Sunday, December 2, 2012

My Evolving Relationship with Photography

For the past few years, photography has developed into a passion and a bit of an obsession of mine. I have passed many milestones to reach my current skill level, but the beauty of photography is that it is a never-ending process filled with challenges of reflection and self-improvement. Throughout the duration of this course in Paris and London, I was constantly pushing myself to live in the moment while capturing it as effectively as possible. At the same time, I was delighted to befriend my peers and have the ability to document our journey together. I found myself shift throughout the course from being focused primarily on photographing interesting landscape to becoming captivated with the human subject. Photography became an interesting means to connecting with my peers as we were often one another's best subjects. In reflection, the photographs of the people I know are far more meaningful to me now than any beautiful landscape. This was an wonderful trip which left me feeling more evolved as a photographer and a human being. I have seen an exciting maturation in my photographs as they are much more skillfully executed as well as thoughtful. I look forward to the memories I will capture on film in the future, and the times I will undoubtedly look through these photographs fondly. The final photography assignment was "A Day in Your Life", and the photographs can be seen at:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Psychological Differences Between the Same Subject, Painted and Photographed

There are a number of obvious and not so obvious differences across varying art modes such as painting and photography. All of these differing factors would have an influential role in determining the psychological mindset of the subject, and ultimately how they may be perceived through the final work of art. The first would be the skill set of the artist, as well as their ultimate vision for what they want to portray. The artist has the power to control everything from how the subject is posed to how the subject interacts with the artist, and this process would greatly differ from photography to painting. The second factor would be the actual personality and physical characteristics of the subject. Photography is a much easier method to give a realistic depiction of how someone looks, which may be intimidating or more liberating depending on the perspective of the artist and subject. Painting is also generally a more time-consuming project requiring attention to detail, but also allowing for more artistic liberties as the image can be manipulated and changed at will. The time commitment and ability to stray from reality has the potential to influence the temperament of the subject, which could perhaps be seen in the final product. From my personal experience, my subjects relationship with the camera is increasingly comfortable in proportion to how comfortable my subjects are with me. That is to say, strangers are often very distant and wary of the camera, and good friends are at ease and playful with the camera, and this can clearly be seen in my photographs. Please refer to the following link to see some examples of this in today's assignment of "A Sense of Time and Place":

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Photographers' Gallery

Men & Women. A superb mixture of photographic styles, photographer Tom Wood has created a wonderful exhibition within the Photographers' Gallery. The room is neatly divided in half between diverse snapshots of men and women, each photograph reaching out to tell its own unique story. As I circled the room, I searched for the meaning behind each subject, their setting, their personality, and what Mr. Wood may have been trying to show through his images.
I am drawn to several photographs for a variety of peculiar reasons, but the one that was immediately imprinted onto my memory was a simple black and white photograph of a women with a potentially complex story. The woman is a bit older, and the photograph is a portrait taken in what is presumably her home, which would heighten the intimacy of the photograph. First off, I absolutely love black and white photographs as they strike me as more classic, and seem to miraculously cast everybody in a flattering light. This woman has clearly defined wrinkles, is not smiling, seems slightly exhausted with her hand on her hip, but she is stunning. Her eyes look straight into the camera and she holds herself in an entirely composed manner that suggests she has lived enough life to know she has nothing to prove to anybody else. This is the exact kind of photograph I am personally striving to achieve, as human beings are the most fascinating and diverse type of subject available. I like the idea of taking a single moment from daily life, either candid or posed, and capturing that in a simple and effective way for others to interpret. The photography assignment for today was "The Human Street", so please refer to the following link to see my attempt at capturing the human existence which surrounds me:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Letter to William Henry Fox Talbot

Dear William Henry Fox Talbot, What a lovely home you have. Due to the nature of this course, we of course had to stop by Lacock Abbey to see THE window, I hope you don't mind. You have become famous for your invention of the calotype process, and the oldest photographic negative in existence was developed by you at that exact window we got to visit today- incredible. Photography has evolved into an irreplaceable component of life as we know it, and you are one of the founding fathers of this beautiful form of expression; words cannot express my gratitude. Life slips away at a terrifying rate, but there is comfort in having the ability to capture and solidify these moments in a photograph. Although photography has changed quite a bit from the way you knew it, we are now more able to capture and alter images in any way we want. Photography has become more than a hobby for me, it is now a very personal and therapeutic way for me to express myself and reflect on the beauty of my surroundings. For everything, and more than I could ever say with just words, thank you. Sincerely, Vanessa

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Journey, so far

Reflections on the journey from Wednesday, November 21 to Wednesday, November 28... In a desperate attempt to shake the horribly ill feeling caused by my last night in Paris I got a table for one at Pizza Hut this evening. I have never felt more American. Embarrassing as it may be, this was the perfect opportunity to take some time to myself and reflect over everything that has happened thus far. This has been a surreal journey full of irreplaceable experiences and surprising life lessons. I could not have asked for a more perfect group of peers to travel and share these experiences with. To put it briefly, I have played in the Gardens of Versailles, indulged in French wine and pastries, learned not to make eye contact with gypsies, gotten lost in the Cemetery of Piere-Lachaise, toasted a glass of champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower, played with shutter speed at the Sacre Coeur, discovered inspiration and beauty from every little bit of the city, and taken an absurd amount of photographs every step of the way. I have discovered a very artistic and curious side of myself and cannot wait to live in Paris at some point in my life and pick up right where I left off. Truly, Paris, je t'aime.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Constructing Identity through Photographs

Today's photography assignment was "A Sense of Self", which proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated. I challenged myself to go beyond awkward selfie photos in the bathroom mirror and try to photograph more symbolic reflections of my identity. Ultimately, I believe the effort to capture identity in a photograph is an underlying theme in all photography, whether it is conscious or not. Individuals are always capturing themselves, their friends, their family, their surroundings and so forth, in order to share them with others or keep that memory for themselves. It always goes back to the individual taking the photograph and the story they wish to tell, which in itself is an indicator of who they are. The evolution of photography has grown at an impressive rate with new technology and styles constantly being created to allow more personal styles to be expressed. This particular photograph was taken at the Musee d'Orsay, and I thought it was a lovely indicator of how I wanted to capture myself in that one moment of time.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Photography and Death

     Photography and Death- what an interesting photo assignment. I have always seen photography as an infinite effort to capture the life which exists in a fleeting moment, yet there is still history and information that can be photographed within a cemetery. This afternoon I spent hours wandering around the Cemetery of Piere-Lachaise, in awe of how beautiful it actually was. I did get lost by myself most of the time searching for the tombstone of Felix Nadar as he was one of the founding fathers of photography, but had no luck. This cemetery is so much bigger and lovelier than I could have ever fathomed, with light moss accenting the tombstones of literally hundreds of people along endless cobblestone pathways. I could not help but wonder about the lives each of these people had led before finding their final resting place here. There is a particularly wonderful scene in the film "Paris, Je'Taime" where an American mailwoman from Denver visits the Cemetery of Piere-Lachaise and in endearingly horrible French reflects on visiting the tombstone of a Mexican dictator. She sat in front of it for quite some time, thinking about how this man had once held so much power, but now he could not move or talk as she could. It was a haunting thought, but touching as it reminded me to never take for granted even the basic functions life affords me. There was so much rich history within that one cemetery as there are famous artists, intellects, and political figures all around.
I regret not taking the time to visit Jim Morrison. the American songwriter, poet, and lead singer of The Doors. The Doors are frequently revered as one of the top rock bands of all time, and Jim Morrison is an icon in the world of classic rock. Born in Melbourne, Florida, he had an interesting childhood frequently moving, and seeing a traumatic car accident at the age of four which he frequently mentioned in his work. His long-term partner was a woman named Pamela Courson, with whom he had an open-relationship that resulted in numerous fights. They met before he became rich and famous, and after both of their deaths the court decided they had a common-law marriage. Morrison and Courson moved to Paris in March 1971, where he passed away a few months later in July under mysterious circumstances.
I also wish I had been able to see Gertrude Stein, as my friend Leah was so excited to see her. Stein was an American writer as well as art collector with notable acquaintances such as Picasso, Henri Rousseau, and Ernest Hemingway (she was his son's godmother). Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1874, Stein moved to Paris in 1903, where she stayed for the rest of her life. Stein is credited with writing one of the earliest coming out stories, and her partner was a woman by the name of Alice B. Toklas.
I did get to spend a little bit of time with Oscar Wilde, which was fantastic. Wilde was an Irish poet and writer, best known for his works such as The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Born in Dublin in 1854, he attended both Trinity College in Dublin and Oxford. He moved permanently to England in 1878, joining the high social circles of London. In 1884 he married and had two sons with Constace Lloyd. Wilde's alleged first male lover was a Canadian journalist by the name of Robert Ross, who eventually became his literary executor. Wilde was imprisoned in 1895 on charges of homosexuality, and sent into exile in 1897. He passed away in November 1900 from cerebral meningitis, and he is now buried alongside the ashes of Robert Ross.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Sense of the Other/Paris du Nuit

     This photography course has attracted a diverse and wonderful group of people and it has been a pleasure gradually learning a little bit about each of their unique backgrounds. Very few of us are actually art majors, but all of us are here to improve our skill level with photography, whatever level it may be at. The portraits I have selected from today’s photographs are of Roddy (our hilarious and irreplaceable instructor), Anna (one of our three brave freshmen), Janna (my roommate with an impressive background in art history), and Breanna (who comes up with some of the most creative poses I have ever seen).
     Due to the constant interaction with my fellow classmates/travelers I feel like I could write an excerpt about each of them. At the moment, the two individuals I have spent the most time around have been Janna and Breanna Janna is a very lovely and serene person to be around which has made her the ideal roommate. She is an art history major, so naturally she has been putting my little historical knowledge to shame in places like the Louvre Museum. She is a fourth year student as well, and did her study abroad in France, which has definitely made me feel comfortable traveling with her as she understands French culture on a different level. I believe that the photographs I took of her were able to capture her sweet nature and how at ease she is with her surroundings.
     Then there’s Breanna whose personality could never be fully captured by my words. An absolute riot, yet down-to-earth girl, I have definitely enjoyed getting to know her. She is a sophomore who has already started her own photography company, “Shredded Elements”, which I find very impressive as that is something I have always dreamed of doing. Her enthusiasm throughout the trip is wonderful, and has definitely been a reminder to enjoy every second we have in Paris and London as it is going by so fast.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Sense of Place

Today, my photography was primarily focused on a combination of how to interpret “A Sense of Place” within the Palace of Versailles and simply making sure to get as many photos as possible to remember every detail. I can honestly say it was a success. The Palace of Versailles is an awe-inspiring place full of such a rich history I could not believe I was walking across the same grounds as royals had. Versailles is a location I had heard about in far off stories and movies, but I could not believe that was actually it. Place is simply a term of reference to one’s identity and can be interpreted in many ways. I was able to reflect on how my physical place was Versailles, yet my place in the grand scheme of life would be much more difficult to pinpoint. The royals who resided at the Palace of Versailles were obviously in a very entitled position, and I found it incredulous there were people starving in the streets of France with such an abuse of wealth on blatant display in a place like Versaille. While it is undoubtedly a beautiful museum, I could envision myself being outraged by so few being able to enjoy such luxury. This place had an aura of history In order to reflect how dream-like the entire experience was I edited many of my photos to give them an ethereal and darker effect. While the exterior of the entire setting is beautiful, there is a much more negative aspect to the historical gross misdistribution of wealth which I felt could not be ignored. The following are several of the images taken from this exploration of Versailles, but please check out the flickr page for more photographs:

Friday, November 23, 2012

Journeys, Physical and Psychological

     What an unbelievable 24 hours. This is something that goes beyond the limitations of a writing assignment; I wish I could express this experience in more than words. This is often how traveling experiences go as I struggle to show people through my photographs and messages how much each moment has the potential to change my perspective and who I am as an individual. I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to study abroad in Australia and do some traveling through Southeast Asia, which has taught me two very important lessons: prepare to pay the consequences if you do not pack lightly, and try not to have any expectations.
     I have been particularly looking forward to this journey to Paris and London as I knew I would be able to meet up with some amazing friends I made in Australia while simultaneously taking a great photography course. I was honestly a bit nervous because so much time has passed since I have seen them, but it was absolutely incredible how natural the entire situation was and how completely at ease I was in their company again. We had each come a long way from our time in Australia and I have personally felt that that was an entirely different life experienced by someone else. Yet, I felt strangely at home with them, but also had a hard time believing it was not a dream.
     One of my biggest difficulties when traveling is actually fully feeling like I am living in that moment. I am frustrated with the idea of not being mentally present or as fully appreciative as I could be in a once-in-a-lifetime moment. Luckily, I feel like I have really been embracing this trip to London and Paris. Despite a 12-hour journey via plane and a rugged 2 and a half hour journey navigating the tube, I was so keen to catch up with my friends and enjoy every possible moment. I believe this is actually a result of learning and maturation from previous travelling, which I am so grateful for. I was able to have an absolutely lovely time with my friends making dinner, chatting the night away, seeing the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, finally seeing Big Ben, the London Eye, and Trafalgar Square, while simultaneously taking ridiculous amounts of photographs to capture every moment. The typical tourist sites were awesome, but the best part for me was spending time with these people who mean so much to me. There is no doubt that I am obsessed with traveling as it reveals so much about who I am, good or bad, and I am able to grow in a psychological sense as I physically experience these incredible locations. I am looking forward to seeing what the rest of this journey brings.
This is one of a few hundred images taken in London during that first day. To view more of the photos from this day please visit:
(This post is an expanded and updated version of my previous post entitled “History of Photography Survey”)
The image above is the first known photograph in the world, taken by Nicephore Niepce in 1825. Photography has a long and complicated history full of major contributions from a number of people. Here are a few key terms and people who shaped the early history of photography. Nicephore Niepce: Nicephore Niepce (1765-1833) was a French inventor who is most widely known for creating the first photograph in 1825. He developed the first photographic process known as "heliography," which made him an early pioneer of photography.
Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre: Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre (1787-1851) is most widely known for his creation of the daguerrotype process, which he patented in 1839. This process is created with mercury and silver on a copper plate. His process came after working with Niepce for a number of years and the French government actually released it to the public stating that it was a gift "Free to the world."
William Henry Fox Talbot: William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) was a British inventor who is attributed with the invention of the calotype process, which he was able to patent in 1841. This is the process which modern photographic processes stem from. He is also known for helping shift photography into an artistic medium.
Hippolyte Bayard: Hippolyte Bayard (1807-1887) was a French photographer who claimed to have invented photography before Daguerre and Talbot. While this is up for debate, there is no doubt he was very influential in the early development of photography as he was the inventor of direct positive printing, and held the very first photography exhibit.
Julia Margaret Cameron: Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) was a British photographer most well known for her photographs of celebrities of the time, such as Charles Darwin. Her work was not widely appreciated in her time but has become an inspiration for later generations of photographers.
Lady Clementina Hawarden: Lady Clementina Hawarden (1822-1865) gained her fame primarily during the 1860’s as a portrait photographer. Her move from Ireland to London allowed her to set up her own studio where many of her portraits include her own children. Felix Nadar (Gaspard-Felix Tournachon): Felix Nadar (1820-1910) was a French photographer who is known for taking the first aerial photographs with a camera. While working in the catacombs of Paris he also pioneered the use of artificial lighting in photography. Gustave Le Gray: Jean-Baptiste Gustave Le Gray (1820-1884) was a French painter turned photographer who has been accredited with the title “the most important French photographer of the nineteenth century”. He made many technical innovations to the field of photography, which include improvements on paper negatives and combination printing. Diane Arbus: Diane Arbus (1923-1971) was an American photographer and writer whose fame is mainly attributed to her black-and-white photographs of “deviant and marginal people (dwarfs, giants, transgender people, nudists, circus performers) or of people whose normality seems ugly or surreal.” Susan Sontag: Susan Sontag (1933-2004) was an American filmmaker and writer. She was frequently photographed throughout her lifetime, and her essay “On Photography”, written in 1977 was an influential discussion on her own theory on what the meaning photography holds as you travel. Johann Heinrich Schultz (silver salts): Johann Heinrich Schultz (1687-1744) was a German professor who discovered that when certain silver salts come into contact with light they darken. Even though the silver salts continue to darken unless protected from the light this discovery laid the groundwork for the creation of fixed images. Thomas Wedgewood (sun prints): Thomas Wedgewood (1771-1805) created what are known as "sun prints" in the 1790's. He experimented with shining light on objects soaked with silver nitrate in order to change their chemicals and create outlines of the object. However, he was unable to fix the images so they would ultimately deteriorate. Hill and Adamson: David Octavius Hill (1802-1870) and Robert Adamson (1821-1848) were a Scottish painter and photographer duo that put Talbot's photographic process to creative work in the 1840's. They are best known for their portraiture photography, most notably their photographs of working men an women in the fishing village of Newhaven, but they also did a lot of architecture and landscape photography. Scott Archer (wet collodion): Frederick Scott Archer (1813-1857) is most well known for his creation of the photographic collodion process. This has a major advantage over the daguerrotype as one can create multiple prints from the plate negative. He died in poverty due to the fact that he never patented his process. Dr. Richard Maddox: Dr. Richard Maddox (1816-1902) was an English photographer who invented lightweight gelatin negative plates in 1871. He was also well known for his photomicrography, which involves using a microscope with a camera to photograph small organisms. George Eastman (Kodak roll film): George Eastman (1854-1932) was an American inventor who invented roll film, which helped make photography a much more mainstream practice.