Influencers: No One and Everyone

Hey Light Scribers!

I apologize (again – ugh!) for the delayed post. I’ve got some…Life challenges that require lots of attention right now so some posts may be a bit delayed or postponed for the next several weeks until things get – well, less challenging. I don’t have a specific Influencer for today but I don’t want to leave you hanging so I decided to to pose images from others that I find inspiring. Click the individual images to visit the photographer’s Flickr page. Copyright belongs to each individual photographer and not to me or Michael Stagg Photography. Enjoy!

The sign said "Do not climb on sculpture", but Yuina didn't listen.

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Shop Opening Lion Dance 舞狮

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Influencer: Alex Haglund

Every artist is influenced by the world around them. The people, places and things that define my work are what the Influencers post is all about. I hope you find inspiration from what you read/view.

Shortly after moving to Flora is when I seriously took an interest in photography. Searching for photography programs is what led me to connect with Alex Haglund on Facebook. He struck me as a real laid back fellow with a true passion for photography and over the past two years he’s be an awesome inspiration to my growth as a photographer. This is what he had to say about his life as a photographer (unscripted and unedited; it’s a long post but worth the read!).

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Cemetery Flags © 2006 Alex Haglund

How did you get into photography (or a specific genre of photography)?

I’ve always thought photography and photographers were cool, but I got into it, I think, because of my gadget fixation. I found an old Kodak Retina Reflew S in my grandfather’s house and ran around taking pictures with that. Unfortunately, that camera was kind of buggy and it may have even been broke. If it had a meter, it didn’t really work and very few of the pictures even came out. I picked up a friend’s parent’s Canon Eos rebel and when it zipped around with its autofocus and smooth zoom, I thought, “This is what I’ve got to get!” My brothers and I got my parents to get a Rebel of our own and that’s what I used when I took photography during the second semester of my senior year in high school. I had a good time with that and I picked up and understood the technical concepts with a relative ease compared to many others I have seen.

At the same time as this, I was in a youth group with my church and one of our advisers, Mark Smalling, took me under his wing. He was a commercial photographer in Chicago. I was kind of getting into a fair amount of trouble (which I won’t go into here). Mark basically said, “You don’t need to be doing that,” took my mother and I out for ice cream and invited me to work as his assistant/intern – he asked her permission, because he didn’t want to weird her out. Mark made a good impression on my parents for this and for everything he did really. He made an even better one on my grandparents when he let me take photos of them for their 50th anniversary in his studio. “We’ll tell all our New York friends we got to go to a real loft studio!” they said.

Dave

Dave © 2006 Alex Haglund

Anyways, in the senior high youth group, we do a summer retreat called work camp, where we would travel somewhere and work on social projects. The one in my senior year was going to Cincinnati to clean out buildings in a pretty rough neighborhood and do mission work for a church there. We had a good buy session at the end of the trip for all of the seniors and any others that were leaving which was traditional a pretty tear-filled affair. Mark’s words to me were “See you next week.”

When I started at the studio the first thing he had me do was help models with wardrobe issues….nahh, I kid, I had to paint the studio, up to its 20-foot high ceilings. I was surprised but I trusted Mark and he never has let me down. I think he wanted to make it hard for me to help me learn about paying my dues, but to be honest, the experience as a whole was completely awesome. I think he was teaching me about the workings of his Mamiya RZ the first night after I painted, so it wasn’t really like I had to work very long to get into the good stuff. I worked for minimum wage, $5.25 an hour or so at that time, payable not as cash, but towards a camera– a Nikon F100, which was completely awesome. I knew I was going for Nikon over Canon when I held it in my hands. It wasn’t because of the feature set, there was a comparable Canon, the Eos 3 out at the same time, but because of the way it felt. I still tell my students to go to a store and hold and try using different cameras to see what is most agreeable to them, because they’re all cool, you need to see what’s cool for you, and honestly, Nikon vs. Canon seems to be more of a matter of preference than anything else.

So I did a lot of cool things with Mark: shot models for a clothing catalog, did annual report photography, shot album covers for rock musicians. The experience was great. At the same time, I was majoring in photography at Columbia College Chicago, which didn’t particularly agree with me. This is when Mark did the thing that would affect my future as a photographer most: he suggested I check out his alma mater, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He even drove me down there for a visit where we checked out their photo program, run by Chuck Swedlund and Dave Gillmore, who actually both retired by the time I ended up there in my sophomore year of college. Still it was great. I could go to school, tuition, room and board, books and extra cash for expenses for less than Columbia’s tuition alone. More to the point though, the school was just much more my scene, as were my fellow students. When I took basic black and white photography, taught to me by Gary Kolb, I knew I was where I was supposed to be, mainly because of my awesome classmates. Gary was cool too, giving in depth critiques of our work and useful criticism where my instructor at Columbia had a habit of saying “Boring,” and knocking students prints to the floor, the jerk.

SIUC was also where I veered off of the commercial photography path. My father, an editor at the Chicago Tribune, informed me that one of his former co-workers, Phil Greer, who had been the photo chief at the Trib for some 15 years, was coming down there to be their “Professional-in-residence.” At some point it got suggested to me that I apply to work as a photographer at the Daily Egyptian, SIUC’s student-run newspaper. I was hired by the DE at the beginning of my second semester at SIUC. If my fellow Photo students had become my friends, the DE staffers became like a new family to me (Although it didn’t exactly happen instantly). I caught the bug and for the rest of my college career, while my major was Cinema and Photography (The art and commercial side of things), my heart was on the photojournalism side of the hallway.

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Phil Greer © 2004 Alex Haglund

How do you think others view your work?

Sheesh, the first one was long. How do others view my work– Ehh, I don’t know, I’m not really them, am I? I suppose that I am at the heart of things, trying to document things. At the same time, I want to make them aesthetically pleasing. I hope that people view my photographs, and I’m largely talking about my artsy or “for-fun” photos here as an encapsulation not of the scene, but of the feeling of being there. A lot of my photos are about the country and rural areas and I’m trying to bring some of that real life beauty into a photograph. So I guess I’m hoping that others get a little of the feel of being there: the pollen on the wind, the warmth of the sun, the golden crops, the swaying wildflowers– a feeling more than just an image.

Who are the artists that influence and inspire your work? Why?

I can tell you that a lot of the artist I’ve liked have been some of the famous ones, usually depression era. I like WeeGee’s(Arthur Fellig) stones and gall, making New York look like a crime drama. I like Ansel Adam’s beauty and the view of the American Southwest as someplace wild and unusual more than mundane as it kind of is today. I like Walker Evans views of American in a different time, the way his photos really bring me there and make me feel the dust and honestly, people’s sadness. More modern photographers, I like Steve McCurry for his portraiture and his ability to capture in an instant what it would take Avedon hours to do. And I like Avedon for that same formality that McCurry doesn’t have. I like celebrity photographers– celebrity photos make for a great yearbook. I’m talking about portraitist though, not paparazzi: Philippe Halsman, Annie Leibovitz, and most of all, Arnold Newman, who spoke at SIUC, which was amazing. I should mention Dave LaChapelle’s work which I don’t really like at all, but it gets under my skin– which is still a reaction and that’s what a photographer wants. I’m certainly not saying he’s a bad photographer, but he isn’t my cup of tea.

What do you like most about your own work?

The thing that I like most about my own work is doing it. Specifically, taking the pictures. When I shoot a good photograph, it’s like a drug. Switching to digital, where you can see images on the back of your camera could be analogous to switching from snorting heroin to shooting it– the rush is just much more immediate. I’ve actually been told before, by someone who probably knows pretty well what they are talking about, that I need to be working with my images past that initial moment more. I think photojournalism, and my blog are both things I like because I can get my images out there in relatively short order and be moving on to my next “Fix”.

What about your works brings you joy?

See above. I guess other people seeing, liking and commenting on my images gives me joy. Still, I’m not doing it for others, which is probably why I haven’t gotten more into or done better at photography as a business. When it comes down to it, I shoot for me. I don’t feel that I am a particularly selfish person in other areas of my life, but in this, I am. I saw a local portrait photographer who takes rather racy (to me) pictures of teens. Not illegal or anything like that, that isn’t what I mean. I don’t think I’d be particularly comfortable with that, and it’s not my thing. His response to why do you take pictures like this was that it was what they wanted. If he didn’t, they would find someone else who would. I don’t mind taking senior pictures in general, but when it comes to swimsuit images, for instance, even though they might want to go somewhere else to have them taken, I don’t care. It’s what they want, but it isn’t what I want.

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Dance © 2006 Alex Haglund

What do you do to positively influence the next generation of photographers/visual artists?

Positive reinforcement. Take those pictures. We’re in a great age where cameras can do a huge amount of things and images are free (at least from the point of view that film is no longer an expense). This has led to many, many more people calling themselves photographers, which is great. Another’s success has very little impact on my own. If I’m really lucky, maybe a newcomer will be better than I am, or the best ever, if you can quantify such a thing. Seeing really great photographs from someone young makes me envious, but that’s good, because it motivates me. But a photographer needs to shoot. If you aren’t bitten by the bug, I don’t care who cool your Instagrams look, you’re still just a poser. On the other hand, you could take a picture that looks like garbage that won’t matter if you’re really a photographer, because you’ll keep shooting and you’ll get better. Newsflash here, this stuff very rarely pays well. You have to love it. If you don’t you aren’t wasting my time, I’d be doing my thing anyway, you’re wasting your own time.

What are some of your favorite processes and techniques?

I love vignettes, maybe too much. I love off-camera portable flash. I learned to take photos using lighting and I’m so glad that nowadays, I can light my pictures with stuff I carry in my camera bag, not 90 pounds of Speedotron gear and stands. I like to work without a tripod, most of them time. Most of my “look” comes from working with an image in Lightroom, which is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but don’t just stick to the presets, get wild and make your own. Oh, and I cannot credit learning how to do things in a real darkroom enough for being my stepping stone to digital photography. I would never have figured out tone control in Photoshop if I hadn’t been using the darkroom as an analog.

How can readers find out more about you and your work?

Read my blog! 🙂 Another place to see my pictures is on my Flickr page. I warn you, it’s not exactly edited, so you may want to go to “sets” to avoid having to wade through family photos and the like. Or send me an email at aperturetattoo@hotmail.com. Seriously, get in touch with me, because I love talking about photography. There’s no question too amateurish or inane. Or if there is, I’ll just pretend I didn’t get the email. Hah! 😉

Influencers: Nastassia Davis

"Two Sides to Every Story"

Every artist is influenced by the world around them. The people, places and things that define my work are what the Influencers post is all about. I hope you find inspiration from what you read/view.

Nastassia’s work was first introduced to me via Facebook friend René CouretI was wowed by her level of creativity, especially with her “Selfies” which has inspired me to come out of my shell and work on my own self-portrait project. Additionally, I love her use of symbolism and frequently marvel at her ability with photographic design. Find out more about what makes this beautiful and talented light scribe tick by reading on.

How did you get into photography (or a specific genre of photography)?

I started taking pictures around the age of 14 with a camera I bought after saving money working at a bookstore.  I loved capturing moments of my friends in extracurricular school activities. Once I got to college, I took up a few darkroom classes and a digital course where I was introduced to Adobe Photoshop. When bored, I enjoyed taking images of myself and editing them into scenes and ideas. It was quite entertaining for me to do when my friends weren’t around to hang out with.

Arise

How do you want others to view your work?

People can currently view digital versions of myself portraits online and take it as creative self-expressions of my personal thoughts. However they interpret it is completely up to them.

Who are the artists that influence and inspire your work? Why?

There are many. But just to name a few, I love the old masters of painting, such as Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and René Magritte. Their surreal paintings take me to another world. Artistic photographers, like Cindy Sherman and Lorna Simpson because they use themselves as the subjects in their brilliant work. I love celebrity portrait photographer, Annie Leibovitz, because she’s beautifully capture some of the most iconic people of the 20th century.

What do you like most about your own work?

I take all kinds of pictures, weddings, engagements, concerts, special events, but my favorites are the ones in which I am the subject. Having an idea in mind and seeing it transpire to something tangible that others can look at and appreciate is a great feeling. To express myself in that medium is wonderful because I’m able to create another reality for myself, a place where my dreams become images that others can see. Visually, I love how colorful and surreal some of the images turn out to be. [I] truly believe it’s a direct reflection of me.  As a creative soul at heart, I feel whole when I’m using my talent to express myself. As a photographer, my artistic self-portraits (and other works) have been an interesting way for me to connect with others in ways I wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

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What about your works brings you joy?

The messages I receive are truly awe-inspiring and touching. Recently, a girl from Texas wrote to me saying she grew up deeply discontent with the color of her skin. The “mixed” photo split in half of one dark skinned light skin girl reminded her of that internal struggle that she had survived. My photo she saw reminded her that she was beautiful. Another person wrote me saying that my college debt photo was “his life summed up in one image”. The fact that I can create mere pictures that others can relate to or helps them feel better about themselves humbles me and is one of the greatest joys my work brings.

What do you do to positively influence the next generation of photographers/visual artists?

I hold digital photography workshops at college universities and do presentations of my work. Next week I’ll be speaking about my photography at a Summer Reading Program in NJ to art students. I look forward to doing even more in the future!

What are some of your favorite processes and techniques?

I enjoy using a long exposure technique; I’m always surprised with the results I get. My “Arise” and “ArchAndroid” self-portraits are a couple of great examples of that long exposure technique. Additionally, using the Clone tool is fun because it’s a quick and easy way to make an ordinary portrait something extraordinary.

How can readers find out more about you and your work?

I want to sincerely thank you for this interview and for sharing my work with your viewers. I can be found on my twitter, Facebook and blog links which are listed on my official website – http://nastassiadavis.com. I also sell most of the work posted on my website. If anyone is interested in purchasing, please email me – contact@nastassiadavis.com.

Nastassia Davis

Artist Photographer

http://nastassiadavis.com

Influencers: Peter Hong

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All Images in This Post © Peter Hong | Peter Hong Photography

Every artist is influenced by the world around them. The people, places and things that define my work are what the Influencers post is all about. I hope you find inspiration from what you read/view.

This week’s Influencer has been helping me get my photographic ish together since I started shooting seriously last year. His name is Peter Hong of Peter Hong Photography. His images have a light and airy feel to that I enjoy; it’s an almost magical appeal. I also like the level of creativity he brings to his images. You can tell he really enjoys what he does. So, this week, I’d like you all to meet Peter Hong!

How did you get into photography (or a specific genre of photography)

I got into photography by accident. Before going to my year abroad in Japan I decided to find out a little about photography in the hope to be able to take better photos to document my time there. Unknown to me, I unlocked a secret passion for photography. I guess I knew I was getting addicted when I would spend hours watching how to videos and do loads of test shoots.

How do you want others to view your work?

I’m not sure since I take photos and edit them to the way I like it. I think the ones who like what I do will let me know and the ones who dislike my style would also tell me hahaha. But I think with art, to get better, you need to realize that you can’t please everybody.

Who are the artists that influence and inspire your work? Why?

I’m really into Chase Jarvis, Edward McGowan, Alice Gao and Joey L. I like the way they see life through a lens.

What do you like most about your own work?

I like the fact that I don’t like spending time on something too much. I’m really fast in photo shoots and editing. It really helps to visualize what you are after before executing it.

What about your works brings you joy?

I guess the ability to share. I like sharing. I often do lots of tutorials and such. We all start off somewhere so it is nice to give back to the community!

What do you do to positively influence the next generation of photographers/visual artists?

Kinda mentioned it in the last question hahaha.

What are some of your favorite processes and techniques?

My style would come across as bright with a vintage twist. I love over exposing images and then adding a little vintage color. That is my signature style I guess

How can readers find out more about you and your work?

I have a main site and a Facebook site:

Peter Hong Photography Facebook Page

Peter Hong Photography Personal Site

 

More of Peter’s Images:

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Influencers: Julie Einstein

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© Julie Einstein

Every artist is influenced by the world around them. The people, places and things that define my work are what the Influencers post is all about. I hope you find inspiration from what you read/view.

This week’s Influencer is Miksang practitioner and instructor Julie Einstein. I love the simplicity of Julie’s work and how she is able to make the seemingly mundane burst forth with character and life. Without further ado, here’s Julie!

How did you get into photography?

I took a meditation class in 2005 and during one of the breaks (that didn’t come fast enough!) I saw a flyer on the bulletin board advertising a class in contemplative photography.  The description of the class referred to photography in a manner I had never heard of before. Not knowing exactly what to expect, I signed up to take the course which I found fascinating.  I soon realized that this “photography” class was really more about “perception” and how we experience the world.  What we label as good or bad.  What’s worthy of photographing vs what isn’t – beyond concepts.  Appreciation of everything that exists and finding the inherent beauty in it all. Essentially, this type of photography isn’t product oriented. Yes, there are the images but the true joy comes in the noticing and the seeing.  Using the camera as a tool to wake us up. My eyes were opened, I was seeing in a different way and yes, even appreciating the world more than I had before.

How do you want others to view your work?

Hmm, I suppose I would like the viewer to see, to sense the purity and the freshness of the moment when I pressed the shutter.  As if they might have actually taken the picture themselves.  Or maybe the viewer might look at an image of something extremely ordinary and say to themselves “Wow, I never even noticed that before” when it’s something they probably see every single day.

Who are the artists that influence and inspire your work? Why?

I would say photographers like Edward Weston, Cartier Bresson and Freeman Patterson.  Also modern artists such as Ellsworth Kelley, Jackson Pollack and Robert Rauschenberg (to name a few).  Each of them were more process and less product oriented.  The world and their experience in the world informed their work.  Also Zen and Buddhist teachings inform the contemplative arts.  These teachings are instrumental.

What do you like most about your own work?

Probably that it’s pure in the sense that there is zero post processing.  No cropping, no editing, none of that stuff.  This is why I find the practice liberating.  If I get it ‘right’ with the camera then I don’t have to fuss with anything.  Even when the camera gets it ‘wrong’ I’ve learned to be okay with that.  Letting go, not grasping for the best image possible…characteristics of contemplative practice.

What about your works brings you joy?

The liberation and the practice aspect that I spoke about above.  I also like the fact that I am learning how to work with my mind as well as practicing living more mindfully and present in the moment.  Of course there’s always the cinema playing in my mind but every now and then I have a moment, a gap, a flash of something that enters my visual field that shuts off the thinking mind.  This is magical and the moment when I raise my camera to my eye.

What do you do to positively influence the next generation of photographers/visual artists?

I hope that by teaching Miksang as well as offering on line photo journeys that these opportunities will help others appreciate just how powerful our mostly-ordinary lives are.

What are some of your favorite processes and techniques?

Seeing clearly in a non-judgmental way 🙂

How can readers find out more about you and your work?

Portfolio: http://jeinstein.zenfolio.com/

Blog: http://julieeinstein.com

More about Miksang Photography: Miksang.org

More of Julie’s imagery:

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** Favorite quote**

“Have you ever noticed, on returning from a holiday, your increased sensitivity to the details of your home?  You glance around when you step in the door, and some things in the house may actually seem unfamiliar for a few minutes. You note that the living room walls are more cream than ivory, that the English ivy looks spectacular in the west window.  You even notice the evening light spilling across the little rug at the foot of the stairs, something you can’t recall noticing before.  But these moments pass quickly, familiarity is restored, everything is in its place; and you top seeing once more.” – Freeman Patterson