Portfolio review with Amy Toensing

26 December 2019

I entered an image into a juror show at a Gallery in Vermont, called The PhotoPlace Gallery. It’s located in Middlebury, which is home to a well-known liberal arts college. I received the Juror’s Award for my work, 1957, which included a portfolio review with the Juror. Amy Toensing, the Juror, is a regular contributor to National Geographic and well known photojournalist. She asked me to prepare 30-40 images to review:

39 Photos for portfolio review

Amy Toensing was very generous with her time and spent over an hour chatting about my work. What I understood:

  • The work that stands out to her most is my tableau. As I am successful in creating a story. See images 22-24.
  • My portraits and street work demonstrate that I can use a camera well, but aren’t as compelling.

I wasn’t sure how a portfolio review would be helpful – in general- because the advice and opinion is only of one person with a single perspective. However, I found this conversation extremely valuable . Firstly, I felt that my work was appreciated– as in that there was thought put into viewing it,- secondly that Amy was candid in her comments–and lastly that I realized that my greatest discomfort may be my area of greatest strength. In creating the tableau, I have felt like I have to cajole participants into posing, that i have to have a story clearly in mind my and that my stories have not really been “pretty”. I have been told many times that my tableau work is weird and dark. If I create more tableau, I will have to make peace with these outside observations and just do me. I complained that doing this work is hard, and Amy said– well, photography is hard. That’s the best piece of advice I have had about my work.

12 January 2020

Term 1 , 2020: Still Life , momento mori and vanitas.

Vanitas vanitatum et omnia Vanitas was the writing each of these artwork carried, reminding the viewers of the transience and brevity of human life, power, beauty and wealth, as well as of the insignificance of all material things and achievements. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, the profound philosophic message, led the paintings to ooze in symbolism and to depict allegorical compositions in which every element had a deeper, hidden meaning. Through this particular kind of narrative, these works warn about the irrelevance of all the beautiful, earthly pleasures, and provide us with a certain kind of unique aesthetics that many contemporary still life photographers picked up o

Wide Walls: Still Life Photographers who give a fresh meaning to vanitas.

Selected references for vanitas

Fruit Paintings to contemplate the transience of life

Pieter Claesz: Dutch Master 1600s

Dan Bannino: Pop-Baroque/Pop Renaissance photographer

Taryn Simon: Paperwork and the will of capital

Sharon Core: 1606-1907

Ori Gersht: Big bang

Paulette Tavormina : Natura Morte

Mat Collishaw: Last meal on Death Row, Texas

Old Master’s Painting technique: Video of the creation of a still life in the style of the Old Masters

19 January 2020. How to choose a project for this term: While many students come into this program with specific ideas of what they want to feature in their images, I did not. My goals for myself in this program including broadening my understanding of the photographic image and current culture; improving my technique to enable me to get the best out of a situation; to improve my photo shop and post production skills all so that when I decide on what I would like to concentrate my efforts on, I am able to do so in a successful manner. Not having a particular subject is a bit frustrating and freeing… and I feel like I am taking the risk that my subject may be considered weird or disconcerting, or unrelatable. I guess my response would be “oh well”… not everyone is going to “get” what I am doing.

For this term, I would like to explore veritas and momento mori still life images, with a modern take. I have found the artists above to which I will be referring. I like the Dutch Master’s work from the 17th century in that the lighting is soft, low angle and at once enlivens and flattens the images. I am brainstorming variations: Modern foods, convenience foods, live animals vs dead plus flowers; Live animals but plastic flowers; a selection of foods from grocery stores in wealthy and in poorer areas; monochrome flower/live chickens… more to come.

Photoshop: While preparing for this coming term, I have been focused on having a bit more fun with my work– and trying to learn photo shop for learning’s sake. I do best by learning hands-on, so I have been plowing through images and learning from my mistakes. What I think I know so far: layers, adjusting, erasing, changing opacity and denisity, combining images, adding effects. I would like to figure out the best way to use a magic lasso– or any kind. I will look for some you tube tutorials.

Kore: Last spring, I took a series of pictures of my niece dressed up like a sprite in forest near her home in Sweden. I had written the plot of a children’s book which I intended to illustrate with these images, however, I knew at the time that I had no idea what I was doing. I have been experimenting with them now, and am pleased with my progress, although I recognize that I will probably need to revise as my skill with image manipulation increases.

I also have been placing images together just for learning sake, using my own images, stock and images from the Rijksmuseum collection which are free to download and use.