The “Artified” Photograph

Cat Nap

Because I painted for many years in traditional media (oils and acrylics), I’ve always had mixed feelings about photographs that are photoshopped to look like paintings. I always thought of it as cheating. There is a certain aesthetic and sense of awe that goes with knowing that someone actually physically created a visually stunning work of art with brushes and paint, and that they may have spent weeks, months, or even years completing it. Well, I’ve had to readjust my thinking a little.

In a previous post I wrote a tutorial about how mediocre photos can be transformed into stunning black and white images. Today I want to talk about other options for photos that would otherwise be headed for the trash bin. They may be a bit blurry, orange, unflattering, uninteresting, or whatever. While it’s true that many do belong in the trash, others may have a little something . . . even if you can’t quite put your finger on it right away. This is how it begins.

I tend to take a LOT of photos, which has led to my son referring to me some years ago as the paparazzi – inaccurate in my opinion because I don’t stalk celebrities. However, in certain situations, I will just keep shooting. For example, the photo above is one of about thirty during an impromptu “session” that began while we were waiting at a pub for my daughter-in-law to get off work and join us. I just happened to have my little Canon Powershot SD780 with me. Nobody was posing – it was just a case of mom playing with one of her toys again. Last night while doing some computer housekeeping, I came very close to deleting the entire series, one picture at a time. Eventually getting down to a handful of so-so pics that I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of,  I was determined to make them work. Enter Topaz.

Topaz is a photo-editing plug-in that has a lot of presets with effects that you can customize. Anyway, feeling that the photos were unsalvageable with basic editing, I decided to try out various effects (that were frankly quite hideous), but then I stumbled upon one that worked. I gasped. It definitely looked like a painting – one with the style and subject-matter loosely reminiscent of a Normal Rockwell. So I gave the same treatment to half a dozen others, adjusted the colour tones in Lightroom, and posted three on my son’s Facebook wall. He must have been impressed because he made one of them his profile pic.

Now I have a different perspective on “artified” photographs. Although I don’t plan on going crazy with it, at least I know that there are options for saving some photos from being deleted forever.



Projet Sage Nu

While I wait excitedly for next week’s photo shoot with my first volunteer model, words that encapsulate this new project continue to formulate in my head:

THE NUDE has been admired, studied, and discussed for over two millennia, having made its noble debut in sculpture in Ancient Greece. During the Renaissance and later, painters took up the subject with fervour, but in 1838 the invention of photography enabled artistic explorations that had never before been possible.

In recent times, attitudes about the female body have been shaped by the overt sexualization [objectification] of women and girls in advertising, media, and the entertainment industry. Consequently, women have internalized unhealthy societal constructs regarding beauty and desirability, leaving no room for flaws, wrinkles, or aging.LaRiviere_Nude-11

The reality is that natural signs of aging have been consistently maligned [especially for women] since the advent of corporate advertising in the 1950s and 60s, with its endless brands of facial creams, hair dyes, and other age-defying products. Cosmetic surgery and photoshopped images in glossy magazines underscore our obsession with maintaining the outward appearance of youthful immortality. As a consequence, we are deeper in denial, more insecure, and more dysfunctional than ever as a society.

My intent with this project is to challenge contemporary notions of feminine beauty and the fallacy that it is the sole domain of the young and nubile. My subjects are mature women – mothers and grandmothers – with no experience in front of a camera. The poses are seated, and all compositions are from the neck down with special attention paid to the placement and character of the hands (which are closest to the camera’s lens). The body therefore becomes secondary, offering only partial views of itself with a softness resulting from the shallow depth of field. By not photographing their faces, the women are more relaxed and able to be themselves. Their humanity, strengths, and frailties are communicated through their hands.

In creating and editing my images, I explore shape, texture, and composition as a vehicle to a meaningful narrative. There is no shame in aging because the experience and wisdom that accompany it are truly wondrous and beautiful gifts. Besides, we are so much more than our outer shells.

In viewing the body at its barest and most honest, we are given a mirror with which to contemplate our own vulnerabilities, and ultimately the impermanence and mortality that we all share. My approach to the nude is considered and modest. It does not push the boundaries, nor does it demand to be “in your face.” It is quiet and meditative. It transcends the carnal and hints at deeper ponderings.

500px ~ Online Community

The deeper I get into exploring what my DSLR can do, the more I learn – not just about the mechanics of the camera, but DIY tricks (that can substitute for expensive studio equipment), post-editing tips, the best websites, etc.

I subscribe to a couple of photography magazines and occasionally venture into forums for information, and one recommended site that keeps popping up is 500px. It’s an online community for serious photographers, where you can join discussion groups, learn from the pros, and have your work critiqued.

Well, last night I signed up and uploaded several photos. Things started happening fast! In addition to seeing hundreds of jaw-dropping images by world-class photographers, in less than eighteen hours I had over 750 views, dozens of likes and “favourited” images, plus some comments and questions.

What surprised me was that in the first hour, one image (not my favourite) skyrocketed up to the Popular Page because its ratings were booming (the one above on the left). I honestly didn’t think it was the best of the series. I uploaded several more images this afternoon, and the image above on the right took off. The levels are Fresh, Upcoming, Popular, and Editor’s Choice in that order. According to 500px, this kind of feedback is useful when shortlisting your best work for a portfolio. It’s good to have an objective opinion, so I would have to agree.

In conclusion, I’ve tried other sites and 500px comes out on top. The interface is clean, the galleries are attractively presented, and the image viewing quality is absolutely stunning. Here’s the link to my page so you can see for yourself.

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