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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.
You know what happens with most photographers, including myself, is that we get excited about capturing photographs. And creating a photograph with camera in hand is pretty easy; it happens quickly. Yet that excitement doesn't always translate to creating the final print, and here's why. To create good prints, it requires discipline; it requires practice. But it's so worth it. You know, some people, what they do is they capture the photographs, and then they maybe create some prints as 4x6s, 5x7s, 8x10s, these ordinary sizes, and they print, but they're not truly experimenting. And to get good at printing, we have to experiment.
We have to practice. We have to try creating perhaps a large-format print. You know there are so many different ways we can do this. There are these online services we can take advantage of where we can order huge prints. In other situations, maybe we want to create a smaller print, or perhaps you need to experiment with paper types. Is it a velvet fine art paper, matte, luster, or glossy? In other words, you need to practice. And good printing, it doesn't happen naturally. It's almost like that foreign language that you once learned; if you don't practice it, you almost completely forget it--and this happens to me all the time.
When I get out of the habit of creating prints, it's more difficult to restart that habit, to get back into creating those photographs, because I wait patiently, I create a print, it comes out of my printer, and it's not very good, and that took a lot of time, and so I throw in the towel; I give up. You know, in other situations where I am printing quite often, I don't give up, because I know what it takes to get those good prints. I cultivate that discipline. So here's my advice, or tip, for you: don't let creating prints be your weak photographic link.
In other words, do what you need to do to get good at printing. Take some time to experiment on a regular basis, because one of the things that I've found is when you put in the discipline, when you put in the time, it's almost always worth it.
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