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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.
After capturing a number of different photographs of Charles, I wanted to make some other pictures as well. You know one things that I like about photography is that it gives you an excuse to bring people together, and I wanted to capture some pictures of Keith and his wife, Pat, as well as Charles. I wanted to get some photographs of them together, because they've been friends for a long time, and so often you capture those photographs of friends where they're kind of standing next to each other and they're smiling. There are a little bit more like snapshots. Rather than creating a snapshot, I wanted to almost construct a picture.
Earlier, I'd notice these interesting ladders in this courtyard, so I asked them to come into that space and just to stand in different positions. Again, I was interested in creating a picture that included these three people at first, but in a way that they were separate. After capturing that frame, I wanted to bring them together. I wanted that closeness as well, so I asked them to stand close to each other and at that point, there was just some fun storytelling. And you know whenever you bring people together who have been friends for a long time it takes on a different feel, a different mood, and so I wanted to hear some of those stories.
I wanted to get them talking a little bit, capture a bit of that candid moment. And then of course I want to create a more formal picture as well, where they're looking towards the camera. And after having made that photograph, my job or my task as a photographer, it was done. It was my turn to set down the camera and after that moment, we all just spent some time together. And one of the things that I've discovered is that when photographing people it gives you this unique privilege of spending time with others, sometimes one on one, other times in a group.
And after I'd made all those pictures, we really just sat down in this circle and we just talked. We told stories. We had fun. You know that's one of the reasons why I love making people pictures; it's all about getting together with people and enjoying their company. What I found is that the camera somehow, it's an excuse to do that, and by getting out there and spending time with these other people, somehow it enriches who you are and how you see the world.
So Keith, this was a really fun day. It was great to have a chance to meet with a few different people who've influenced you and some artists and I appreciate it and here we are, in this space, at the of day. It would be fun to hear some of your thoughts about this. What do you enjoy about this spot? Keith Carter: Well, I think this spot is a cosmic kind of place. I just think, and I think that Charles Stagg is the human spirit in flight.
I mean this place has been burned down. It has been blown down by hurricanes. It's been one thing after another, and he builds it back, and he builds it back better every single time, and he builds it often mostly by himself, or with the encouragement of a few friends that come out and help him. I love this place because, in my region, the lowlands of Texas, east Texas, there are very few places that I can go where I think I'm in some other land altogether.
David Cargill's yard is one. Coming out to Charles Stagg's--I call it an art house, but to come after this place. I mean it, it's about the beauty of making things, making them well, having a dream, having a project. You know, and I think the ultimate project is probably one that you never get finished with, but that's just the way I look at it.
Chris Orwig: Hm. Well. Keith Carter: And there are goats. I like goats. Chris Orwig: Well, in closing I think being in Texas has been wonderful, and next time I'll come back with some boots on rather than some flip-flops. Keith Carter: You're looking good. You've got a cowboy shirt. Flip-flops kill it, but nonetheless-- Chris Orwig: You're a friend, a brother, and a mentor, and I appreciate it, Keith, so thank you. Keith Carter: We had a good time.
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