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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.
Having the opportunity to photograph someone you admire and respect, someone who has influenced your life, is a huge privilege, and as I reflect back upon that photo shoot of Keith, there are really two main lessons that I learned. The first lesson has to do with influence. You know, to a greater or lesser degree, we are all influenced by other photographs, by other photographers. When we are out there creating our own images that influence comes to mind. But what we have to do is we have to absorb that influence while we fight off the urge to impersonate.
It's so easy for influence to become impersonation. It's almost like the musician who plays someone else's song. If we want to have our own voice, yes, we absorb influence, but we stick to our guns. We create images that mean something to us. Now the other lesson that I learned has to do with trusting your gut. As I explained in the photo shoot, the first day of shooting I created images that were good, but they didn't just match to the photographs that I wanted to make.
I needed to trust my gut. My gut was unsettled. I needed to pay attention to that. You know, as artists, as photographers, we have to pay attention to some things that other people completely discard, and if we pay attention to those things, they can make a stronger and better artists.
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