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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 two artists: David Cargill, a Beaumont sculptor who works with bronze and marble, and Charles Stagg, another Beaumont sculptor but in recycled and found materials. Chris takes their portraits and spends time discussing the composition and lighting in each session.
Chris also reviews the photos he took, and discusses the gear he used and the lessons he learned while visiting with and photographing these artists.
As I mentioned previously, one of things that I do after I have interesting life experiences is I spend time with my journal and I write down some thoughts and ideas, some of the lessons I've learned from different types of experiences. And after I spent time with Charles, I definitely had a lot to write about in my journal. What I want to do here is just share with you a few lessons that I have learned from that experience. And I do so by sharing a couple of images and also the lessons that they relate to. Well, this first photograph, for me it stands as a reminder to embrace the light that's there.
In this case, the light was green. In other words, it wasn't very good, yet what wasn't good, in a traditional sense, was almost perfect for a portrait of Charles. The next photograph, too, reminds me about the importance of working with light. It was the middle of the day. The light was really harsh. You can see that by these harsh bright shadows. All that you need to do when you're in situations like that is to put your subject in the shade, and sometimes if you have harsh shadows, you work with them.
They help to create images that are graphic, that are strong, that are something that you couldn't have created say if it were overcast or foggy. So again, these first two images just remind me of this importance of embracing the light that's there--rather than wishing the light was something else, going with it and going for it. This next photograph illustrates a completely different lesson. Over the last few years I have been trying to learn how to play the cello, and one of the things that my cello teacher says to me constantly is to make mistakes boldly.
In other words, as I'm using the bow and trying to hit a note, she says make that mistake boldly. If it doesn't sound good, push through it. I think the same thing is true in photography. If ever you are going to play with focus like I did here, don't play with it in a way where it's just slightly out of focus. Really, really go for it. If you're going to break a rule, you might as well go all the way. And sometimes in doing that you can create an image which really doesn't make sense to have someone so out of focus, perhaps you can capture something.
You can create something different, which conveys yet another part of the story. Another lesson in another image. This is a photograph of Keith's wife Pat, which I've explained already. And what I like about this photograph is it just captures this moment. So often what happens as photographers as we get focused, "I'm here to photograph this," that we missed the sideline moments. This photograph, it stands as a reminder to embrace those moments, to not be so singularly focused on one event that we neglect to pay attention to these other details.
Well, this last picture and this last lesson has to do with patience. This is one of the very last pictures that I took that day. Now I couldn't have made this picture at the beginning of the photo shoot. It took time. It took time talking. It took time walking. It took time shooting. But by the time we got to this point, I was able to create this image which I think is vulnerable and true. In other words, some people I think are late bloomers. Some people blossom really quickly. Other people, it takes time.
I'm one of those people myself who takes time, and so when I am photographing someone, I have to remember that. Be patient. Give it time. What's important isn't necessarily the picture that you've taken now, but where that's leading, where that's leading to the photograph that you'll hopefully take at the end of a photo shoot.
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