Let’s talk about Flickr and Self-Portraits!
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Check out the video above to watch Jenna Petrone and Angela Butler talk about the winner’s of last week’s Fashion Photography Challenge. We couldn’t pick one winner so we decided to give away a Phlearn PRO to the 1st place winner, and 2 Phlearn PRO texture packs to 2nd and 3rd place!
1st place and a Phlearn PRO of their choice goes to Amelia Dowd!
2nd place and a Phlearn PRO texture pack of their choice goes to Ben Scott!
3rd place and Phlearn PRO texture pack of their choice goes to Sammie Saxon!
Congratulations guys! To recieve your Phlearn Pro’s e-mail us at [email protected] Normally we’d have you fill out a contact form, but woofoo is down!
Thanks again everyone and we hope to see just as many entries this week for our next contest. The next contest is described at the end of this article!
Let’s talk about Flickr and Self-Portraits!
By: Angela Butler
I don’t necessarily believe that every photo has to have a concept or meaning behind it to be a good photo. A meaning can come from a photo before or after you take it, and that meaning could be different for everyone. Basically, whether intended so or not, every photo out there has a meaning. Maybe for the photographer it didn’t mean anything at the time they had taken the photo, but a few years later it could mean the world to them, or to someone else.
That’s what makes photos so spectacular; the meaning of them. And when you, yourself step in front of the camera, that meaning becomes so much more personal. I love self-portraits. I love taking self-portraits, and I love looking at other people’s self-portraits. How could you have more control of what you want out of a model?
I’ve been interested in pursuing photography as a career and art form for almost 3 years, and one of the biggest things that sparked this interest for me are self-portraits.
Flickr is huge for me. I love Flickr, and I am quite aware of all of the criticism that Flickr has received in the past few years. Many people consider Flickr nothing more than a “popularity contest”, and a “graveyard to dump your photos” but with my personal experience I couldn’t disagree more.
Flickr is the first photography website I was aware of and the first photography website I went on before I was even interested in photography. I remember browsing artists like Aaron Nace (Flickr username: aknacer), Brooke Shaden (Flickr Username: brookeshaden), and Joel Robinson (Flickr username: joel_r a.k.a. Boy_Wonder). While looking through these photographers’ photostreams I realized something. They are not photographers- they are artists. They don’t take photographs, they make photographs… And guess how they all started out? Self-Portraits. I couldn’t believe it. These people would set up their cameras in their living rooms, backyards, in public, and set their timers. From the location to the editing, they were creating ART.
Wow. I can’t count the amount of hours I’ve spent going through these artists’ photographs, reading about the concept behind them, and thinking about how I could re-create something similar myself.
In grade 11 I received my first DSLR camera for Christmas. I used to carry it with me where ever I went. Taking photos of stupid things, like signs with water falling off the edges, or my feet amongst a field of grass, and although they weren’t great photos I still felt as if I was going somewhere with this. Later in grade 11 I was diagnosed with cancer, with my camera in my purse. That was the day (May 2, 2009) my practice in documentation began. I was given a Flickr PRO account sometime before that, so after a day taking photos, I would pick my favorite few and upload them to my Flickr photostream. This continued for 6 months until I was declared cancer-free. The day I was declared cancer-free I said to myself “I don’t want to stop taking photos. I don’t want to stop uploading to Flickr”. The next day I started a 365 days project.
For inspiration during my 365 days project I used to look at other people’s photos. I followed aknacer, brookeshaden, and joel_r’s work the most. Every day I was on their photostreams wondering how they had made their images. These are my top sources of inspiration. I have done many photos inspired by these 3 people and I continue to be inspired by them today. I truly believe I wouldn’t be as interested in photography today if it wasn’t for Flickr and these photographers. Flickr had inspired me to be a photographer before I had even owned a camera. To other people, Flickr may be a graveyard, a popularity contest, and a place to dump photos, but for me it shaped a huge part of who I am today. My photographic skills improved largely because of the mass amount of support I received from Flickr, and I’m sure these 3 artists agree with that as well.
Let’s talk about someone I’m sure you all are very familiar with. Aaron Nace. Aaron has always been, and continues to be one of my biggest inspirations. I was a fan of Aarons work long before Phlearn had begun. I loved going through his photos and reading about them. I had actually taken a Photoshop streaming class that Aaron had offered a few years ago (before the Phlearn PROs were released).
Years ago, I remember going through Aaron’s photostream. I remember being so shocked by his 365 days project everyday. He would pump out a new photo every day, and every day the photo wasn’t just good, it was great! It was amazing. His work shines in such an artistic and creative light that I just wasn’t used to seeing. That’s why his work stuck out so much to me whilst going through the endless amount of photos on Flickr.
One that sticks out in my mind is the photo of Aaron sitting on the wing of an airplane. I couldn’t believe that someone had created this. Also that it was a self-portrait as well? How could that even be done? Of course I know the answers to these questions today but looking at this as a 17 year old who had hardly any knowledge of what Photoshop even was, this was groundbreaking.
What I loved the most about Aaron’s self-portraits was even though Photoshop
was definitely a tool that was utilized, he also utilized all of the other tools that he could. For example, the photo titled “Kiss me I’m sluggish.” Anyone who looks at this photo hopes that this is photoshopped… But of course, no, this is not photoshopped and Aaron had actually taken this slug, and put it in his mouth. All for the sake of a self-portrait created for his 365 days photo project.
Another photo by Aaron I think of when thinking about Photoshop being used as a tool,
but not as the main seller of the image, is an image he created titled “Royal Blood” which was done as part of an artist tribute series, this shot in particular was a tribute to Erwin Olaf. What makes this image so special, you ask? These needles are not photoshopped. Here is what is wrote in the description on Flickr;
“By the way I DID put the needles in my back for real. I only had 4, so I had to take them out and put them in different places to get my lighting right. There is nothing fake about the needles in my back.”
I love that. I love that someone who is so passionate about a tool (Photoshop) still makes the effort to make the image happen in camera, before he works with it off camera. That is brilliant to me, because we all know if he wanted to Aaron could photoshop these into his back no problem. He didn’t need to make this extra effort, but he did.
She began creating self-portraits for ease and to have full control over the images, and has since grown into a self-portrait artist. Self-portraiture for her is not autobiographical in nature. Instead, she attempts to place herself within worlds she wishes we could live in, where secrets float out in the open, where the impossible becomes possible.
Brooke works to create new worlds within her photographic frame. By using painterly techniques as well as the square format, traditional photographic properties are replaced by otherworldly elements. Brooke’s photography questions the definition of what it means to be alive. (brookeshaden.com)
Brooke creates new worlds with her photography. After refreshing myself by going through Brooke’s photostream on Flickr I was left quite surprised to see there wasn’t really blurbs underneath the photos explaining her process, explaining why she took the photo, explaining the concept and meaning behind the photo. Then I realized Brooke creates most of her self-portraits under the same concept of trying to create a world, where the impossible becomes possible, and that most of the meaning behind her photos lies behind the title.
For example, the picture titled “The World Above” where she is emerging out of a lake, with an umbrella sitting atop of her head, and birds surround her. For me, the title “The World Above” means simply that. This is a photo about a girl who emerged from her home underneath the water, to finally take a look at the world that she was afraid to look at before. Remember, this is just my take on the photograph. This photo could mean something completely different to somebody else.
Another photo of hers is called “Chasing Childhood”, where Brooke is depicted running away from the camera, birds are flocked around her, and what’s in the distance cannot be seen.
What I get out of this photograph is that she’s chasing her childhood, but she’s not sure why. Or that she’s chasing certain parts of it, and the rest of her childhood is nothing but a foggy haze that she can’t remember. Maybe she’s chasing the part she can’t remember.
The meaning of self-portraiture is different to everyone. Isn’t that fascinating? Some people make self-portraits for practice- to perfect their shooting, lighting, and editing techniques (like Aaron). Some people shoot self-portraits because they love to do it (like Brooke Shaden, Joel Robinson, and myself), and for others self-portraiture is their worst enemy (like my fellow interns, Jenna and Kate).
In my opinion, creating a self-portrait is always a good thing. You get experience in front of the camera, behind the camera, you have all the time you need, and you can make your vision come alive.
Someone who really loves self-portraits is Joel Robinson (joel_r a.k.a. Boy_Wonder on Flickr). For people who aren’t familiar
with Joel, he lives in British Columbia’s Rocky Mountains (in Canada!), he’s a teacher, and he does photography in his spare time. For someone with a Flickr photostream of 1,817 items doing photography in their spare time is more than impressive. Joel loves photography, and he loves self-portraits. He loves it so much that he is actually on his 4th 365 days photo project. Yes, you read that right. His 4th 365 days photo project. When I did my 365 days photo project I had trouble completing it all the way through, but I did! I started a 2nd one and wasn’t able to finish it through the midst of my second year of college and moving 3 times… I can’t imagine the amount of patience and dedication one must have to complete three 365 days photo projects, and then be in the midst of a fourth one! Especially within such close proximity to each other. On his 4th 365 days photo project, when he only started his 1st in September of 2008. How brilliant is that? I think it’s pretty damn impressive that’s for sure.
Joel’s work in my opinion is always positive, uplifting, energetic, funny, and creative. Harry Potter, The Muppets, movies, nature, peace, Disney, and many other things inspire him. If you just take 20 minutes out of your day to look at his photostream you would know exactly what I mean. I’ve been following Joel’s work since the very beginning and you’d think after 4+ years I’d be sick of looking at his self-portraits every day, but nope. Every day I am left waiting for more. With work as imaginative, playful and creative as his you’re left with nothing but wonder and amazement.
So, what do I want you to get out of this article? That self-portraits are important. They may not be important to your particular practice, but they are important in the world of photography and art. If you haven’t already, your time will be well spent researching the endless amount of self-portraits out there that the entire world has to offer. I know I’m blown away by a self-portrait published online every day.
Also, I know that not everyone agrees that Flickr is the greatest website, but to me, and to other people out there Flickr was an amazing starting point. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Flickr. I’m interning with Aaron and the team at Phlearn because I discovered Aaron’s work on Flickr. I had photos of mine featured in an exhibition about cancer that toured Canada called “Cancer Connections” because my work was discovered on Flickr by one of the men who ran the exhibition- James Burns. Now these photos are in a book titled “Cancer Connections”. Flickr may be a dump to some people, but it completely changed my life.
Introduction: Catherine Rockhold.
Hey, Phamily! I’m the newest member of the Phlearn team. I’m currently pursuing my BFA in Fine Art Photography at California Institute of the Arts (commonly referred to as CalArts). I’ve been obsessed with Harry Potter for ten years and I know Hermione’s birthday. Go ahead. Ask me. I’ll tell you. Ask.
I started working with composites in photoshop six years ago, when I was in 8th grade. Soon afterwards I picked up a camera and started taking my own photographs. What started as a hobby soon turned into my life’s passion and led to my decision to attend a fine arts university.
I’ve just completed my second year of art school and it has dramatically changed my style, technique, and personal taste. My digital camera now has dust on it as I now shoot primarily with older medium and large format film cameras. I went from photographing friends and models to landscapes and still life. I’m slowly transitioning to become a fine arts photographer.
This week the three interns, myself, Jenna, and Kate had our own go at a conceptual self-portrait photoshoot. Onto the results!
When I heard Angela’s weekly challenge, I had a feeling I would a)dust off my digital camera and b) take a self-portrait. I was right on both accounts. It had been a couple of years since I had taken self-portraits, and I definitely prefer being behind the camera lens, so this was a good challenge for me. It’s interesting to see how photographers represent themselves. One of my all-time favorite artists is Francesca Woodman. In her self-portraits you can see her struggles. She doesn’t attempt to look good or take a beautiful photo. Instead, she strives to show her truth. In all of her work, especially her self-portraits, there is a somber foreshadowing of her committing suicide at the age of 22.
The image I took was inspired by Francesca Woodman, both in technique and in concept. I set up a tripod, had a remote in hand, and started shooting at a shutter speed of 5-6 seconds. Because I was able to achieve the motion that I desired in the original shot, it didn’t need much photoshop time. I cropped the photo to be square, so as to better mimic Woodman. She shot only in a 6×6 medium format frame.
To be completely honest, conceptual self-portraits are my worst enemy. I never challenged myself and pushed myself hard enough to take self-portraits like the talented people I’ve been following on Flickr and other photo sharing sites for years. It wasn’t until my junior year in college that I started to dip my toes into the world of self-portraiture but it wasn’t something I thought I was good at.
This week’s challenge was literally a challenge for me. I think this is exactly what I needed, after doing this photo shoot, I feel more comfortable with myself in front of the camera. I stepped out of my comfort zone to produce a conceptual image of myself and for it to have a certain emotional effect on the viewers. At first, I struggled to find a concept I wanted to base this photo off of. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to portray a current emotion or state of mine, something from the past, or create a whole new world through my image.
After being really indecisive and thinking it over for a while, I decided to base my image off of one of the most terrifying dreams I’ve had yet. In this dream, I was switching back and forth from observing myself from a distance to being in my own body. I wasn’t sure of my location, but I remember there being windows on a wall with shadows in them in an eerie atmosphere. I was on the floor with my ribs about to break through my skin (I didn’t know how to portray this part of my dream into the photo in such a short amount of time), my head thrashing, and feeling like there was something there controlling me. I was being overcome by something I couldn’t see and I was trying to gain control of my body at the same time. This was a very short dream and I woke up scared, taking a while to realize I was back in my own bed and that it was all a dream.
When I went to take this picture, I had the idea to take it up against a brick wall and change the atmosphere and feel of the photo in Photoshop. I set up the shot and had Angela press the shutter for me to capture several different poses with my hair going in every direction and different poses with my body. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to look in the end image; I just wanted to make sure I had plenty of options for compositing. While editing the image, I found myself experimenting with compositing, fog, color, and whatever I can do to get the emotion of the image across to the viewers. In the end, I found myself actually happy with the final image, which is rare for me. I hope to continue to challenge myself and produce more self-portraits in the future.
Before shooting a self-portrait I always try to conceptualize a meaning behind what I’m doing. While shooting my first self-portrait in Chicago I had a lot of trouble figuring out why I wanted to shoot. I had a lot of trouble trying to conceptualize something. So I spent some time thinking, what in my life has changed? What is something new I want to portray with an image that I haven’t done yet? And of course, the answer is right in front of my face. Chicago. This is my first time in the United States, ever (I’m from Canada), and my first time living in a brand new country. I’ve only moved once in my life before and that was when I made the move from Mount Pearl, Newfoundland (my hometown) to Calgary, Alberta (where I attend college) when I was 18 years old. So, from there I started playing around with the idea that a small town girl is now living the big city life. Moved from Mount Pearl, Newfoundland to the large city of Calgary. Then I moved from Calgary to live in the great city of Chicago for my Summer of 2012. These couple photos are centered around that idea. The idea that I am becoming a big city girl. (PS, I’m not identifying myself as so, it was just what the concept of the photo was about. Am I a big city girl? I don’t know. You decide.)
Once again congratulations to last week’s winner’s! Your challenge for this week is to take a self-portrait. What does it have to be about? Anything. Where can you take it? Anywhere. What are the options? Anything. We would love to see your self-portraits and it would be great if you could write a bit about your thought process behind your portrait when you post it!
Next week Angela, Jenna, and Kate will pick their favorite image and the person who submitted it will WIN a Phlearn PRO of their choice! The winners will be announced in next week’s article on Wednesday. We would like for you to post your images in the comments of this post by Tuesday the 3rd, noon CST if you would like to be eligible for the contest. Good luck!