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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.
After having my portrait made, it was now my turn, my turn to make some portraits of Keith. I was really excited about this. This was one of the things I was most looking forward to. You know, before I arrived in Texas I spent some my some time with my journal. I wrote down a few thoughts or ideas about Keith. I do this quite often. I put someone's name in the middle of a page, and I just write words that's surround that person's name. It's my way of trying to figure out who they are, or what's my perception of this person. Let me read to you some of these words. I wrote that Keith is positive, imaginative, eclectic, an orthodox, fun, thoughtful, down to earth, authentic, deep, poet, alive, humble, free, discover, interesting, infectious, simple, and the list goes on.
And so I had these ideas in mind, yet all of a sudden it was my turn to try to capture some images which reflect how I felt, how I think about Keith. And really I wasn't ready for it. I was so interested in talking with Keith and learning about his style, on being on the other side of the lens, that all of a sudden my turn came up. One of the things that I needed to do initially was just to make that space my own in a sense. Keith had set up a few backgrounds and had some things there. I needed to rearrange those so that I could start to work with the space.
Here I had his camera, and I didn't want to take a Keith Carter picture. That wouldn't really do anyone any good. I needed to create a picture that was authentic to who I am. Now of course, using his camera and lens, I want to create something that was within kind of that vein, within that Keith Carter mode of thinking, and mode of thinking is this. Photograph something that's real, real people, real place, but somehow say more, and so that was my goal.
And initially that meant, again, rearranging that studio. It also meant asking Keith a question. I asked him a question about what he would choose as a soundtrack for his photography. I was interested in the answer, but it also was a way for me to buy some time, right? Get him talking and have that dialogue going so that I could then have a little bit of space to think and to rearrange.
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