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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.
Here I want to share with you some of the photographs that were captured when we're out visiting with Charles Stag. And rather than just showing you a few of the selects, I want to show you a wider range of photographs, in order to share with you a bit of my own creative process. Well, this was the first picture that I captured. We drove up in our cars, we had come around the bend, so to speak, and there we parked, I stepped out, and captured this frame. This is really a fantastic structure and when I saw this, it made me think "We are really off the beaten path." And one of things that I wanted to do was just get familiar with this place, so a lot of my first and early pictures were just that; it was capturing this structure. What is this structure, and how is it held together? Are these really bottles, and what are all these different details and shapes and lines and forms? So I just walked around and tried to capture it.
Again, it was my way to become familiar with this scene. This building in particular really captivated me because you have all these bottles and they're obviously pointing in and then some of the bottles are coming out of the wall at different depths. I was looking forward to getting into that room. But I kept walking around and capturing things, small, little details like the sign at the front, or these different faces that you would find embedded on the walls throughout this particular place, faces which were eroded and kind of falling apart, like these two here.
And again, all of these early pictures were just my way to get familiar with this place. Who is this person who's created this thing, and what is this thing? So I continued. I walked around and I got up close and I really looked at these different bottles one at a time, and then of course I wanted to go inside. And when I walked into this room, it was surreal. Really fascinating. I mean all of these bottles were literally glowing.
And then he had created these sculptures which were made of wood and metal twisting and turning inside of the space, and I just wanted to get a closer and closer look. It was so fascinating. The patterns, the colors, the light. And here you can see just these walls, these walls of bottles, and what was interesting is just the subtle, slight wave, and the way that the texture would change. And what was so interesting is you would be in this room that was glowing green and all of sudden a cloud would come over the sun and it would get dark and then the cloud would pass and it will get bright and it was bright green and glowing.
And again, I just was getting closer and closer trying to figure this all out. And it was fun. In a sense it was like putting together these different pieces of a puzzle. And then of course I knew that my job was to capture some portraits of Charles. Rather than work against that, rather than trying to create a color- correct image I want a photograph that was completely green. I mean when else in your life are going to be able to capture a portrait in this kind of natural and available light.
And here with Charles looking away, his eyes, which are also illuminated almost like those bottles, capturing this frame, which is mysterious. It's uncertain. And that was a little bit how I felt at that point. I wasn't quite sure. I was interested. I was intrigued, but I didn't know where this was going to lead. I pulled back to create a picture which captured a bit more of that space. Here he is, touching the bottles. Somehow I wanted him to interact with the space.
And then we continued to walk around, we went outside, and this time he was sitting down in front of this wall of bottles. And what was so interesting to me about this wall as these bottles were actually functional. If you look inside of them, you can see he had little things stored there, sometimes nails or screwdrivers or gloves different tools that he used. And I captured that perspective because here we were inside; now we were outside. We kept flipping perspectives. And the structure, it was fantastic. It was like it was almost built inside out.
We kept walking, we kept talking, I tried to capture him in these different scenarios. Here you can see this wall of bottles, different colors, were outside. There is no roof above. We don't have that green glowing light; we have natural daylight. But that wall, it's almost like, it's almost like a curious mosaic. And I like this picture, how he is leaning and standing. There is a curve to his posture which almost matches those walls. I think you can see the artist in a really distinct light in this scenario.
You know this is one of those photographs that I was hoping to capture, something which conveys a little bit about this place and the person who made it.
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