Fine Art Women's Portraits

Lesson 1 of 17

Influences and Inspiration

 

Fine Art Women's Portraits

Lesson 1 of 17

Influences and Inspiration

 

Lesson Info

Influences and Inspiration

I've had an interesting journey I suppose like everyone has I started out as a wedding photographer and so my dad helped me by my first camera and help me get my business license and all that sort of thing I was twenty one and I just decided after I got my music degree that I should be a harbor so I was one of those instant professionals who opened a studio and started photographing weddings within the next six months and that little baby studio at age twenty one turned into a not so baby studio a couple of years later I was doing sixty seventy weddings a year so I don't know if you guys have never felt this way but at sixty to seventy weddings a year I was pretty burned out when I began photography I was so in love with it that I couldn't I couldn't stand to be without it you know I would sleep in the dark room I took a sleeping bag and peanut butter and jelly and I loved it that much so much and then after two years of seventy weddings I would cry on my way to the studio because I ha...

ted it that much and I thought enough finally enough s o I took everything I had and sold it and just moved to boston to start over so I always wanted to be a city girl so I did so I'm not that that's the answer to life for everybody but sometimes I think it's good to check in and say do I show love this and you know what is my purpose why am I doing this um finally I realized I needed less stuff and more time I don't need more stuff you know I have enough stuff and that's all I was doing I was making money to collect stuff more stuff stuff stuff and busy busy busy and never had a moment to myself to breathe I thought this is not art is not photography this is craziness so enough I moved on so I ran to boston and made four of the fine arts siri's that are currently on my website made him all in a crazy short amount of time so excited energized and that kind of re launch my career into right arm over the past couple of years I've realized a lot of things because I've had some time to think and it's been um kind of a soul searching time I guess in my life and so I see this photograph and I think about some days are are spending days right where you feel like you can't find your true north and you're kind of lost kind of feeling a little helpless feeling a little pointless that there's no centre and there's no point and some days or twirling days where you're just soaring and your heart is in it and you can see north and you know where you're going and there's a purpose and a meaning to not on your life but your work so I've learned over the past couple years that some years are spinning years and some years of toiling years some weeks are spinning some weeks or twirling and somewhere in there we make our work I finally was able to admit to myself that it's okay to spin that it's okay to not have a north to not know where I'm going to feel lost and you know I wasn't okay with that for a long time I felt guilty if I couldn't think of something right away always perfectly creative and finally I was able to say accept it accept it use it and when I'm twirling I'm twirling so much more joyfully um so I mentioned that I moved to boston this is the view out of my bathroom window and I would just sit there and watch the world go by and I felt like I had a pretty good center at that point in my life a city girl I was happy I was doing my thing and then for some reason I decided to go to graduate school at u and new mexico which is pretty crazy decision moving from the east coast to the middle of the desert new mexico um but I did it on so that became more of you out of my bathroom window so it's quite different you know it shock my system a lot a tte that point my life I was completely leveled out a few things happen and completely reset my entire world and I had a whole year of spinning I was so lost I was supposed to be in graduate school making all this amazing work and I couldn't I couldn't get off the floor I couldn't get out of bed so for the first time in my life I realized this is part of my process I was able to use that and re energize this year it's start twirling again but I guess the best thing I can do today for you guys is not to tell you just what works for me and what makes me successful or you know I'll tell you some of those things but I think it's really important for me also to tell you what what hurts you know what didn't work where my failures were where I felt really vulnerable where I felt useless and pointless and so I was able to build back up and help you guys understand and everybody out there that that's part of everybody's process and you're not supposed to be on all the time let yourself aban flow and believe that that's that's a good thing when I was applying to graduate school everybody wanted me to write this thing called a statement of purpose and I thought well what the heck is that a good amount of research saving a purpose and that's a pretty big word purpose right and then not write an essay about what what my purpose is that was the whole idea it was hard it was really hard always kind of floated through thinking I love photography I love photography and I would make a lot of pretty pictures but why am I making these things you know what is the point what is my actual purpose of making art when I first entered into graduate school is in a class with one of my kindred spirits and professors now that I am she's like family adrian salinger and she said to us big beginning graduate she said if you don't need to do this but everything you have you can't live without it get out now and I thought well that's that's kind of harsh but she meant it and now I understand it because this isn't a place photography is not going to make me rich and I don't really want it to I have to do this I can't live about it's my heartbeat if that's not the way you feel about it my best advice is get out now too because if there is not that central driving beating drum purpose with you to beat here you're not going to see it on the work so in a few words I figured out when I was writing essays this was my statement of purpose really to photograph with conviction to have absolute conviction when I'm making photographs all the time that's my purposes it happened all the time no of course not but that's my goal that's my purpose that's where I'm headed really conviction so it's not just about beauty it's not just about a map of somebody's face and telling the world what they look like I couldn't possibly care less about that I'm trying to say something personal give you some of my dna let you get under my skin show you where I'm hurting where I'm falling apart and translate that into a photograph that's conviction to me so um one of the first classes I took at unit was a pueblo pottery class of one of the most kind spirited people I remember walking down a pathway with thiss man and there was a ladybug and he jumped out of the way do not step on the lady but so is that pure and tender hearted um so I took this but um pottery class with them and so what we did we go out and I think the clay and put it into a bucket and sort it and clean it and this is days and days of process and eventually it was clean and then we would add to it and sculpted and move it and yeah at some point it was ready to make a pot and then we were able to make our vessels and when we made a vessel you would take it the beginning of it and breathe your spirit into it and begin to build it up from there so you really become part of this object it's a thing you know it's a heartfelt thing so I had done all that I was building my best hole and I got it pretty pretty perfect I was really proud of it came in the next day to finish it and glaze it and it was on the shelf in about fifteen pieces and it shattered from the oxygen overnight and I couldn't take it it just I felt like there was some kind of a metaphor for how I was feeling in that pot you know I felt broken and I just started I lost that it began to cry and just hold the pieces in my hand and hold him in my heart why is this happening and he came over to manny put his hand on my back and he said it wasn't meant to be and I thought that's what I needed to hear that's all I needed to know it wasn't meant to be he walked me outside and we dug a little hole and buried the pot and he said let's start over so again push the reset button on life and start over I did it once before and it was time to do it again so this quote kind of got me through that whole transition we must show up for our own lives sabrina ward harrison says that she's one of my favorite if you've never read a book by sabrina ward harrison now's the time um she says this again and again we must show up for our own lives it seems really simple but being president all the time is really hard and it's especially hard when you're making photographs being really present vulnerable allow yourself to become part of the process it's hard to show up sometimes so make what you most need to find um sabrina warned harrison also says this and you'll read this again and again in her literature make what you most need to find what the heck does that mean right that's kind of a big process but oh but like I said it I've kind of gone through this transition lately and I'm able to look at that and say what am I looking for what am I looking for is this it this great purpose that we've been talking about for you know recently what am I looking for if you can figure that out then you can make it in that your work that could be it it's that simple and that difficult figure out what your soul is desperate for what your heart is yearning for and make that put it on paper he was translated it's tough but that's what makes your dna so during that rough patch of life I told you guys I just couldn't get out of bed I couldn't move I don't want to do anything and making work seemed really pointless and silly and um so I was thinking through the basement I was getting ready to move and I found this chair that when I moved from boston it was sitting on the side of the road and was broken and I said I don't know why but I'm gonna take that with me and I took it with me and then your later I'm digging through my basement and there it is and I just put my hand on it and I felt that again that brokenness that this thing and I was able to identify it seems really strange a chair but sometimes that's what starts the whole process so I took it in my studio and I bandaged it up and it wasn't to make work it wasn't an art project it was just something I needed to dio and I like the way it looked so I finished bandaging I finished the entire thing covered it in this nose one fabric and baptize the strips in water and I thought it was kind of a renewal process and this chair seemed better when I was finished so I decided I would I would take my studio space which was this build it to make it look like my parlor that I just left in boston and start patching it up so I covered the other chair and then I covered a table and that obsessively started covering the walls of this room so you know eight months later so I had an entire room covered in muslim fabric that's where the word comes from so that's the finished piece after a nearly year it took me to do this so two things in that whole bit one trusting yourself for a year to make something is really hard and I needed to feel that again that I had what it took that what my purpose wass is important to me and to somebody else that there's a riel purpose in my work secondly um it help me heal to start over it was it was an actual physical print of what had happened in my life it was it's like like a journal entry and I think not for everyone but a lot of that's where find out where it comes from I've been taking a lot of yoga classes and so that you'd die a breath means flying upward and I think about that a lot when I'm trying to make work flying upward this soaring twirling sensation of translating what's in my heart and putting it on paper I think as long as I'm flying flying upward so that's a bit of majority anyway um kind of emotionally exposed or spiritually we could get into now a little bit of personal aesthetic and how I see what I see and why I see what I see and hopefully when I'm talking about that it'll translate to you guys so you can kind of get an idea of that process and how I was able to hone in and narrow in on a personal style um I think about this kind of like when you go to the doctor right and the doctor says well I know you've got this issue but I can't tell you what it is but I can tell you when it's not so it's it's not of this or that or this or that so you're starting to hone in on what it might be so I think finding your personal style is a lot like that it's like going to the doctor so you know it's not bright vivid color you know it's not um busy composition whenever those things okay I don't respond to that I don't respond to that I don't respond to that oh I respond to that and so maybe that's what it is and after a couple of years of working that way you are able to diagnose yourself in a sense so kind of like the david statue right when that michelangelo was making this someone says to him hey you know how did you do that he said it was easy I just chipped away all the parts it didn't look like david right so when you're doing this jury or finding yourself trying to figure out what you see and why you see it is that it's that chipping away all the stuff it doesn't look like you basically so that's what I've done over the years it all started with this painting this is the john singer sargent painting that I was walking by and it was just a print it wasn't the real thing but I saw it and it just I stopped that in my tracks it was that feeling of like it hurt it's like I could feel my heart moving when I saw the painting I thought something's got me something's up here s o when you respond to something like that when you see something that it stops you that's meaningful because in this day and age now it's one hundred years old but in this time we see so much right were visually stimulated all the time from the minute you wake up in the morning and tell the minute you shut your eyes and not your visually some of it all the time the media does a great job of it so when you see something that actually makes you stop that's something I got to figure out what the heck that means right so this I feared out after a while that I wanted to be this woman I needed to like somehow embody her it's not and there's nothing right about it right we're photographing upper knows she's for short in the body the arm is awkward the light is flat everything's wrong if you wanna look at it from a photographer's camp but everything's right I need to be in that moment I felt the same way when I saw this late in painting so this is um flaming june by layton and I just fell in love with her I needed to be her so when I did as I started putting women and this is early on when I was twenty two or twenty three I started putting women in these positions to see what was like so I loved I loved the lines and the fluidity of it in this breathlessness and these women right this one is a uh water house painting and so I fell in love with water house for a while and these long fluid gorgeous things that were happening so I just put people like this one for instance I have a photograph of a girl in this position and it's not easy it looks easy because she makes it look easy but when she's got her arm you know this feels pretty natural this does not she's got her arm way over here to make this line wicked long in luxurious and beautiful to enjoy and the more I did this and more I realize these poses aren't easy um as I was on my journey and it started figuring out you know what I'm responding to in the figure mostly I found a painter named by the name of pino p I n no I was in a new orleans gallery and there it wass uh he has thes paintings of women that they're kind of just based in this beautiful what I call behavioral light that's not a real word but it is for me so what it's doing wass kind of just dancing on them in a sense it didn't look manipulated didn't look force there was no main light fill light reflector kicker all that crap right which is light and for the first time I realized I responded that I really like that so I took it and made it might want to translate that idea to behavioral light like that just behaves I don't manipulate I don't use soft boxes I don't use anything I use nothing just organic behavioral light let it fall on people that's not necessarily laziness there's a purpose behind it um alongside pino I found this painting by whistler which is it has quite an interesting story if you ever want to look it up but I was responding to this kind of tight composition and when I responded he was that it made me uncomfortable I didn't like it all right so is able to diagnose myself right I don't like that I continually don't like that every time I see that I don't like that okay but what I loved about it was the palette was this muted color palette and like oh my gosh I could take the lighting from pino my behavioral light thing all those beautiful women from layton and waterhouse and then take this color palette I think I've got something that's a whistler right he would say his paintings were like breath on a pane of glass it's like that's pretty good right that's a good stick breath on a pant waas so it moves me it changed the way I think I see further majority david hamilton a french photographer who I think is kind of like a modern whistler in a sense he uses that muted color palette and beautiful women never term of ill is my hero I think um I tried to email or a whole bunch but she doesn't love me that's okay I love her still sarah moon and francesca woodman so debra and sarah both photograph fashion in the eighties it's all kinds of amazing things I learned how how to see form from sarah moon I was able to really learn to use space from sarah moon deborah terribile has this sense of the unknown or something removed from reality just a little bit so when I look at our work and it refreshes me and energizes me every time when I see it because there's always something not quite right there's something a little bit odd there's somebody floating somewhere or a strange gesture or a weird interact between two people that makes you stop and I took that and translated that francesca woodman same idea and I love to look at francesca because her work is not what I've found I like a lot of symmetry and stillness and it doesn't have any of that but it has that sense of the unknown and I'm so attracted to that so I look at it again and again and again so to me it's half approach in half execution execution is just a bit it's all technique right that's the stuff that we're supposed to already know and to be completely honest nobody cares if you can make a good exposure it just doesn't matter or if you got pretty light on something or you know you got a decent pose or you know that's all execution f stops shutter speed learning teo control light all that stuff that we spend so much time on as photographers and yeah it's important but that stuff's just going to be running in the background it can't be up here in present while you're trying to work so it's just like a painter and a paintbrush you know they're gonna learn how to use the brush nobody cares about the technique the approach is the important part that's where your dna is somewhere in there and that approach and the point of it the reason you're making what you're making how you approach your human model all that stuff the meaning of your work basically that's what's gonna set you apart and I know this message comes from all kinds of people in all kinds of ways but you could put it completely bluntly this industry has changed a lot and we all know that we feel it people will not respond to something that doesn't have uniqueness your own dna in it something it's trying to convince someone to buy something they don't want that doesn't work so in order to make yourself absolutely unique I believe it's in the approach on in the execution not in more technique we have enough mathematicians and this industry we don't need anymore we need more artists right so trying to figure out how that happens that approach word is massive and it's so hard is easy for me to stand up here and say make yourself unique we'll go do it well I'm just very dusty when you can figure that out no it's the most difficult things are to steal with on the day to day basis people go into deep depressions over these things it's hard the first step I think though it's narrow your focus to start to look as what you respond to again and again and again just like we talked about in the doctor's office so when I walk into a new location for instance it's easy for me to go wow we're in a castle it's so wicked cool and well I could shoot here and here and here and here when there's a staircase and that thing and there's that thing I will look at the gargoyle right but it's easy you know and all the nice pictures but what I could also do is just say okay wait calm it down stand still for a minute look at this location and figure out what is actually me in there one guy looking for so I will tend a photograph on a blank background on a rock wall for an hour and a half people are like but it is a castle and I'm like I don't care I want stillness muted color palette flattening out of the subject being close to the background looking for total symmetry squareness a darker background in a light subject monochromatic nous thinks I know what I'm looking for and I will wait until I find it not photograph on a blank wall if I have to everything else is too busy um so in the end I think it kind of boil sound if I really think about how this comes apart how it um got something that could make you start to hone in what's your color what do you respond to pallet wass you continue to respond to black and white things do you continue to respond to things that are bright vivid color of a friend cornelia oliver you can look her up she's a painter bright vivid color big bold patterns all the time gold leaf I'm like you know I need my little box of muted color palette um organization composition in order how do you organize your subjects do you notice you're doing the same thing again and again I didn't put people smack in the middle all the times I like that stillness the eeriness of the perfect symmetry that squareness that's the order of my image shape and form so what I tend to dio is she was a blank canvas like that and put a subject in there that has a lot of motion or form so the movement is in the woman in the subject not in the background and I see myself doing that over and over and over again a blank canvas with an interesting form figure and body language you know inside of that moving form is their body language how my using the figure and what does that translate tio rhythm and movement disclosure so how quickly my disclosing what I'm trying to say does it take a minute and ideally it I'm hoping it does how much energy is in that subject so this pose versus someone standing totally symmetry symmetrical deadpan there's a different amount of energy in that and I like them both but I have to address that when I'm making work humanity and communication so in the end I'm hoping there's some humanity in that subject and that when someone looks at her they can identify somehow with that struggle so really it's a clear vision it's having a clear vision of where the heck you're going with this whole thing you know um and not letting yourself become distracted by a beautiful model a crazy location sixteen lenses in your bag a reflector alight on assistant a costume change god knows there's so much to deal with right it's narrowing the focus st stop wait slow down why am I doing this and make a photograph that actually means something so that's where the stuff comes from the very beginning of it is personal experience so I'm just pulling for my own stuff my own stuff that you guys don't have nobody else has it I have that experience I can use that this body of work started from when I was experiencing a lot of memory loss or something migraines and memory loss and so it was really hurtful it was really bothering me I thought how do I take that loss and put it on paper what would it look like if I put that on paper and that's what I came up with I felt like there was a weight on my head that my head was heavy so I just did it just put on paper the big world right there is translate so you can take something you know you've got how do you put them on paper was gonna look like in your language but see I still have the squareness right and the blank canvas and the interesting form on the blank canvas and the behavioral light muted color palette it's all there because I figured out that's the way I see so when it's time for me to translate something it's not so hard I don't have the entire world to choose from I've narrowed my focus that this is the way I'm going to see the world photographically and then when I translate my feeling I'm able to do it a lot easier this is another one from that siri's I'm still working on that it will be out soon in fact this is a new image that just photographed for it so I made these giant and so excited that you're into sculpture I made these giant sculpture things of wool and all kinds of different materials in my studio and I'm going teo attached them to these people so that idea of memory loss translated into this idea of over the year that it took balance and people in relationships supporting each other um emotionally so one person might take all the way all the time in a relationship maybe sometimes the way distributed equally well sometimes someone is really hurting and the other one is just there to comfort them how do I translate that those ideas and put them on paper to me that's what it looks like in a relationship so what it is is brookins one of my favorite musical artist is imogen heap and I know her image in heat wicked cool and it's really I love her music but I'm more fascinated just listening to her talk about a process I love to hear about otters artist process because it helps me to figure out what what I do and why she'll talk about how when she's writing a new piece of music she doesn't allow herself the entire world to choose from right it's too much it's too much there's a billion instruments there's all kinds of rhythmical patterns there's too much it's just like yikes she'll say no this was going to be in the key of f minor I'm going to use this lyric and these two instruments and that's it and she says in that space she's able to become so creative because she hasn't allowed herself to become distracted by all the what ifs like this is what I'm going to dio and this is going to be amazing if you can if you work that way and try it and see how it works so when you walk into a location instead of going mediocre mediocre mediocre mediocre mediocre mediocre but all your energy into one space for a while one model one lens one light source one garment and see what happens if you just book in yourself a little bit when my favorite artists josephine's acabo get a whole siri's ofwork in six ish square feet of her studio with just the natural sunlight coming in interesting way to look at the world so when you're when you're kind of thinking that way you're able to pre visualize a little bit and when I've noticed too is it helps me to calm down and start to see where I'm headed when I'm not going when we're going to do I think there's a lot of pressure on us as photographers for quantity right and speed I don't know where it came from maybe event right wedding photographers quantity we want a ton and we want it quick so when I'm photographing a woman I try so hard and it's still imbedded in my dna except autograph waiting for so long I feel like I'm gonna bore her she's sitting there too long she's gonna think I don't know what I'm doing it's taking too long it's taking too long quiet that for a minute and say wait slow it down be more sensitive be more observant amazing things will happen if you just wait for a minute sometimes I don't care about quantity I'd be happy if I get a couple amazing shots I'd rather have two really amazing ones in fifty okay ones right speed I couldn't possibly care less I'm one of the slowest photographers on earth it takes me forever to make a picture but I've able have been able to discipline myself never get one back and you're looking at you're like oh my gosh if I just fixed her foot her hand her hair her dress you know if you just slow down those thing you'll see them not only that the details the model will start to interact with you maybe amazing things can happen so in all of this dna stuff I'm thinking how can I make it more pointedly me right so I start to think about what in life is important to me okay like I've been a christian since I was six years old how do I take that and put it on paper so I use water a lot as a baptismal reference as a cleansing sort of feeling uh all the time even if like in here she's wearing a wet dress if it's not physically present a lot of time just metaphorically present a lot of natural crowns and things like that organic nous to me the spirit of women is very closely related to the spirit of of that creation acis esto I use a lot of like natural flora and found objects and things like that I don't bring in a lot of problems um white gowns I used these want dresses that have been probably warrant I don't know one hundred times maybe by thirty different women um there from the nineteen tens so I love that idea of that actual dna of a human being is embedded into that fabric and it gets more on again and again and again to me that's like a baptism it's a rebirth every time of that dress and it changes every time will be a new tear or it fits differently so I think of it it's like this progression of these women these beautiful people that are wearing my garments it was a kind of simple tell you so they're just a few to narrow my focus even more right so the idea is to get personal let it get in let your work be really personal right so its its vulnerability and being able to talk about why you do what you do I use a lot of you except cover faces I have people cover their faces a lot I have people close their eyes a lot things like that because of the way I believe women are in the world we will talk about a little bit more a lot of symmetry and we talked about that I'm always after this this idea of balance I'm really interested in that and how especially because women are so and we're focusing on women because this is a women's workshop women are so scattered and so responsible for so many things and I like to try to get that bit where there's balance or a search for balance or quiet for a moment in a woman's life um so this versus this right that's pretty quiet still and this is just the opposite this woman you know kind of on the edge you can tell she's uncomfortable there's a lot going on there's a lot of energy in the pose right so I'm interested in that too we'll talk about that a minute I have a little state relationships and balance so this year is about to tip over right and the girl underneath it's helping to hold it up so those two people are interacting to barely lace on their barely holding together they're about to fall apart I love that part of people's lives I'm really interested in digging in under the skin right there where you about to fall apart I want to know that and take a picture of it actual you know this one they're literally living on each other so this girl's literally in person supporting the other girl's body way I like the way that that might translate to the idea of a relationship and how through people work together or don't work together very well same idea here so they're this close to falling apart but there's one little moment and there were there not and I'm able to make a document of that and that's really interesting to me so this is a lot but I want to read it to you because I think if nothing else this is how I see I revisit themes of human fragility pain and eventually recovering I'm attracted to vulnerability to peeling back the skin that reveals something precious dark and insistently tender I'm compelled by the moments where people are on edge barely laced together a friending disaster remembering something or exposing something my photographs were infused my own inexhaustible almost irrational empathy I insistently probe into sensitive areas I'm curious about how relationships survive why they dissolve how people love one another and how special I was expressed acts of faith failure of faith intrigue me I like to know and feel the moment where people fall apart and saturate my photographs in it I want to push it a breaking point and hold out for hope of restoration the idea of human trace is important in my work I'm interested in the corporal sense of our own bodies our physical form along with our sensuousness and frailty that softness the body moves me the warmth and luminosity of the skin the honesty of the face a temporary breath imagine a physical imprint impressions last but left behind actual evidence even literal dna I'm enthralled by the darkness and density of human subjects my photographs are representations of quiet ultra still delicate moments of raw humanness the face just after laboring aching fall and at the point when renewal inevitably again that's what I'm looking for if you can put that on paper what you're looking for it will change your world

Class Description


Are you ready to delve into the magical world of fine art photography? Join innovative and award-winning photographer Jennifer Thoreson for a two-day immersion into everything you need to know to conceptualize, style, and shoot photographs that double as works of art.

Jennifer will share her unique method for turning a natural setting into a fine art studio, including her one-of-a-kind-technique for creating water portraits. You’ll master the essential principles of posing, lighting, styling, and costuming. Jennifer will also cover working effectively with models, communicating your personal vision, and using Photoshop to add a fine-art-style polish to images.

By the end of this course, you’ll be inspired and empowered to bring a new level of artistry to your photographs.

Reviews