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Creating serene photographs...spontaneously

From: Narrative Portraiture: On Location in New York with Rodney Smith

Video: Creating serene photographs...spontaneously

Chris Orwig: Rodney, it's a huge privilege and delight to be here in your home. It really is one of my life's biggest privileges. Rodney Smith: That's very kind of you, thanks. I am happy to have you here, by the way. Chris: So the question, opening question is, how is it that in this cluttered world that you are able to, or in the situation, say, like this picture here, in a pretty tricky environment, or how is it that you seek, or work to capture serenity or silence? Rodney: Right, I think that is actually a very good question.

Creating serene photographs...spontaneously

Chris Orwig: Rodney, it's a huge privilege and delight to be here in your home. It really is one of my life's biggest privileges. Rodney Smith: That's very kind of you, thanks. I am happy to have you here, by the way. Chris: So the question, opening question is, how is it that in this cluttered world that you are able to, or in the situation, say, like this picture here, in a pretty tricky environment, or how is it that you seek, or work to capture serenity or silence? Rodney: Right, I think that is actually a very good question.

I think the fundamental issue of why the pictures have an attempt at being serene, or attempting to find these kind of quite moments, is because inside me, not that things feel chaotic, but things need this resolution. They need this sense of order. I mean, when I was really young, I loved monastic life, not because I ever wanted to become a monk or.... But I loved the kind of purity of the lifestyle.

I loved the serenity of it, the peacefulness of it, the quietness of it. And in particularly in Europe, in some places in the Middle East, even the beauty of them, the serenity of the places. That was very, very appealing to me, although the other conflicting part of this is, I am very much part of this world. I am sort of a very high-energy, intense person. So it's like the pictures are sort of this counterpoint to certain needs.

I think deep down inside me, really deep, there is this person who is serene. But I think it has been so layered over for so many years that there is this... who is very unsettled by chaos. Now the other last little thing about that is, people often comment to me, everything is in the right place. They all look so serene. They all look so composed.

You must have thought about these pictures for days or quite some time, and the irony of all that, these pictures are made from the chaotic side of me, even though they look very serene. Chris: Explain that a little bit. Rodney: Okay, like, I look at a lot of things today. I look at lifestyle pictures, which are shot supposedly to be this spontaneous moment, where everything is just captured really quickly, and those are actually far more composed pictures-- they are not composed very well I don't think--but they are more created pictures than any of my pictures.

This picture or this picture or pretty much any picture I shot, I probably didn't know I was going to shoot it a minute or so before. Chris: Let's dig in to that, though; you see it but then there is a trigger. What happens there? Rodney: Okay, well, let's talk about that picture since we're in the room where that Rodney: picture happens to be hanging. Chris: Sure. Rodney: I was doing a fashion shoot for Neiman Marcus at the time, and it was in Beaufort, South Carolina. It's a place I actually really love to shoot. I like South Carolina; I like the coast of South Carolina.

And I remember scouting around with a location scout for days and not really finding much that I really liked. And we literally on one of the trips we were driving to some other place to look, I think a farm or a something, I saw this, this cypress grove, and I said, "We should shoot the picture here." To tell you why, it didn't look anything like that. It really didn't look anything like it.

It looked very actually unappealing. But I knew that I could make a picture there. Now I had no idea what the picture would look like or what this person would be doing or anything; I just felt it was in a location that kind of appealed to me, and I could make a picture there. The whole process of making a picture may be one or two rolls of film, and then I am done. I mean I am not the person who would labor things. Once I get it, I am on to the next thing. I know this is maybe not the best example of how spontaneous I am, but I am really spontaneous.

Pictures that people look at in regard as totally composed and well thought out in advances are actually created ten seconds before the picture is even thought about. I like to work like that, actually.

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This video is part of

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  1. 2m 13s
    1. Welcome
      1m 27s
    2. Introduction to Rodney Smith
      46s
  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
      55s
    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
      33s

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