Catherine reflects on life, current affairs and photography.
Copyright infringement in some form or another is a constant issue photographers struggle with, whether its having work copied by other photographers, or people blatantly claiming your work as their own. I often get requests from people who wish to create artwork directly from my photos, and I never know how to respond. The other day I received an email from a man interested in creating a painting from the image shown above.
Curious to see who exactly this artist was (and his artwork) I entered his name into a google search. Turns out this artist who was asking for my “permission” had already gone ahead and painted the portrait- over 4 months ago! To top it off he also had listed the image for sale, asking for $5000 and not a single credit or mention was given to me!
Have you ever dealt with a similar situation- How would you handle it?
Artists hold-up a looking glass to society; it is both our function and duty to reflect culture’s variegated, multivalent parts. Quite often, it’s the gnarly stuff of life on which we focus our camera lens, train our paint brush, reflect upon in a ballad, or funnel through whatever creative medium we see fit. Our work as artists is an attempt to make sense of senselessness, to rummage through the imperfect parts of our human experience and forge greatness. Imperfection is a wild and vast fount of fascination and inspiration.
In contemporary American culture, undue and unreasonable emphasis is placed instead on perfection—from child beauty queens to the prevalence of plastic surgery. Our cultural narrative includes making straight A’s before moving on to earn a six-figure income; and, for most of us, this narrative is nothing but a myth. Completely unattainable by sheer dint of its unreasonableness.
As artists, even with our boundless passion for harnessing the psychological complexity of imperfection as the subject of our work, we can be a surprisingly self-critical lot when it comes to our own craft. Which leads us to my tip of the week, and a guiding-light that helps me on a daily basis: Prioritize authenticity over perfection.
In art, the hyper-emphasis on perfection of technique or obsessing over creating a perfect final product places barriers around your process; it’s ultimately delimiting. Don’t believe me? Not buying it? Below are four of my favorite artists and creative figures who defy our cultural prioritization of perfection and instead choose authenticity.
Bob Dylan’s strange, undeniably imperfect voice changed the world
Charlize Theron’s role in Monster required the actress to pack on pounds
Leo Laporte doesn’t act like a groomed, polished news anchor; & fans love him for it
Michael Grecco (this week’s TWiT guest) is brilliantly off-the-wall and out-of-the-box
Establishing and summarily breaking New Year’s resolutions is, at this point, such a cultural cliché that I won’t even bother cracking a joke about it. When Google+ Community Manager Brian Rose posted this witty and self-deprecating “10 New Year’s resolutions for designers” from .net magazine, it struck me that I should create a similarly fun list for photogs. Here goes nothing!
- If you spend every Friday night with a glowing monitor, you may want to get out more.
- When you’re creating, listen to that hard knot in your gut. Let this be your guide – especially when an idea first strikes you as stupid or absurd. It might just be your jackpot.
- In the grand scheme of things, you are not that important. Don’t just keep your ego in check; how about just leaving it at the door.
- Being a perfectionist can paralyze you. At some point, you have to release your work into the world and let it go.
- Do you often ask yourself why someone you believe to be worse then you is über famous? Or really, just a lot more successful than you are? Stop comparing yourself with others. And oh, get a grip.
- Instead of imposing or manufacturing a style, act intuitively. This will allow you to evolve naturally and over time.
- There’s nothing worse than derivative art. Don’t copy.
- You are absolutely, unequivocally the worst editor of your own work. Do not rely exclusively on your own eye. Consult with other people who you trust. Smart people ask for help.
- If you take risks, you might end up with terrible images….but sometimes you won’t. In fact, sometimes taking risks can result in your magnum opus. Risk-taking is the life blood of photographers evolving their craft.
- Don’t take shitty images and then think you can infuse them with inspiration by re-touching with Photoshop. Learn how to craft exceptional images in the first place. This is the true art of photography.
The Howrah Railway Station in Calcutta is one of the busiest railway stations in the world.
I am a globetrotter at heart and have always had a passion for learning about various cultures and people. Still, even a chest full of boundless optimism doesn’t stop me from the occasional “I wish I were back in the comfort of home” when I’m traveling.
Travel photography poses many challenges – language barriers, different foods, different time zones and logistical difficulties. And India has definitely been my most intense and trying travel experience. After experiencing India, you truly understand what people mean when they say: “You either LOVE or HATE India.” Many people hate it because of the lack of creature comforts and conveniences to which we in the developed world are accustomed. Conversely, people love it for those exact same reasons – that it’s different from what they are used to and of course, you must have a sense of adventure and expect the unexpected. Nevertheless, my adventurous spirit was at least a little ruffled at my first Calcutta experience.
Upon arrival to Calcutta (one of India’s major entry ports), the humid, hot air and sudden throngs of people can be a rude awakening. Growing up as a competitive skier, I’ve always considered myself the extreme sports sort and thought I could do most anything. But India is a whole different sort of extreme sport. It took me 3 days alone to secure a train ticket out of Calcutta.
As I began my journey to explore the rest of India, I started to think that Murphy’s Law must be invented here. There are two train stations in Calcutta and they happen to be on the opposite ends of the city. Despite showing my taxi driver my train ticket and emphasizing the station name multiple times, he… (take a guess)… took me to the wrong station. I proclaimed that I would not pay him if I did not make my train. That certainly made for an “interesting” ride.
After a stressful journey with harsh words being thrown back and forth in various languages, a fender bender, the 100-degree heat, 90 % humidity and all that jazz, I jumped off the taxi, with bags of gear in tow, and darted toward the train through soiled pathways and open-handed beggars like a deft ninja. Meanwhile, the hot-blooded driver stayed close to my tail, screaming intermittently. I hopped on the train the very minute it was leaving – just enough time for me to throw some cash to the panting cabbie.
In spite of the extreme conditions, India is a photographer’s dream. If I had given up easily, I would have lost the opportunity to document the myriad of color and life – both in the people and surroundings. Learning to cope with extreme conditions has also conditioned me for high-pressure situations.
If you have the bug, get out there and play. Step out of your comfort zone and take the opportunity to see the world and immerse yourself in various cultures.
It’s true. I used to be a chubby kid. Ostracized and made fun of. It sounds like a cliche – or like the plot of many a bad adolescent movie. Most the time I could ignore my less then perfect state, except when a major bully (damn Chris Olson) would put me in my place. It didn’t help that I had a skinny, cooler older sister and a beautiful, elegant Southern belle for a mom.
Luckily, a growth spurt in the 6th grade shed away the unwanted “baby” fat; however, I did not walk away unscathed. The most important character-building trait I took away from my childhood experience is my sense of empathy. Being made fun of made me a lot more understanding to people who may not be the norm, or who may be different from everyone else.
I would argue that it made me the artist I am today. I am always seeking out interesting traits of different people – and digging deeper than what we see on the surface. As you get older, you also realize how fallible human beings are – and how we are ridden by insecurities.
Yes, even the cool kids and the most outwardly successful people are plagued with personal challenges.
That’s perhaps why I love photography – because I love mapping the internal geographies of people, capturing their experiences, insecurities, emotions and essence in the space of a shot. Being able to capture that intensity requires you to connect with your subject, to be patient and get through to them. And that, I consider my greatest strength.
I see all my subjects for who they are – instead of focusing on their character differences as perceived flaws. There’s beauty to be found in everyone – big or thin, nerdy or athletic, tall or short. Life would be a monotony if not for our individual differences – and my own insecurities have made me endeavor to celebrate life in all its dimensions.