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We Interview R. J. Kern: 5 Tips for Emerging Fine Art Photographers

We Interview R. J. Kern: 5 Tips for Emerging Fine Art Photographers

Finding success in a single area of the photography industry is no small task. And yet, R. J. Kern has managed to find success not only as a wedding photographer but now as a fine art photographer as well. I sat down with him one afternoon to pick his brain on his top five tips for emerging fine art photographers.

I recently caught up with Minneapolis-based artist R. J. Kern in his home studio, where we chatted about his art and career. Kern is a photographer creating work related to ideas surrounding home, ancestry, and sense of place. He currently has a new book coming out, which you can find more information on and purchase on his website. He is also working on a video series for this project, which I highly recommend checking out!

We Interview R. J. Kern: 5 Tips for Emerging Fine Art Photographers 1

Stay Inspired

Kern had a successful wedding and portrait photography business going. For some, it may seem an odd choice then that he somewhat pivoted to start up a fine art side to his practice. I asked him why he has been making this transition, and his response is valuable advice for all photographers:

I prioritize personal work center for my creative practice. Otherwise, the risk of burnout is too high. We owe it to our talents to grow and nourish them, not leave them for when we return home, exhausted. I followed my gut, but also looked at work in museums, books, galleries, and film for inspiration.

This advice happens to be number five on his top five tips as well. One key to success in any area of photography is to stay inspired. If you lose sight of that, it is quite likely that it will come across in your work as well. I’ve written articles on finding inspiration before, but as Kern suggests, looking at lots of work (and it doesn’t have to be just photography), reading books, and watching films are great ways to keep that inspiration alive.

We Interview R. J. Kern: 5 Tips for Emerging Fine Art Photographers 2

Think Like an Entrepreneur

Kern’s fourth piece of advice may seem to contradict what we are sometimes told in the art world. However, by thinking like an entrepreneur. you will be able to grow your fine art career more effectively and sustainably than if you ignore the business side of things. 

For example, Kern’s work is heavily funded by grants. He told me that it would have been easy with that first grant to use the money to go out and buy a single piece of expensive equipment. However, instead of doing that, he reinvested the money into himself and considered the ways that he could turn that one grant into more money in order to continue funding his work. This allowed his art practice to be more sustainable and even helped it grow to new levels faster than it likely would have otherwise.

We Interview R. J. Kern: 5 Tips for Emerging Fine Art Photographers 3

Pimp the Work You Want to Shoot

The third piece of advice that Kern shared is at times easier said than done but is extremely important to keep in mind. If you only create work that is perhaps making you money but isn’t what you really want to be creating, you will never move beyond that work. The key is to build up a portfolio of the work that you want to create in order to take steps towards making that your main source of work. That may mean taking on unpaid test shoots to create the work that you want to make more of in the future. Collaborating with other photographers or creatives is also a good way of building up the portfolio that you want to have and can also help boost your creativity and inspiration as well!

For Kern, this process of pimping the work he wanted to create started in part with hand-making portfolios of his work and bringing them to portfolio reviews. Having a well-made, personalized portfolio made a big difference in how his work was received and allowed him to show off the work that he wanted to be able to focus on moving forward. Also, for him, the work is more than just a photograph, and he enjoys seeing full projects come to fruition. In fact, when I asked him what his favorite part of the creative process is, he told me:

Seeing a completed project come together in all the various components— book, exhibition, or community engagement— excites me. It’s not what drives me, however. The creative part, photographing and editing, is the part I love the most. However, that is just one pillar. Without the pillars of networking, marketing, sales, and thinking, I wouldn’t be able to do the part I love.

We Interview R. J. Kern: 5 Tips for Emerging Fine Art Photographers 4

Be a Good Mentee

The second tip that Kern provided is to simply be a good student. Follow the advice that is given to you. If you are going to have someone spend time to help you and provide tips on how to grow your career, take that advice seriously and take the steps necessary to move forward with it. He mentioned that this generally is easier when you are paying for advice, such as portfolio reviews or paid mentor sessions because there is more weight on those and there is another layer of accountability since your hard-earned money is involved. Those opportunities that you have to pay for can be extra valuable as a result.

Finding, Identifying, and Engaging Your Audience

The number one piece of advice that Kern has for emerging fine art photographers is to focus on finding, identifying, and engaging with your audience. For Kern, that happens to be peers in the photography and fine art industry, curators, book collectors, and publishers. Putting time into considering who will most appreciate your work and then connecting with those people is imperative to successfully grow your audience and therefore career. 

Portfolio reviews are a great way of starting this process of finding and engaging with your audience and are great for getting your work in front of those who may be able to move your career forward. Building up a mailing list and a newsletter process is also a vital tool when it comes to engaging with your audience. People who invest in your work (in whatever form that may take) want to know what you are up to and how their investment is making a difference, so sharing updates and keeping them informed will keep them invested and interested in your work.

As you identify your audience as well as your style and artistic voice, it could be easy to fall into a style and subject matter that becomes extremely narrow and perhaps limiting. I asked Kern about this, as his work is very focused and narrowed in at the moment. He told me:

I will expand the scope of this four-year project to include the changing complexion of youth in other regions of the United States. My intention is to expand the representation, especially with regard to the socio-economic range and the geographic scope. And in so doing answer these fundamental questions: What is changing in rural America? What is the same? And what, if any, values are transmitted through the raising and husbandry of animals. Is there something about the rural experience of raising animals that creates a common bond across diverse ethnic groups?

We Interview R. J. Kern: 5 Tips for Emerging Fine Art Photographers 5With his broadening view of the project, he will be able to also broaden his audience and engage with them in new ways as well. Thinking of ways that you can stay true to your work while also reaching new people is important for staying active in the art world and for growing your career. Plus, working to expand on projects can lead you to find new inspiration and motivation for your work!

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Lessons Learned Selling My Photography at Art Festivals

Lessons Learned Selling My Photography at Art Festivals

After a decade of selling my work at art festivals, I’ve discovered that beyond the money that I’ve earned, I’ve also gotten some valuable lessons both for my career and for my life.

This article is mainly intended for anyone interested in pursuing showing their work at festivals. I hope my experiences and insights will prove useful.

Realize That It’s a Business

I remember being in an art festival in Aspen, Colorado a few years ago. As I was setting up my booth and getting ready for the weekend, a man walked up to me and started asking some questions, things like how much money I expected to make and how long the festival went on. I later wished I had spent time answering more fully because I had the distinct feeling that the source of his questions was the illusion that artists at art festivals are there to make a killing and this was easy money. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. And while I’ve had some pretty lucrative art festivals, I’ve also had my share of duds, which this particular festival, unfortunately, proved to be. But being amid setting up my festival booth in the hot July sun, I didn’t bother to fill him in on the reality — that at the end of the day, or the weekend, this endeavor is a whole lot more than just putting a tent up in a park and seeing what happens.

For instance, I might have started by letting him know that before I made any profits, there were, of course, some expenses to be paid. First among these is the booth fee for renting that 10-by-10 patch of turf in the park, which, in this case, was $500.

Additionally, this was an out-of-town show for me in a more affluent part of the state, so my food and lodging costs were quite a bit higher than usual. Then, there were the costs of gas and maintenance for my SUV I use to haul my utility trailer full of prints and a display booth over a mountain pass to this location.

With all of this added up, I couldn’t count on even starting to be in the black until after the first $1,000 had been made. And not a dime of that $1,000 is guaranteed. In fact, at this particular festival, I did poorly and did not make back all my money, so the whole experience ended up being a somewhat expensive hardworking vacation in one of the nicer areas of the state.

Oh, yeah, and that display booth and walls I was setting up? Over $2,000 invested in all of that.

Doing art festivals has helped me realize that selling my art in any meaningful way is a business. Before doing my first one, I created my business as an LLC, got insurance, and then started paying sales taxes. Before that point, I had just been somebody messing around with it and occasionally selling some work at a coffee shop or small gallery show, but now, I was an LLC.

Get To Know Who Your Customer Is

This one has been very valuable for my business. Standing at my booth at an art festival for two or three days solid and chatting with people has been a great way to find out which images resonate the most and why. Getting this first-hand experience has helped me narrow down what to offer, and it’s helped me hone my marketing efforts because I know a little bit about who my best customers tend to be, such as what age group they are in, what some other interests may be, where they live, etc. You can never know with certainty who’s going to buy your work and who is not, but it’s great to have a starting point.

Build an Email List

This is another upside on the business marketing end of things. Over time, I’ve built up a list of people who enjoy my work and enjoy seeing new images and hearing about travels that I’ve taken or what festivals I may be coming to next. Having a good email list is the backbone of any art business, and doing festivals is something that helped to get it off the ground for me.

Another benefit to building an email list is sometimes, if the print sales just aren’t there, I can at least walk away knowing that I’ve added several people to my email list and my fan base. That is one of those things that can pay dividends in the future.

Not All Shows Are Created Equal

Like I said before, this particular festival was a dud for me, meaning a small number of sales that were not nearly enough to offset expenses. But the next one was much better. I’ve found through the years that it’s a balancing act. I try to find shows where art patrons are willing and able to spend some money, and yet, I don’t have to spend an arm and a leg just to be there.

I’ve done shows that look on paper like they should be fabulous, like that one in Aspen, and have come away with not much to show for it. I’ve done others that were much smaller and in less ritzy areas and have done great, especially measured against the fact that I had lower expenses to meet to make a profit. For me, a small, well-run show with only a few other photographers in it will almost always be better than a big, well-known show with more landscape photographers than you can shake a stick at.

Don’t Be Afraid of Competition

One thing I learned early on, especially when trying to get into the more lucrative shows, was that there are a lot of talented photographers out there. A lot. It was easy to see some of the other photographers at shows, some of whom had great big double-booths with huge prints and feel a bit intimidated. Over time, I’ve just come to accept that this is just a reality of doing this type of work. I also try to learn what I can from people who might be further along than me and trust that if my work is different enough from theirs, I will find my market.

Finding Your Style Is Crucial

That leads to the next point. It’s so important to find your style. That’s what will help you find a market for your photography and let you stand out from the competition. Just like the virtual world, the in-person art show world is full of really good work. Developing a style of your own is critical to standing out. This is one that I’m still learning and is probably a lifelong lesson.

Don’t Waste Time Comparing Yourself to Others

This ties in directly with the last point. It is easy when chatting with other artists to feel discouraged when they are having a great show and I am not. It’s a mental trap I have fallen into many times, and it’s never fun. But when I’m able to take the mindset that the only person that I’m competing with is myself, then what other people are doing becomes far less important. And I’ve also learned that everyone, at least from time to time, has a show where everything just clicks for them and it seems like all of their best customers are there. Conversely, we all have had shows where it just seems like nothing is going right and nothing is selling. “This too shall pass” has been a good phrase to remember.

Eliminate Negative Self-talk

I don’t know how many shows I’ve done where, somewhere along the line, often on a Sunday afternoon where I haven’t made much money to that point, I’ll hear my internal negative dialogue startup. Things like “what are you doing this for,” “you should just sell off everything and stop doing this stupid activity,” or “other people are so much better at it than you are, and you will never be good enough to make anything.” This is just a sampling of the type of things that may run through my head. But I’ve learned that my fortunes can change in an instant. I can’t count the number of times that soon after this negative dialogue in my head starts up, somebody walks up and buys a large piece, suddenly putting me in the black for the show. And even though this has happened a number of times, it’s still hard not to let me get down in the dumps and start developing a crappy attitude. But I’m learning that all it takes is one person at the right time to turn things around. So, why bother with the negative self-talk?

Collaborate With Others

This has been a really valuable one for me both in doing art festivals and in my photography career in general. I think when I started, I was much more likely to view other photographers with a bit of disdain. But over time, I’ve learned that they are kindred spirits in a way. Not everyone spends a bunch of their free time out photographing landscapes, and even fewer people then take that work and set it up at art shows to try to sell it. There’s a certain camaraderie there naturally, and several other photographers that I’ve met doing shows have become friends. I’ve learned a lot from some of them.

Another plus side to collaborating with other artists, regardless of the medium is that I’ve learned about which shows to apply for and conversely, which ones to avoid. Other artists who do festivals in a much more full-time way than I do often have valuable insights in this regard.

So, there you have it. These are just some of the things that I’ve bumped up against and learned as I’ve endeavored to sell my work directly to the public at art shows. If you are somebody just starting or considering just starting out doing this type of thing, I hope this insight is valuable or at least provides some reality check before you dive in.

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Remembering Thomas Eakins, the man who introduced the camera to the American art studio ~ Photography News

Remembering Thomas Eakins, the man who introduced the camera to the American art studio ~ Photography News

July 25, 2018 /Photography News/ Born 175 years ago today, Thomas Cowperthwait Eakins was an American photographer, realist painter, sculptor, and fine arts educator. He is widely acknowledged to be one of the most important artists in American art history.
Eakins has been credited with having “introduced the camera to the American art studio” (Rosenheim, Jeff L., “Thomas Eakins, Artist-Photographer, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art”, Thomas Eakins and the Metropolitan Museum, page 45. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994). During his study in Europe, he was exposed to the use of photography by the French realists, though the use of photography was still frowned upon as a shortcut by traditionalists. In the late 1870s he was introduced to the photographic motion studies of Eadweard Muybridge, particularly the equine studies, and became interested in using the camera to study sequential movement. He performed his own motion studies, usually involving the nude figure, and even developed his own technique for capturing movement on film. Where Muybridge‘s system relied on a series of cameras triggered to produce a sequence of individual photographs, Eakins preferred to use a single camera to produce a series of exposures on one negative.
Study in Human Motion. Photograph by Thomas Eakins. 1880s
Study in Human Motion. Photograph by Thomas Eakins.

Eakins’ so-called “Naked Series”, which began in 1883, were nude photos of students and professional models which were taken to show real human anatomy from several specific angles, and were often hung up and displayed for study at the school. Later, less regimented poses were taken indoors and out, of men, women, and children, including his wife. The most provocative, and the only ones combining males and females, were nude photos of Eakins and a female model.

Thomas Eakins carrying a woman, 1885. Photograph: circle of Eakins.
Thomas Eakins carrying a woman, 1885. Photograph: circle of Eakins.
In all, about eight hundred photographs are now attributed to Eakins and his circle, most of which are figure studies, both clothed and nude, and portraits. No other American artist of his time matched Eakins’ interest in photography, nor produced a comparable body of photographic works. 

After Eakins obtained a camera in 1880, several paintings are known to have been derived at least in part from his photographs. Some figures appear to be detailed transcriptions and tracings from the photographs by some device like a magic lantern, which Eakins took pains to cover up with oil paint.

 

Since the 1990s, Eakins has emerged as a major figure in sexuality studies in art history, for both the homoeroticism of his male nudes and for the complexity of his attitudes toward women. Controversy shaped much of his career as a teacher and as an artist. He insisted on teaching men and women “the same”, used nude male models in female classes and vice versa, and was accused of abusing female students. Recent scholarship suggests that these scandals were grounded in more than the “puritanical prudery” of his contemporaries— as had once been assumed— and that Eakins’s progressive academic principles may have protected unconscious and dubious agendas. These controversies may have been caused by a combination of factors such as the bohemianism of Eakins and his circle (in which students, for example, sometimes modeled in the nude for each other), the intensity and authority of his teaching style, and Eakins’s inclination toward unorthodox or provocative behavior.

 

Thomas Eakins died on June 25, 1916.

 

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Why You Should Stop Creating Art for Other Artists

Why You Should Stop Creating Art for Other Artists

The internet and social media can be a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is easier than ever before to quickly digest the work of hundreds of creatives and to find inspiration, educate yourself, and network with other photographers and filmmakers. It is not all positive, though. One of the most dangerous things you can do is fall into the trap of making art for other artists, and this great video essay discusses why that is something to be avoided. 

Coming to you from Chrystopher Rhodes of YCImaging, this interesting video essay discusses the topic of making art specifically for other artists. This is something that can sneak up on you: you browse Instagram or the like, see the latest trends, and not wanting to miss out on the popularity, you start tailoring your process and editing to chase that trend and impress other artists. It is not necessarily a bad thing, especially since clients can often request these trends, but on the other hand, failing to establish your own creative voice can be detrimental both from a business perspective and for your own satisfaction with your work. Check out the video above for Rhodes’ full thoughts. 

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Art Wolfe on his approach to night photography

Art Wolfe African lion is shown in the muted light of evening in Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya

October 18, 2021

Art Wolfe has been photographing after dark for decades. He exclusively reveals to David Clark what attracts him to the nocturnal world and why is he enjoying shooting it more than ever


‘I’m battling raccoons right now,’ says Art Wolfe over a Zoom call from his home in Seattle, USA. ‘I’ve got koi carp in a pond in my garden and the raccoons come up out of the ravine below my house to get them. I was up until about 1am last night, chasing raccoons away. They’re a pain in the ass. They’re cute, but they love to eat fish. I’m at war with nature,’ he laughs.

It’s not the expected start to an interview with one of the world’s most famous nature photographers. Art may have just passed his 70th birthday, but he’s as energetic, unpredictable and candid as ever. Art has been photographing wildlife, landscapes and people for over 45 years and during a highly successful career has shot over two million images.

He has maintained a packed travel schedule throughout his working life, barely arriving home from one far-flung trip before setting off on another. Before coronavirus arrived, he regularly travelled for more than nine months every year.

Milky Way over a row of moai on Easter Island (Rapa Nui), in the south-eastern Pacific Ocean

A dramatic shot of the Milky Way over a row of moai on Easter Island (Rapa Nui), in the south-eastern Pacific Ocean

Even the Covid-19 situation hasn’t stemmed the flow of restless energy that drives him. ‘The pandemic has not slowed me down,’ he says. ‘All last year I created 27 lectures (each lecture 90-minutes long) on Pathways to Creativity that we put on Vimeo.

As long as my life is busy and my brain is active, I’m a happy camper whether I’m in Africa or North America. I’m still finding great things to do and great new subjects to shoot.’

Earlier this year Art went on safari to Kenya and for the past two months has taught back-to-back workshops in North America. He’s just come back from snorkelling with whale sharks and giant manta rays off the coast of Mexico.

He’s currently trying to run tours to Africa, Mongolia and Madagascar, but keeps having to delay them because of the pandemic’s travel restrictions, although he’s fully vaccinated and requires the same from his participants.

leopard in an ancient thorn tree in Chobe National Park, Botswana, Africa by Art Wolfe

This shot of a leopard in an ancient thorn tree in Chobe National Park, Botswana, Africa is one of Art’s favourites in Night on Earth. ‘I love shots where the animal is just part of the overall landscape,’ he says

Art’s keen to resume these tours. ‘My entire life has been about managing risk,’ he continues. ‘I started off as a kid that was always rummaging around in the forest and jumping off trees and crossing rivers. I was formally trained in mountaineering, went on an Everest expedition, went up to K2 and went into Pakistan even after the first Gulf War.

‘I always have been empowered to travel the world, to go into any city on Earth and walk the back streets and not feel like a victim or fearful of other humans. My parents always taught me to be self-reliant and confident, and that was the best thing they ever instilled in me.’

Over the years, Art has maintained a steady flow of books and has so far produced more than 120, including Migrations: Wildlife in Motion (1994), Vanishing Act (2006), which explored camouflage in nature, and his epic ‘mid-career retrospective’ Earth is My Witness (2014). He currently has seven more books at different stages of completion.

northern saw-whet owl

This northern saw-whet owl was photographed while preparing to leave its nesting cavity in a tree in Washington, USA

Night on Earth

His latest book, Night on Earth, is a wide-ranging collection of travel images made in the hours between dusk and dawn. Taken in a variety of locations worldwide including Alaska, Namibia, Malaysia, India and the Galapagos Islands, it features landscapes, starscapes, wildlife, natural phenomena such as volcanoes and waterfalls, indigenous peoples, cities and more.

So why has Art chosen to focus on night photography for this book? What is it that intrigues him about it and what special photographic opportunities does it offer? ‘Whenever I shoot, first and foremost, I’m trying to affect the emotions of the audience,’ Art explains.

‘In the past, when giving a talk, I could wow my audience with amazing shots of things like the Patagonian Massifs, but today people start to yawn because they’ve already seen 10,000 of those images. It’s getting harder to wow anybody with a more traditional landscape. So, part of the motivation was to include the element of darkness and to capture the landscape in a slightly different way.’

Art Wolfe African lion is shown in the muted light of evening in Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya

Shooting between dusk and dawn gives images a unique atmosphere. Here, an African lion is shown in the muted light of evening in Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya

Part of the attraction for Art was the sense of mystery that the night brings. ‘If you can capture, for instance, a mountain lion at dusk, starting to stalk an animal, that already implies some people’s worst fears,’ he says. ‘It’s already affecting people’s emotions. The subject has this inherent interest already ingrained.

I love that sense of going into the dark and coming away with an image that isn’t just silhouetted darkness. That, for me, was the challenge.’ For most of his books, Art usually goes through the same process when compiling them. After initially coming up with the concept, he and his staff search through his vast archive to see if there are enough core images to draw from.

All the travel that’s involved in covering a wide range of subjects and locations means it’s not financially viable to shoot all new images for books. ‘Then, once a base is established, I work like hell for the next three or four years and usually end up replacing most of the images that we initially thought would be good,’ he reveals.

Milky Way over Mount Baker in Mount Baker Wilderness, Washington, USA by Art Wolfe

A spectacular shot of the Milky Way over Mount Baker in Mount Baker Wilderness, Washington, USA

‘I don’t want a book to come out that looks like a lot of old photos. For the most part I’m shooting new work and using the abilities of the latest cameras to take in what we could never have shot before.’

Although a small number of the images in the book were shot on film SLR cameras and have stood the test of time, many of them were taken on the latest digital kit including the Canon EOS R5, which is currently his main camera. ‘I love it,’ he enthuses. ‘The whole technology of the mirrorless camera permits much smaller lenses.

‘For instance, when I was in Kenya earlier this year, I was handholding an RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 lens and very easily capturing animals. Then I could add a 1.4x extender and suddenly I have a 700mm lens that’s very easy to hold. I’m not a gym queen, so handholding and shooting animals without a tripod really makes capturing the ephemeral moment so much easier.’

One way he has taken advantage of the greatly improved high ISO performance of today’s cameras has been to shoot starscapes in a way that was not previously possible. ‘Historically, if I’d wanted to shoot a night-time shot that includes the stars, they would all be star trails,’ confirms Art.

Art Wolfe Dolomites, South Tyrol, Italy

Dawn breaks over a landscape dotted with hay barns in the Dolomites, South Tyrol, Italy

‘With film, you could never take a fast enough shutter speed to show the stars were just pinpoints of light. Those star trail images can be spectacular but can get a little shallow in terms of the depth of the image. ‘Today, with high ISOs, I have been able to shoot amazingly detailed images of the Milky Way as part of night-time landscapes.

Higher-ISO cameras are enabling us to photograph landscapes and the heavens like never before. I think that’s a great advancement and I only see it getting more and more that way.’ Almost all Art’s dusk-to-dawn images have been shot using only ambient light, including those of traditional ceremonies in countries including India, Botswana and Ethiopia.

He prefers to increase his ISO and use traditional oil lamps, candle light and fire light to illuminate these scenes. ‘The ones I’m really proud of are the cultural shots lit with candle light or fire light. They’re so much more intimate and romantic, and in keeping with nature and the landscape, than they would be if shot using flash. Most of the time in these situations flash is too harsh and invasive.’

Light pollution

Part of Night on Earth’s purpose, as is made clear in the text, is to highlight the issue of light pollution and how it’s affecting both wildlife and people as well as wasting resources.

As Ruskin Hartley of the International Dark-Sky Association writes in the foreword, ‘Light pollution is destroying natural darkness with severe consequences: It is linked to a global insect decline, the death of millions of migrating birds, increased carbon emissions and increased disease in humans.’

eruption of Bárðarbunga, a subglacial stratovolcano in Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland. by Art Wolfe

A lava flow glows vividly in this night-time shot of an eruption of Bárðarbunga, a subglacial stratovolcano in Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland

The last photographs Art made for the book show the spectacular, star-filled night sky at the Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah, USA, which, in 2007, became the first of the country’s International Dark Sky Parks, which are specifically protected from light pollution.

At a time of climate emergency, Art says he’s often asked why his photographs focus on the beauty of nature and don’t show degraded environments, decimated species, or evidence of pollution. ‘The answer is I want to make a beautiful book to lure people in to where the organisations with which we align can tell their story,’ he explains.

‘It’s my honour to produce books in a way that brings people in and then we deliver the message, as opposed to books that show nothing but carnage. Very few people really are going to buy books on something that’s depressing, because we have enough issues that stress people out already.’

As for his future work, there’s no chance that entering his eighth decade is going to slow Art down. ‘My friends recently brought up the fact that I’m turning 70,’ he says. ‘We’re all within a year of each other. People say, “Oh my god, it’s a big birthday, it really makes you think”. But I live in denial and I’m not going to give it a thought. Birthdays are almost irrelevant to me.

fishermen cast their nets on the Irrawaddy River in Mandalay, Myanmar

In the warm evening light, fishermen cast their nets on the Irrawaddy River in Mandalay, Myanmar

‘My belief is, don’t look in the mirror, just look outward, think about the next project. Life is moving fast for all of us, but I don’t want to start thinking about how much time I have left and all that. People ask me when I’m going to slow down and retire, but artists don’t retire. I just want to drop wherever I am.’


Art Wolfe’s low-light tips

Based on his experience, Art shares the advice he would give others for shooting in low light

1. Think out of the box

‘Most people, whether taking low-light shots or otherwise, are literally putting their tripods in the holes made by the previous person to shoot that place. Look for new ways and new angles to approach the subject.’

2. Invest in the latest equipment

‘If it’s within your price range, the high ISO capability of the latest camera bodies, such as the Canon EOS R5, makes a big difference when shooting in low light, allowing you to capture subjects that were not previously possible.’

3. Understand animal behaviour

‘When photographing wildlife on the margins at dusk, it’s essential that you familiarise yourself with the behaviour of the subject that you want to go after. For example, you locate some predators by listening to the calls of their prey.’

4. Don’t be afraid to include motion blur

‘As long as there’s an element in the frame that’s sharp for the eye to depart from, shots that include motion blur can often be the most effective and creative.’

5. Noise isn’t a big issue

‘For me, a little noise in low-light shots is not a bad thing, so long as you’ve got the image. Noise can be akin to grain, which often creates something artistic.’

6. But for noise-free images…

‘If I’m trying to get the clearest, sharpest image without noise, I will use the latest cameras and typically will shoot starscapes, for example, somewhere around ISO 1600 with an aperture of f/1.4 or sometimes f/2.8 for around 10-20 seconds. Then I use Topaz noise-reduction software in post.’

Night on Earth: Photographs by Art Wolfe is published by Earth Aware Editions, price £35. See www.artwolfe.com. Amateur Photographer readers can also enjoy a 25% discount off ‘Pathways to Creativity’. See events.artwolfe.com/pathways and use the code AP25.


Further reading

Night landscape photography

Nature and nurture: Art Wolfe on his approach to photography

Art Wolfe 1951-present – Iconic Photographer

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acancarter’s latest blog : my first art show!

acancarter's latest blog : 'follow' - making an interactive print

My First Art Show!

12 Oct 2021 5:33PM  
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I’ve just participated in my first Art Show – The South Northants Art Trail Art Trail . This year there were 20 locations, with 51 participating artists (including a few photographers). I’m not sure what the total footfall was, but our location in Blisworth, with 9 of us exhibiting, had around 800 visitors. This wasn’t about making money – it was the opportunity to put together a display and to talk to visitors about my work. I hoped that having artists (as well as photographers) look at the images might give a different perspective.

This Art Trail was a great place to start. The costs were low and the organisation and publicity provided by Mike and Jenny at Vitreus Art in Towcester was brilliant. It was hard work preparing all the images – printing, framing, labelling… as well as making greeting cards using selected images. The event itself was over 10 days and needed nearly full time attention as well as setting up and breaking down. Ready for a good long nap now!

The bottom line was that this was absolutely great. I’d thoroughly recommend having a go at something like this if the opportunity arises. I made friends, bonded with all the other exhibitors, had very interesting and exciting feedback from visitors and had the pleasure of selling some images to people that liked them and wanted them in their homes!

I thought it might be interesting to share a few observations and thoughts on this. For those of you who have looked at my portfolio you will have seen some light painting images made with a photographically recording harmonograph. You can see more images on my gallery. I featured these images on the stand, as they are very unusual and eye catching and don’t really look like photographs. Below is an overview of the stand. I had maybe more than my fair share of space as I promised to bring in and demonstrate the harmonograph. It was quickly termed ‘The Mesmeriser’ by the others!
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Having the demonstration on the stand worked extremely well. A typical reaction when I told people ‘these are all photographs’ was ‘What of?’ so I could show them, and most understood instantly what I was doing after seeing the demo; they then explored the images with renewed interest and understanding! Here is a photo of me explaining things…they all seem to be listening.
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I tried to keep the prices as low as possible, to make the images more accessible. I’m fortunate to be able to print the images myself as well as to make the frames. These weren’t ‘Gallery’ prices and there was no way I could make a living out of this, but I certainly covered my material useage and made a significant dent in the costs of my next lens!

It was really interesting to watch people deciding on purchase. I may have had a few too many images on display, so making choice harder. I found it difficult to decide what to use and what to leave out. Some people went straight for the image that caught their eye. Some went for the colour images, some the nearer mono ones. Having a few landscape, floral and macro shots gave diversity. The triptych ‘Sing Dance Fly’ was very popular, especially when I treated them to Fabio’s sonification Sonification and told them the story! The ‘interactive’ print ‘Follow’ ‘Follow’ was also very popular, and a real draw with both children and adults – I now have to make a couple more. I tried to keep the frames neutral – they were all waxed or oiled Walnut. Inevitably some would have liked much lighter frames, others very dark. Inevitably a few sales were lost as a result. Maybe I should have had a few alternative frames to show – not to swap out in real time, but to be delivered after the event.

Another great investment (and I have to thank one of the other exhibitors for this) is a tin of sweets on the stand. Went down a treat. Having cards was good too. Another exhibitor suggested I put a few words in with each, and not to obscure this with the envelope when putting it into the sleeve. First thing most people do when selecting a card is to turn it over and read the back!

Good, readable, titles with a few words on each image worked well, giving an ‘in’ to talk about the image and why I had chosen it… but the labels have to be quite large to be readable.

I used a low cost card reader as an alternative to cash for payments – very simple to use, secure and reliable. Mine was from SumUp; I’m sure there are others available.

This was great fun and rewarding overall, and I’d really recommend you have a go if you get the opportunity. As we all say – What is the point of a Photograph if you don’t share it?!

Thanks for taking the time to look at this; I’d be very interested in your thoughts and comments.

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Erin Babnik talks the art of landscape photography

Death Valley National Park, 2018 (Photographed in 2017)

Nature is full of interesting and beautiful things. But creating a pristine nature photograph requires a lot more planning and preparation than driving to a geotagged Instagram spot and hoping to capture something great. Award-winning wilderness photographer and Canon Explorer of Light, Erin Babnik has been shooting beautiful landscapes since the days before social media. Her career photographing natural environments began from a place of curiosity. And curiosity is something she tries to maintain in her work to this day.

Here, Babnik speaks with us about her favorite places to shoot, essential gear and why it’s crucial to preserve these beautiful places for generations to come. 

Dolomites, Italy (2014)
Dolomites, Italy (2014). Erin Babnik

How did you get started with landscape photography? 

Before I was a photographer, I was an art historian. I specialized in Ancient Greek art mostly and actually had to be a working archeologist as well. I did a lot of excavations in the Middle East. They required photographing objects so I could use them in my dissertation and develop an archive of photographs for teaching and research. I found myself going way out of my way to make the photos as good as they could be. I really enjoyed that process. I was getting really annoyed with all of the restrictions of trying to take tripods into archeological sites and having to ask for special access. Finally, it just dawned on me, “You know what? I used to love to just go out in the mountains and backpacking. It would be kind of fun to take the camera out there.” This was before the era of social media.

Death Valley National Park, 2018
Death Valley National Park, 2018. Erin Babnik

It sounds like you had a long-time love for the outdoors before you started photographing it in a more formal way.

I always took a little film camera with me, but that was just more so to document what I was doing. I totally got out of it, the more I got into academia, I was just spending all of my time in these dusty, underground libraries. I’d forgotten all about the stuff I used to love to do outside.

I was slowly already turning into a working photographer, even while I was still in academia. My photographs were getting good enough that other people were starting to hire me to do work for them. That led to stock photography work and eventually, my fine art landscapes started to bring requests for things that I wasn’t even offering, like workshops and post-processing instruction. 

Finally, one day I was like, “You know what? The iron is hot, maybe I should strike it. I think I really just want to do this.”

Italian Dolomites, 2018
Italian Dolomites, 2018. Erin Babnik

Was it difficult to make the career change from academia to full-time photo work?

It was really an intensely emotional decision for me, after investing so much of my life into one career, to take a turn like that. But in the end, I decided that was the best thing I’d ever done. 

I think the thing that was really holding me back for so long was the idea that I was giving up this other career. When I realized that actually everything I had done before: the lecturing, the teaching, the traveling to exotic places, all of that was just awesome preparation for what I’m doing now. I’m still teaching. I’m still traveling to exotic places. I still get up really early and get really dirty. It’s all the same, just repurposed.

Speaking of getting up early, how important is the time of day that you are shooting when creating quality landscape photos? 

The most common advice that landscape photographers get is that the quality of your light is everything. But the time of day sometimes is actually relative only to a certain type of environment. Let’s say that you want to photograph a slot canyon. In the middle of the day, when the sun is high and can get down into that slot canyon and create bounce lighting, that’s going to be your prime time. Whereas let’s say you want to shoot a mountain scene, then maybe you want some low sidelight. That’s going to be an end-of-the-day situation, either sunrise or sunset. Timing is everything, but it all comes down to what your motivation is.

Death Valley National Park, 2018
Death Valley National Park, 2018.

Erin Babnik

How much does patience play into getting good landscape photos?

Again, that’s one of those things that goes both ways too. Standard wisdom would tell you that you should come up with an idea and then wait for the right moment, return to a location as many times as possible, until you finally realize that idea. The other side of that coin is sometimes just being flexible and not having expectations. Being able to let go of them will enable you to see something that maybe you would have overlooked, or would have dismissed.

Where are some of your favorite types of terrain to photograph? 

I have two offices, one in Southern California and one in Europe, in Slovenia. In Europe, I’ve spent a massive amount of time in the Dolomites. I started exploring that region before it was even really on the map for most landscape photographers. When I first started going there, again, before the age of social media, most Americans didn’t even know Italy had mountains.

Eastern Sierra, California (2017)
Eastern Sierra, California (2017). Erin Babnik

That remains one of my favorite places to work, but I do a lot in the Alps too. In the United States, I tend to really like desert environments. I think that these two areas, the Alpine areas and then the desert, have something in common, which is that they are very changeable environments.

Mountain environments really change a lot with the seasons. A low atmosphere can make the landscape look utterly different from even one second to the next.  I love that. It’s the same thing with desert environments because they are always changing. The ground is literally changing a lot in places like Death Valley. It might be a lake one month and just this incredible pattern of polygons another month. You come back the next month, those polygons have all changed and it’s a dune field. I’m always looking for something that I don’t feel as though I’ve seen before.

With the rise of social media we’ve seen a lot of these once-pristine and remote landscapes getting too much traffic and getting destroyed. What sort of guiding principals do you use in your workshops to encourage newer photographers to respect the land they are photographing?

Dolomites, Italy, 2018
Dolomites, Italy, 2018. Erin Babnik

I’ve written and done a lot of speaking on exactly that topic because it’s an important one. One of the most important things I think to keep in mind for any photographer is that these environments are not trophies to be hunted and collected. And really, the magic doesn’t even lie in the location. The magic lies with you, the photographer. Wherever you go, you’ve got to make your own sunshine. Those are going to be the most meaningful photographs for you and they’re also going to probably be the ones that do the best for you in the long run.

I think what’s going on with many of these places is just overuse. Too many people are being directed to too few places because they think that’s where the magic lies. And if you spread people around the planet more, these places will have a chance to recover. Basically, it’s about educating the public on the sorts of things that they might not realize are harmful.

Death Valley National Park, 2016
Death Valley National Park, 2016. Erin Babnik

What are some examples of things that people are doing that they might not realize harm the environment? 

Picking wildflowers or pitching a tent on top of wildflowers can kill them to where they will not come back, ever. If you move a rock, that might cause soil erosion that will damage an area. Walking on any kind of non-durable surface too much can make it never come back. In the Columbia River Gorge photographers have gone to photograph certain waterfalls and they all like to stand in the same spot and that spot used to be lush with ferns, and now it’s just dirt because of too many feet. The environment can’t heal itself.

Being very aware of the difference between a durable and a non-durable surface is important. Understanding things like cryptobiotic soil, which helps to hold the soil together—without it, an area can become just an absolute dust bowl. Critters live under rocks. You move the rocks, you deny that critter its home. And then there’s a knock-on effect that can devastate an environment once you start messing with its little ecosystems. So take only photos, leave only footprints, but don’t leave the footprints on the non-durable stuff.

Death Valley, 2018
Death Valley, 2018. Erin Babnik

In addition to your camera equipment, what sort of gear are you taking with you when you go out to take photographs? 

A lot of it depends on the environment. One of the things I always have with me, that really has nothing whatever to do with camera equipment, is this little mat that folds up into three or four sections. I can use that for so many things no matter where I am. If I’m in a desert, I can use it to shield my camera from some glare or it can make a little roof over my camera. If I’m doing a low to the ground shot, where I need to be so close to the ground, I can sit on the thing. If I’m camping somewhere, and I’ve got a campfire, it makes a great way to fan the flames. It’s extremely handy.

My first aid kit always comes with me. I also have a spot locator, which is useful if I’m out in remote areas, no matter where I am. Then there are all the layers. There’s actually a lot you need to carry as a photographer, so clothing layers, maybe food, snacks, trekking poles, all kinds of stuff.

Death Valley National Park, California (2016)
Death Valley National Park, California (2016). Erin Babnik

What advice would you give someone who wants to get started with landscape photography? 

Explore and experiment a lot. That’s the way that I developed as a landscape photographer. And I really stand by it. Learning to see is the most critical part of really developing as a photographer and the best way to do that is to get out and experiment with things. Try things and find things to photograph. I say often that exploration is the key to creativity because the more that you find to photograph, the more that you find yourself. So if you can get out there and find stuff, you’ll shortcut across that barren landscape of all the stuff that has been seen so often that people don’t respond to it anymore.

Go to the stuff that excites you. Follow your own nose and you’ll probably progress more quickly and hit upon solutions that are more exciting to you sooner. See for yourself, but also have some other fresh eyes on it to help you see what you may not be noticing.

Death Valley National Park, California (2016)
Death Valley National Park, California (2016). Erin Babnik

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The Art of Digital Imaging

The Art of Digital Imaging

Do you consider this an art form separate from photography, or do you consider this an extension of photography?

Oh, I know that this can start a deliciously heated debate as to whether this is photography or art. And to be honest, it’s one that, as a photographer and image editor, I love to read. This one can work some people up, unfortunately. We all have our opinions, but for now, I’m going to look at the processes involved from both the photographer and the creative in creating composite images using photography. Are they the same considerations for both? The Art of Digital Imaging 6

Photography or Digital Art?

Considering the complexities and creativity involved in creating the images, doesn’t the creator/editor have a good understanding of lighting to be able to realize the final image, or are they like an artist and the photographs their paints? Alternatively, are they graphic designers with a good understanding of lighting, software manipulation, and composition? Or a photographer with the desire and imagination to create surreal or fantasy imagery? Whatever the case, maybe it still comes down to whether this can be classified as photography or digital art? 

Digital art is an artistic work or practice that uses digital technology as part of the creative or presentation process.

Whereas a photograph is defined as:

A picture made using a camera, in which an image is focused onto light-sensitive material and then made visible and permanent by chemical treatment, or stored digitally. (This definition also includes digitally captured images).

The first definition does not mention a camera but does mention digital technology as a part of the creative process. The second mentions camera and digitally captured images. So, could you argue that if an image is made up of multiple digitally captured images, made using a camera, it is no longer a photograph but rather an image from the sum of its parts, which in turn creates digital art? Is then time-blending digital art or a photograph? Just a thought.

A Brief History of Digital Imaging

Lightroom or similar software is the digital darkroom nowadays for processing raw files. Lightroom’s initial release was back in 2007 and it is still used for only photographic-based imaging. I don’t see anywhere that you can start to add other image layers to blend them in. That’s a job for Photoshop. What we now know as Photoshop was created for displaying grayscale images on monochrome displays back in 1987 by the Knoll brothers before it was sold to Adobe in 1988. Released in 1990 as an officially licensed Adobe product, it was primarily aimed at the digital imaging and graphic design market. Layers weren’t added until 1994 and Camera Raw in version 7 circa 2002. So, the new age of digital imaging could well be 1990 with Photoshop.The Art of Digital Imaging 7

Digital Artists and Photographers

Or should that be the other way round? Many photographers have carved a healthy niche in their career with the ability to jump between photographs, digital art, or a combination of both. The final images are admired for their quality, the photographers/digital artists for their conceptualization, attention to detail, photographic ability, and post-production prowess. The creation of their images is inspired by artists, movies, other photographers, and their imaginations. The skills they have learned both behind the camera and in post-processing only help further to aid the creation of their images. The Art of Digital Imaging 8

An Extension of Photography? Of Course

Is it photography? Not so in as much as it’s not an image captured in a single take. But it is photographic. Everything is calculated at a photographic baseline. The ISO, aperture, shutter speed, lighting techniques, all learned and used to the photographer’s advantage to create the final image. At that point, the imagination takes over.

In my opinion, one of the best examples of the photographic practices and processes involved including post-production work comes in the form of Swedish surreal photographer and global ambassador for Hasselblad Erik Johansson. Erik’s work contains a high level of realism in his surreal images, and every image is meticulously planned out.The Art of Digital Imaging 9Although a lot of his work is post-production, he will endeavor to capture as much as possible in camera. Where this can’t be done, he will often recreate the scene in a controlled environment, taking particular care of every detail so that lighting and perspective are the same. Doing this ensures that everything comes together. 

Erik’s surrealist work stands out and captivates due to his meticulous planning and understanding of the photographic practice and post-production work. The imagination is what drives the imagery, and the skills involved bring it all together. This leaves the viewer with an undeniable appreciation of the imagery due to the mastery of both practices. The Art of Digital Imaging 10

Erik’s work can be seen here with some of his behind the scenes showing the processes involved in videos on YouTube.

Concept 

Imagination is the biggest part of this. You couldn’t say it’s post-processing skills, although they play a big part, as there are many super talented photographers with amazing post-processing skills who are not interested in creating such imagery. That’s not to say that these photographers have no imagination. It is simply they have no desire to do this. 

So, how does the concept materialize itself? One photographer and digital artist, Ryan Sims, from the Nashville area, takes his inspiration from Marvel/DC comics, video games, and movies. The Art of Digital Imaging 11This inspiration is apparent in his wonderfully crafted images where he photographs cosplayers at comic cons or in his studio and transforms the images into scenes like stills from the movies. Studio lighting is used at both locations and set up to realize the final image.

Ryan’s interest in being creative started at an early age, when his mom involved him and his brother in art classes. Messy but still creative. Then, he learned Photoshop and it felt right to him. Creativity and no mess.

With digital art, I could let my imagination run wild without making a physical mess!

Being a photographer and combining the two, digital art and photography, Ryan can craft the images from both angles, progressing his photographic journey by understanding the considerations to be made, becoming a planner, and where the work will be heaviest.

With normal portrait photography, everything is usually heavy on the front end. You spend more time making sure the lighting is right and getting everything perfect so you can spend less time in Photoshop. With composite photography, it kind of works the other way around. Don’t get me wrong, you definitely want to get everything right in studio, but the workload is much heavier on the back end.

Ryan also shoots portrait photography and has a YouTube channel, From Raw to Real, where he teaches you his processes both in the studio and in post-production. Ryan’s website provides more insight into his images and his YouTube channel the steps involved.The Art of Digital Imaging 12

Creation

I mentioned at the start of the article that I would talk about the processes involved for both the creative and the photographer, but to put it quite simply, it’s the same considerations that are made, especially so if the digital artist/creator is the photographer.

Lighting, aperture, ISO, and composition all play the same part as they would if you were shooting a portrait. It’s the pre-visualization and post-production techniques that come into play when you are shooting. Although that may sound like a strange statement, it’s a case of also thinking about the elements you will be adding to your edit to make up the whole image. If photographing other props separately, obviously, the lighting has to be the same, but at the same time, you have to also consider how the surrounding (added) objects will affect the scene and how reflected color will interact if you want the whole image to come together. Sure you could say “well, just Photoshop it in post to match,” and sometimes, that has to be the case. That’s not how it usually works; everything is considered. For studio composites in the past, I’ve had to place empty toilet rolls in the model’s hands to emulate the grip on a railing, which was later added in post, to save editing the fingers and worrying about the shadow depth and curvature around the railing. Things like this are always considered: pay attention to details, focus on the outcome at every step.The Art of Digital Imaging 13

Style of Image

So far, all of the images above have been either surreal in nature or fantasy-style images, be that a comic book or just pure fantasy heroine/hero style of imagery. Could it be this type of composited photographic image that is often protested against because of the photography connection? We all go to the movies or have seen movies that have composited imagery. Did you protest so much that you wrote to the studio to complain that it was simply not reality or indeed captured in camera?  Yes, that’s a very ambiguous example, but more often than not, we think nothing of it, accept the movie and narrative, and decide whether we like it or not.

Could it be that the photographers that protest against it either just don’t like the images or don’t appreciate the photographic practice that has gone into it? Either way, that is fine. Everything has its place and everyone has their visual taste. 

The upset I read about from some commentators when these images are posted I find amusing. Why it annoys them so much, I don’t know. But that is probably because I am actively creating this type of imagery, so am biased. And yes, I do see posts that claim it was all captured in- camera when clearly, it wasn’t. Fine, that’s their thing. 

Is There a Future for Digital Art?The Art of Digital Imaging 14

As long as imagination is allowed to express itself, there will be a future, and that future will most certainly include the photographers mentioned above plus the many more up-and-coming digital artists out there. Will it include photographic practices? Most certainly. Why stop any creative flow because some people don’t like it or the odd person cries that it’s not photography? Enjoy and nurture your imagination. Once you lose the imagination that you had as a kid, you lose a great deal.

It doesn’t matter if it’s fashion, cosplay, commercial, portraits, cinema, you name it. Digital art in photography isn’t going anywhere.

Images used by kind permission of Erik Johansson and Ryan Sims.

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77-Year-Old Brazilian Photographer Wins Japan’s $137,000 Art Award

77-Year-Old Brazilian Photographer Wins Japan's $137,000 Art Award

77-Year-Old Brazilian Photographer Wins Japan's $137,000 Art Award 15

The Praemium Imperiale award — one of the world’s top art prizes by The Japan Art Association — has been granted to the esteemed Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado.

The award — which is one of the world’s largest cash art awards — granted 15 million Japanese Yen — approximately $137,000 — to four international recipients each, with Salgado being one of them. The award was presented by the Japan Art Association, under its honorary patron, Prince Hitachi, as reported by Art News and The Art Newspaper.

Salgado was selected from lists that are submitted by “international advisors” from a number of countries. After potential finalist names have been proposed to the Japan Art Association, specialist committees in Tokyo make the final selection to announce the winners. The Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale award describes Salgado’s work as “a spotlight on the dispossessed and exploited, the beauty of nature and the fragility of the world and its inhabitants.”

Salgado, now in his late 70s, has published and exhibited numerous social documentary projects and has traveled to over 120 countries for his photography work over the course of 40 years. His powerful black and white imagery is known for its honest and raw portrayal of the relationship between humans, animals, and the planet.

When Salgado shoots, he only uses natural light and works thematically. His long-term photographic projects, which result in photographic books and worldwide exhibitions, also tie in with his personal interest in conservation efforts. This is evident in his 8-year long project and the subsequent book — “Genesis.”

This body of work recorded land, wildlife, and people encountered during his years-long expedition, “traveled by foot, light aircraft, seagoing vessels, canoes, and even balloons, through extreme heat and cold and in sometimes dangerous conditions.” Other projects, such as “Sahel,” captured the famine in Africa, while “Workers” focussed on the realities of manual labor.

His latest project, “Amazônia,” is a six-year exploration of the Brazilian Amazon ecosystem and its inhabitants — indigenous people. It concluded with a photographic book, published in May 2021, and an accompanying exhibition that is currently still touring the world. He dedicated this book to the indigenous people of the region in the hopes of a better future for all.

“My wish, with all my heart, with all my energy, with all the passion I possess, is that in 50 years’ time this book will not resemble a record of a lost world. Amazônia must live on,” writes Salgado.


Image credits: Featured image by Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil via Wikimedia Commons.

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Street Photographer Uses His Art to Combat Anxiety Attacks

Street Photographer Uses His Art to Combat Anxiety Attacks

Street Photographer Uses His Art to Combat Anxiety Attacks 16

Street photographer Eldar Khamitov immerses himself in his art in order to combat frequent anxiety attacks that he now experiences as a result of the stress caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Originally from Almaty, Kazakhstan, Khamitov bought his first DSLR when he moved to New York seven years ago. Fascinated by small details — ones that probably appear mundane to most New Yorkers — he began to capture streets as he sees them and fell in love with this type of work.

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He absorbed knowledge and inspiration found on the internet and also immersed himself in the streets, “most attracted to candid moment versus perfectly staged scene.”

Upon coming across Netflix documentary about the iconic yet largely elusive street photographer Vivian Maier, Khamitov became all the more inspired about this genre of photography. He noticed that certain subjects or objects that featured in her shots were also something that he is drawn to in his work. This made him feel that there is a connection between street photographers of all kinds with a common purpose of venturing out in the streets and subconsciously choosing to capture certain moments that share similarities.

Street Photographer Uses His Art to Combat Anxiety Attacks 18

Throughout his photography career, Khamitov has been a self-taught photographer but wouldn’t turn down assisting another photographer. “I think it is the best school any photographer can have,” he says.

“I used to take a wonderful photography workshop by Eric Kim who definitely helped me get better and become more critical towards my shots, and also I was very lucky to personally meet with Yanick who I consider my virtual mentor, although he doesn’t know about it — his articles helped me understand a lot about the genre and technique.”

His work has also attracted clients, such as The Atlantic, which hired Khamitov to capture life in NYC at the beginning of the pandemic.

Street Photographer Uses His Art to Combat Anxiety Attacks 19

Photography as a process has had a powerful healing effect on Khamitov. After he experienced an anxious breakdown, developed after the pandemic started, and throughout his anxiety disorder, Khamitov finds that photography helps him be in the moment, allows him to forget his problems, and has a meditative effect.

When he contracted COVID, it had lasting effects, such as dizziness and brain fog, which took months to disappear, but he still persevered and pushed himself to go out for short walks with his camera in hand.

Street Photographer Uses His Art to Combat Anxiety Attacks 20

“I forget for those minutes about headache and just become one with a camera and have a purpose,” he says. “This ability to switch my attention from not feeling well has been helping me since — each time I get into anxiety mode, I tell myself to switch attention and go shoot.”

Street Photographer Uses His Art to Combat Anxiety Attacks 21

Khamitov’s story is one of eight that were shared as part of a recent project by Depositphotos. The company launched a new creative initiative called “The Photographer’s Way,” which sheds light on several distinct photographers across the world and how they overcome difficulties along the way of developing their visual voice. Khamitov’s sentiments above are echoed by the rest of the photographers featured in the project, as each one of them has found photography to bring something positive and much-needed in dark times.

Street Photographer Uses His Art to Combat Anxiety Attacks 22

The project, which focuses on eight photographers, aims to highlight individual stories where photographers, from different genres and locations, overcome these challenges as they develop their visual voice and how photography helps them fight mental battles. The photographers that were part of the feature are Morfi Jiménez, Kate Kondratieva, Eldar Khamitov, Andrej Gudkov, Masis Usenmez, Katalin Szaraz, Dina Alfasi, and Bat-Orgil Battulga.

All eight stories of the highlighted photographers can be found on the Depositphotos blog.


Image credits: All images by Eldar Khamitov and provided courtesy of Depositphotos.

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