Monday, February 28, 2011

Guest Blogger: Kathleen Murray

Today I have a guest post from photographer Kathleen Murray. I've gotten to know Kathleen over the past several months when she and some of her friends moved into our Midtown Memphis bungalow. I'm inspired by the work of these artists (three photographers and one painter) and Kathleen is no exception. She loves photography and seems to put her heart and soul into her work. Take a few minutes to read her post and I bet you'll be inspired, too! Then, check out her work by clicking her links at the end of this post.

Hello world!
Thank you Leslie for giving me the opportunity to guest write for your blog! And thank you readers for reading and responding!

Credibility, for what it’s worth; here’s a bit about myself:
I began my interest in photography at an early age: in the fourth grade I won first place in a 4-H photography contest locally, regionally and in the state for a photo that I inadvertently double exposed. That is where it all began; my curiosity was peaked! From there my parents allowed me to continue to follow this curiosity by entering a summer art program offered to kids at a local college. I took photography in the mornings, and drawing in the afternoon. I cannot draw to this day, but what I learned in those mornings has fueled the fire for what I now do. 

I was the girl with the camera, who blew through 35mm film like it was going out of style, (little did I know, it would begin to a few years later). College hit, and I was able to EXPERIENCE the DARKROOM. A new love was found. Then, digital became popular, and I jumped on board. I completed my Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Sociology, with a minor in photojournalism. I was the photo technician on campus for three years and a student photographer for the school for two, I was quickly bumped from photo editor of our college's newspaper to the managing editor my final semester in school. As a photojournalist, I have been able to participate in the photographic coverage of disaster relief during hurricanes, tornadoes and severe flooding.

Upon graduation, I ventured off to graduate school seeking an MFA in art photography, after a year of schooling, moved to Texas where I spent yet another year as a photographer in a communications department. Years after graduating with my bachelor's degree from college, I returned to my alma matter to teach art photography as an adjunct professor and program director. After two years of teaching (a total of 18 photo classes) I have temporarily put teaching on hold to finish graduate school, which is where I am currently.

A few unrelated, though related thoughts on the overall theme of gaining ideas for photo shoots and growing in one’s own photography:

It’s really quite amazing to learn about all the photographers that have gone before you! Maybe some of these names are familiar…maybe not…(If not…PLEASE do yourself a favor and do a little research! Who knows…maybe it’ll give you some inspiration.) Have you ever heard of...
  • W. Eugene Smith
  • Alfred Stieglitz
  • Edward Steichen
  • Gordon Parks
  • Margaret Bourke-White
  • Dorthea Lange
  • Robert Capa
  • Cornell Capa
  • Diane Arbus
  • Eadweard Muybridge
  • Thomas Eakins
  • Etianne Marey
  • Harold Edgerton
  • Walker Evans
  • Jacob Riis
  • Irving Penn
  • Ansel Adams
  • Henri Cartier-Bresson
  • L.J.M. Daguerre
  • Avedon
  • O. Winston Link
  • Gjon Mili
  • Joseph Nicephore Niepce
This list is just a sampler of AMAZING photographers who have paved the way for you to do what you are doing, or what you’d like to be doing.

Knowing the history of photography is also knowing about contemporary photographers! History is ongoing correct? Do you know...
  • Joe McNally
  • Jeremy Cowart
  • Esther Havens
  • Chase Jarvis
  • Tokihiro Sato
  • Mary Ellen Mark
  • Hiroshi Sugimoto
  • Tim Walker
  • Sebastiao Salgado
  • Alec Soth
  • Annie Leibovitz
  • James Nachtwey
  • Gregory Crewdson
  • Sally Mann
  • Nikki S. Lee
  • Zena Holloway
  • Laurie Simmons
  • Larry Fink
  • Shizuka Yokomizo
  • Jeff Wall
  • Robert and Shana Parke-Harrison
  • John Coplans
  • Michael Kenna
  • Duane Michals
  • Lorna Simpson
  • Eve Sonneman
When looking at the work of these photographers, ask yourself:
  • Why are you attracted to certain images? 
  • Why are you not attracted certain ones? 
  • Why is this photographer important in the world of photography? 
  • What can I learn from this photographer and their body of work, or methodology of photographing? Try to decipher what type of photographic equipment they were using and WHY.
My former college professor Jim continually reminded me to “Explore!” It’s something that I enjoy doing to this day, with and without my camera. When you are learning about photography, especially early on, it’s important to have your camera on you at all times. It’s also very important to go slow enough to ask questions of what and how you are shooting, that way you are learning as you work. And hey, it’s totally okay to experiment! In fact…it’s always encouraged!

The key is to slow down enough to question what is working and what is not working. Then move around and keep shooting. In today’s digital world, it’s easy to rapidly shoot off thousands of images and hit with maybe one or two good images. To be consistently hitting the mark with great images takes time and refinement.

Revisit the basics! If you are feeling good with where you are at as a photographer, try limiting yourself to 24 or 36 images with NO deleting for a shoot. It’s the equivalent of shooting a standard roll of 35mm film…anyone remember those? They are getting harder and harder to find. This is a great challenge even for the most skilled photographer.

Prepare, then, GO with what you know—the flow, don’t force it.
In fact, to prepare mentally for photo shoots, I like to revisit some inspirational images that I have acquired over the years. I keep a folder on my computer of images (currently at nearly 8,000 images) that I have found from friend’s photo websites, from blogs, from anywhere online really. These images are filled with color palettes that are aesthetically pleasing to my own current taste, images that are where I’d like to take my photography, images with interesting perspectives on classic images, and images with fresh, creative ideas.  I’m not one to duplicate images in my folder, but I try to adapt them to my own style and technique of shooting. The worst thing I see when looking through portfolios are images that feel forced and overly created and manipulated. I’m definitely one to appreciate the more natural feeling images…no matter how staged or directed they may have actually been.

Remember, it’s not about the camera and equipment, it’s about the persons behind and in front of the camera that matter most.
There are times to pick up the camera and shoot, and times to set the camera down and focus on establishing and maintaining a good rapport with who or what may be in front of your lens. You must be sensitive and aware of the situation you may be in to whether or not you should be the active photographer with camera up, or camera down. In either situation, you must active and your ears must be OPEN. There are always going to pictures missed, but it’s whether you get the essential story-telling images that count. Some of the most story-telling images are the ones that occur before and after the “main event”.

OKAY. Go prepare, do your homework, be an active photographer with open, attentive ears and eyes.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes, which I painted years ago as an undergrad student on the wall of my photo classroom, that I later taught in, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”—Dorthea Lange.

Here’s to seeing differently!
@fotoeditor on Instagram

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