m 4s
    3. The darkroom
      7m 13s
    4. The final print room
      1m 7s
  4. 23m 11s
    1. Selecting the gear
      3m 41s
    2. Shooting the portrait
      6m 13s
    3. Reviewing the plan for the shoot
      2m 6s
    4. The portrait in review
      6m 36s
    5. Large prints in review
      4m 35s
  5. 8m 33s
    1. Why take pictures?
      2m 11s
    2. Cultivating the discipline to print
      2m 8s
    3. Exploring Rodney Smith's "The End"
      4m 14s
  6. 5m 27s
    1. Embracing a theme: Surprise, whimsy, or cliché
    2. Creating photos that ask questions
      2m 22s
    3. Creating fashion photos with a unique style
      2m 10s
  7. 26m 40s
    1. Photography is a reflection of who we are
      1m 47s
    2. Photography is about the art of observation
      1m 57s
    3. Working with models
      2m 10s
    4. Raise more questions than you answer
      3m 5s
    5. Mentors strengthen our vision
      3m 37s
    6. There is a right place for certain things
      4m 39s
    7. What influences you?
      3m 22s
    8. The camera as a tool for gaining wisdom
      3m 6s
    9. Creating photographs deepens who we are
      2m 57s
  8. 33s
    1. Conclusion

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Narrative Portraiture: On Location in New York with Rodney Smith
Video duration: 0s 1h 51m Appropriate for all


In the Narrative Portraiture series, photographer and teacher Chris Orwig explores the use of elements such as location and natural light to create images that tell stories about their subjects and produce a strong emotional connection. In this installment, Chris visits Rodney Smith, a photographer whose work is known for its graceful serenity and its wit. Rodney's career spans more than four decades and includes editorial, fashion, and advertising work, as well as several books.

The course begins with a wide-ranging conversation between Chris and Rodney, during which they discuss Rodney's work, his approach to photography and models, his love of film and of black and white, and the importance of creating photographs that both ask questions and tell stories. Next, Chris tours Rodney Smith's studio, including the darkroom, to get more familiar with Rodney before photographing him.

Chris then takes a series of portraits of Rodney. Along the way, he reviews his gear choices and the compositional decisions he makes, and discusses the importance of committing photographs to paper, particularly in today's digital age. Finally, Chris reviews the images and shares some insights from his conversation with Rodney.



Hi my name is Chris Orwig. I am a photographer, an author, and teacher. Welcome to Narrative Photography, the series where we examine how we can create photographs that tell stories. Now in the previous installment, we went to New York City. We met up with Jared Mason, the Broadway performer, and we explored how we could create photographs amidst the hustle and the bustle of New York. Well, here in this installment we are going to step back from all of that business. We are going to get to know a fascinating photographer, Rodney Smith. Rodney creates photographs that are simple, strong, serene, whimsical, exquisite, and full of life and grace.

Next, we'll sit down with Rodney in the living room, and we'll talk about photography. From there, we'll discuss this whole idea of the photographic print, that final artifact which is so important to us as photographers. After we do that, I'll take some time to create a portrait of Rodney, a still photograph. I'll talk about some of the ideas that went in to creating that, what gear was used, and how I sought to create a photograph that captured a bit of his essence. Then we'll wrap up this installment by giving you a few action steps: a few assignments, a few ways that you can start to put into practice some of the things that you've learned, so you can integrate those into your own workflow.

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