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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: When I was 24, I felt like I had learned as much as I could learn from the people in the camera stores around here, and the books I was reading. I had read Ansel Adams' series three times, and I still didn't understand half that stuff, but I was trying to learn to print from books, and there wasn't much being shown even in Houston in those days. Nothing in my area. So I wrote The Museum of Modern Art, and I told them I was a serous scholar of photography, and could I come visit their collection? Chris Orwig: It's always interesting to hear about other people's photographic journey. How did they get to where they are today? And as Keith shared a little bit about his, I love the part about him selling everything and using all that money to travel to New York.
What I love about that is that he said at one point, I learned as much as I could, and then he made that next step, or he took that next step. I think what's profound isn't that he went to New York, but it's that he had that moment, and the moment for me was when he said that he learned as much as he could. For all of us, we reach those moments. We learn. We grow. Perhaps we work in a certain scenario, but then we have to almost admit that we need to somehow do something else to learn more.
It takes a lot to admit that, because a lot of times you become, let's say, an accomplished photographer and maybe you are and you can rest upon all of your accomplishments. Well, you have to get over that. You have to say well, what else can I do to get better? Or maybe you are just starting out, and it's a little bit embarrassing to say, well, I've learned as much as I can here. What else can I do? And a lot of times I think that means going to that workshop, watching the video, reading the book, or perhaps traveling somewhere to learn more about photography; in other words, to get good at art, to get good at photography, it requires a journey. And that journey requires in a sense that honesty, almost the humility to admit that and then embrace it and really go for it.
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