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In the Narrative Portraiture series, photographer and teacher Chris Orwig explores how to use location and natural light to create images that tell stories about their subjects and produce a strong emotional connection.
In this installment, Chris travels to Texas to visit with Keith Carter, a fine art photographer and teacher, and has a conversation with Keith about his work, outlook on art and photography, and suggestion that photographers commit at least two years to a personal project.
The course continues with a pair of portrait shoots. Keith photographs Chris and describes his process and creative decisions along the way. Then the cameras are swapped and Chris creates a portrait of Keith.
Finally, Chris reviews the photography he took, and discusses the gear he used and the lessons he learned while visiting with and photographing Keith.
Keith Carter: I think some work harder than others, and some of them just catch fire. I think if you give a student, if you give the right kind of student who is ready for it a proper introduction to the big, bold, beautiful, glorious world of making marks, marking systems--which photography I think is probably one of the most important of the graphic arts, period-- if you give them a proper introduction, then they just sometimes catch fire.
You have to love to do to look. You have to find a way to get the joy out of doing the work, you know? Chris Orwig: So why is it that some photographic students make it, and others don't? I posed the question to Keith, and I found his response interesting. He said, some students, they work harder. I wrote, "You have to love it to do the work." There has to be some internal drive. Over the last decade, I've had the privilege of teaching hundreds and hundreds of students, and I've always asked myself that question, why do some make it? Why do some go on, and have great success while others don't? Is it that they have some creative gene? Is it that they're born with this? Is it that that they just have it internally, intrinsically? And my answer is no. I agree with Keith, that getting good at photography requires this extra bit of hard work, but here is the catch.
If you love it, if you're passionate about it, it doesn't seem as hard. In other words, let's say that you figured out what you really enjoy, what really interests you. Well, if you go and photograph that thing and if you peruse it with all of your strength and might and will and heart, well yeah, it's difficult, but it's just so incredibly rewarding, and fun that it changes a difficulty into something completely different. So I think if you want to be one of those students or one of those photographers that make it, ask yourself, what is it that you truly love about photography, and how can you invest yourself? How can you work perhaps even harder to pursue that?
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