Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Beyond the Basics

We live in extraordinary times in the world of photography and imagery.  While technology is constantly pushing the envelope, I find it offers exceptional opportunities in the creative aspect.  I recently discovered a new project by Tom Lowe, the "Astronomy Photographer" of the year that is about to be released to the public.  Tom's photographic niche is time lapse motion control imagery.  On this project, Timescapes, Tom captures RAW digital images and collaborates with musician, John Stanford for some mind-blowing "ambient chill out music" to create a multi-sensory delight. Makes one wonder about the possibilities...endless!

Timescape by Tom Lowe
Music by John Stanford

Note:  For best video results, click on small play button at bottom of frame, then large play button in middle of frame.  This will send you directly to YouTube page.  Otherwise by just hitting one play button you get the music but the imagery has quite a delay.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tooting My Own Horn - COLOR Magazine

In retrospect, 2010 was a very good year in terms of national exposure.  The entry below speaks to my black & white images but now this entry covers some of my color images.  I have nine color images (12-20) in COLOR Magazine (merged with B&W to become B&W-Color) on-line gallery.  Don't forget to click on the "enlarge" icon for a larger screen view.  Enjoy the slideshow and share this link with your friends.

Below is a sneak peak at just one of the images.  Go to http://gallery.color-mag.com/contests/2/photographs/4312

Blue Rider, © 2006, Joanne Scherf

COLOR Magazine - Joanne's images

Friday, December 2, 2011

Tooting My Own Horn - B&W Magazine

For all the time and effort involved in capturing images, processing, editing, and then submitting them for juried competition the hard work often goes unnoticed unless one is fortunate to be accepted.  Things are changing.  In the past year I've noticed that even if one does not make the cut into the final juried exhibit, more organizations are finding ways to provide all artists submitting work to gain exposure regardless. That's why I'm happy to announce another opportunity for national exposure even though my work was not awarded by B&W Magazine....not yet, at least.

About 5 months ago I submitted 9 images to the B&W Magazine 2011Single Entry Competition.  I recently received notice my work was not accepted.  However, B&W is showing all entries on their website....thousands!!  Use the link provided and view all 9 of my images; using the "enlarge" icon for full screen views.   Here are just two samples, but go to the website for all 9 images.


Past Tense, © 2008, Joanne Scherf

The Corner, © 2007, Joanne Scherf

B&W Magazine - Joanne's work submitted

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Collaboration as Art Form

Photography, much like painting and sculpture, has the potential for being a very private and isolated art form.  It's not that unusual to create a project, capture images, and edit one's work as an individual exercise without much influence from others.  Yet why can't photography offer opportunities to collaborate with other artists much like is done in film or video where the synergy of visual and literary artists form an alliance to provide a narrative for their work.  To that end I recently came upon an opportunity to do just that.  It provided an interesting spin on the collaboration approach whereupon the written word drove the imagery to tell the story.  Basically the project involved visually interpreting a random selection of script excerpts from a proposed film.  Given very brief script statements presented in incomplete sentences, the photographer was asked to interpret the script to convey the essence of the writer's intent.

I found this approach fascinating since one typically goes out to capture an image based on one's own personal story or essay.  The opportunity to interpret someone else's words and create images to convey the message was an alternative not previously encountered.  It was an interesting experiment that resulted in contemplating future collaborative projects with a mixed bag of art forms, both visual and literary.

Lisle!  Hush!  You're gonna wake the dead people.  (Aurora....tense).

Heaven's Gate, © Joanne Scherf

Suddenly I (Lisle) was in this place I'd never seen....everything was white....

Wonderland, © Joanne Scherf

Lisle moves closer, pushing branches aside as she goes.  And that's when she sees it; suddenly the creature transforms....

© Joanne Scherf

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Who Says? What if? Why Not?

Who says photography has to be stagnant?  Where is it written that photographic images have to be contained within the confines of matt board and glass with frame?  Why not capture creative images and edit them in such a robust sequence that they appear in motion.  And why not provide a background of music to further enhance the creative experience?  Why not indeed!

To that end I stumbled upon this incredible creative endeavor of the artist, Oren Lavie in my routine download of constant research relevant to my art form.  He not only conceived the project, but also is the on-screen talent, director, musician and singer.  The process is intriguing for me, as a "still" photographer I dream about the possibilities of creating something edgy with my art.   When I viewed Oren's work I knew the process of "stop motion video" was just what I had in mind but didn't know there was a defined genre.

Oren's work, titled "Her Morning Elegance" is a masterpiece example of a new pop phenomena.  It was composed of 2,096 still photographs.  The images were shot and sequenced to create a sense of movement.  The possibilities of "still photography" are endless.

© Orin Lavie, "Her Morning Elegance"

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

5 Ways to Improve The Art of Seeing

After years of exhibiting my work in galleries and discreetly hovering behind viewers of my art to eavesdrop their comments, I've come to the conclusion that the public in general is unfamiliar with how to actually "see" and experience photography.

Rather than go into the art of image composition and elements related to reading photographs, I've decided to take a simple approach to enjoying images.  First off, I chose the word "see" rather than "look" because "see" infers devoting extended time in contemplation as opposed to the nano-second look which is typical of everyone now in speed mode.  So as not to short change the experience and forego a deeper appreciation I have some suggestions for the viewer of art.

Sunburst; © 2011, Joanne Scherf

  1. Slow Down.  There is actually a relationship between the art and viewer that needs to be discovered.  Take the time to engage your subconscious level and ask yourself what is going on beneath the surface.  There is always more than meets the eye.
  2. There's No Right or Wrong Interpretation.  That's why it's art; it's open to interpretation based on your visual acuity and life experience.  Rather than getting hung up on trying to figure it out, focus on your feelings, emotion, and what the image is saying to YOU; let it speak to you.  As Ansel Adams put it, "there are always two people in every picture; the photographer and the viewer." 
  3. Share Your Views with Others.  Engage in conversation with others nearby in hopes the shared perspectives will enrich the experience and interpretation.  Others may see things differently or actually see different things.
  4. Pretend You Are the Photographer.  There's always a million different approaches to creating an image.  Looking at the image ask yourself what you would do differently.  Color vs. black & white?  Vertical vs. horizontal orientation?  Different angle, perspective, lens, theme, proportion, composition, personal view, dominant feature, etc.?
  5. Re-Visit and Repeat.  Give the image more than one chance.  After viewing an entire exhibit, return to a few select images for another look.  You may be surprised that a second viewing results in greater depth of understanding or connection with a particular image.  The practice of seeing an image again and again provides greater chance of additional insight and ultimate enjoyment.  
Now that your visual literacy has improved significantly, here's another challenge.  What do you see and feel?

Beyond the Looking Glass, © 2006, Joanne Scherf

Friday, October 21, 2011

Weather or Not?

On a vacation one typically hopes for fabulous weather.  As a photographer however one has to go with what is presented and I for one feel fortunate when the weather is less than perfect.  A cloudy sky is a perfect natural light box providing a soft and even illumination of the subject below the clouds.  Add torrential rain and I quite frankly delight in what nature presents; a masterful display of natural artwork no further than one's hiking boot.  In this type of environment I find myself focusing more closely on the minute elements that the weather presents with this unique opportunity of clouds and rain.  The three immediate images are samples of delicate pearls of rain dancing on cobwebs suspended from vegetation along the path.

© 2011, Joanne Scherf
© 2011, Joanne Scherf

© 2011, Joanne Scherf

Or even the submerged park glistens with vibrant colors and reflections of nearby trees, again not evident on a clear, sunny day with the same intensity.

© 2011, Joanne Scherf

© 2011, Joanne Scherf

The lesson learned over years of practice, is to embrace the challenge and use the opportunity of  inclement weather to create pure and natural art.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Image Display Alternatives: Thinking Outside the Box

The physical properties of a photographer's image is defined as a 2D piece of art.  As a photographer who valiantly attempts to challenge the status quo I've always struggled with discovering possible alternatives to the traditional and somewhat boring display method; matted and framed prints hanging on a wall.  To that end I experimented in my one woman show, the 3D Environment, last September to discover if there was indeed an alternative to the traditional display options without using a multi-media approach of technology.

In two sections of my show I tried using a different print surface along with a creative method of displaying some of my work.  The surface of choice for my little experiment was a specially coated aluminum sheet with high gloss finish that took on an almost magical luminescence quality.  Two sections of the exhibit had magnetic strings suspended from the ceiling that was capable of bearing the load of multiple 5x7 metal images, thereby creating mobiles of art.  The metal print surface was a brilliant choice and the creative display of images suspended from the ceiling was very successful.  I'm ecstatic to report that this new approach allowed the viewer to walk around and between the suspended mobiles, become more engaged, and created a definite buzz since that was something totally new and unexpected.  An extra special bonus was the placement of my mobile art near a glass roof dome of the gallery's 2nd floor that allowed a variety of natural light throughout the day creating dancing shadows of the mobiles on a nearby wall.  The metal print material, display approach of suspended mobiles, and natural lighting from a sky roof dome all coalesced together to form a creative special effect.

Not that all images can be displayed in this manner, but it proves that our vision as photographers continues beyond the frame.  One must think about the appropriate display options that fit the intent and "inner vision".  After this experiment I was excited to see the positive results of this mobile effort but am even more committed to provide my viewers creative options or experiences when viewing my work.

Suspended Mobiles of Art

Dancing Shadows

Friday, September 16, 2011

TEDxDetroit: Get Invited

The area's leading creators, catalysts, entrepreneurs, artists, technologists, designers, scientists, thinkers and doers will gather to share what they are most passionate about — positive ideas for the world from Detroit. TED is an annual event where the top minds in the world share, connect and inspire. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design — three subjects that, collectively, shape our future. The event draws CEOs, scientists, creatives, philanthropists and extraordinary speakers including Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Frank Gehry, Sir Richard Branson, Philippe Starck and Bono.

What started as an annual event has bloomed into a global movement. TED has expanded beyond its annual conference by seeding smaller, independent events throughout the nation, called TEDx. The third TEDxDetroit will emulate the spirit and ideals of the TED Conference. The Detroit TED conference is scheduled for September 28 from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm at Detroit's Orchestra Hall.  Go to http://tedxdetroit.com and complete the brief application to receive an invitation to attend this prestigious conference filled with Detroit's finest representatives from our creative community.

Shooting Scripts: To Have or Have Not

Capturing images for a personal project is an exercise in a delicate balance between being prepared and being flexible in order to keep the spirit of discovery alive, and make adjustments as necessary.  Case in point, the legendary Robert Frank, when applying for the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship proposed a list of things he might photograph for his project.

"a town at night, a parking lot, a supermarket, a highway, the man who owns three cars and the man who owns none, the farmer and his children, a new house and a warped clapboard house, the dictation of taste, the dream of grandeur, advertising, neon lights, the faces of the leaders, and the faces of the followers, gas tanks and post offices and backyards....."  Frank also indicated on his Guggenheim application that "the project I have in mind is one that will shape itself as it proceeds, and is essentially elastic."

Another legend, Dorthea Lange believed that "to know ahead of time what you're looking for means you're then only photographing your own preconceptions, which is very limiting."  She was actually fine with the idea of working completely without a plan and to just photograph "that to which one instinctively responds".  According to Lange, although chance plays a major role in the beginning, this arbitrary nature leads to things coalesced under a particular area of interest.  Soon that area of interest becomes the concept or primary idea; thus the organizing principle of your project.

Reviewing both Frank's and Lange's approaches, they both arrived at the same destination albeit one from a simple list of thoughts to being flexible, and the other from being open to arriving at a concept through discovery.  My personal preference is more like Robert Frank's where I have a plan and roughly defined concept of my photo essay before venturing out and being totally open to pure discovery on the path to image creation.  I find that the open-mindedness during the adventure only enhances the original concept, enriching the final outcome.

Reference:  The Ongoing Moment; Geoff Dyer; Vintage Books; 2005 (fabulous historical narrative on photography)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Three Times and Counting

Most of you have already heard but for those who haven't.....I'm a merit award winner for the third consecutive year in COLOR magazine's 2011 Portfolio Contest.  It's an amazing honor as the competition is stiff; only 67 photographers awarded out of 480 artists with over 8,000 images competing for space in the special issue.  The COLOR Magazine recently became folded into the highly respected B&W (Black & White) Magazine.  

The images I submitted were a photo essay of 12 images done with a soft focus approach.  Due to the subject matter and artistic intention I felt the ambience was better suited to this pictorialist style than the traditional in focus depth of field.  Striving to bring a new perspective to achieve an emotional expression over observed reality is challenging but at the same time most rewarding.  Below are two of the images within the my award-winning photo essay.

Aura, © Joanne Scherf

Splash, © Joanne Scherf

The Whispering Voice Amidst Technology

With the technology today everyone has the opportunity and multiple options to express their opinions. Hopefully even with the saturation of excessive communications and burden to keep up, you will still find the time and interest to hear the whisper of my inner voice, the visual voice behind my creative thoughts. This blog will not be devoted to what's in my camera bag, or my reviews of the latest gadget or software application; there are plenty of sites addressing those issues.  Rather consider this as my space to share my insight into the art of photography and life of the creative spirit.  What was my intent, inspiration, process, lessons learned, opinions or personal experience as I seek images to capture.  Hope you enjoy the visual journey along with me.