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Conceptualizing a Body of Work

Lesson 6 from: The Art and Business of Conceptual Portraiture

Jennifer Thoreson

Conceptualizing a Body of Work

Lesson 6 from: The Art and Business of Conceptual Portraiture

Jennifer Thoreson

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Lesson Info

6. Conceptualizing a Body of Work

Lesson Info

Conceptualizing a Body of Work

So we're going toe breakdown kind of first part, we were talking about process entrusting your process, that whole gym, but what seems like a really simple idea on dh turn this around and look at you for a little while, we've looked at me and you guys have seen me, so we're gonna look at you for a little while. Um, let's impact this whole idea of what does this mean to make a body of work? So I like to think of it as human variations, so if you think about, like, a a symphony, for instance, then you've got what you'll notice when you listen to the symphony is you hear a similar melody show up in a really fast movement? You hear that same melody show up in a slow movement, but bits and pieces, and you'll recognize it here, like, oh, there it is, there it is, there it is in the whole symphony, then works together as one piece of music, one concept, right? That I think is the closest thing I can think of where we're thinking about making conceptual body of work, so it doesn't mean it all ...

has to look the same doesn't mean it all has to be black and white doesn't mean it all has to be square. I do have done that for a long time, like I make images that look like they fit together that's not always the answer life, though, it's, just a matter of making things that fit in the same have a little bit of the same melody each each image has a little bit of that same melody in it, somewhere, somehow that oftentimes is the concept by saying, okay, I'm going to make a body of work about this topic, and every image fits into that concept a state most of the time. That's what the way it works sometimes, though it's, visual cues and stuff like that, so just think about it for I mean, think about it is an umbrella, and in a really literal sense, if you're standing under your umbrella and it's raining for thirty, square miles and you've got your little area, your tri, you are the center of that you have what a foot on each side of you that's that that's kind of think about your body of work and your concept, you, yourself and you in that big space, and you're working in that little thing that's kind of what it is, you've decided I'm going to narrow my focus and talk about this thing, I'm going to show him a quirk about this thing in this little three, square feet of life when you're gonna operate in that space, everything is going to fit under your umbrella that's kind of what it is. So what the heck is a photographic siri's anyway? And people ask me a lot like how many pictures should be in a siri's? What does it look like when you say you've got a body of work or a syriza photographs? What does that even mean? Well, mostly in my my siri's are my bodies of work or small, because everything I do is so ridiculously labor intensive. So making twelve images for testament took two years, right? So and medic, you know, making ten of those took a very long time, so I can't make thirty images in the syriza would take me five years, so ah lot of siri's, though a lot of photographers do, they'll make twenty, thirty, forty, fifty images that fit under their umbrella. I make flora was five. So it's there's no magic number, it's justa means that you've made a body of work, a certain number of images that fed on your umbrella. You do want to think about, though, when your ex is exhibiting, try to get that were out exhibiting your work. What's that gonna look like in an exhibition setting because in the end you do have to think about business right? You've got to sell this work you've got to get it market you've got to give on the walls you got to get it in publications and things like that too. So why I try not to think about that conceptually when I'm making the work and let it influence my ideas I do think about that when I'm thinking how many pictures aaron the siri's help bigger they gonna be how am I going to frame them present them will they be assailable that kind of so yeah, you have to figure out what that magic number is so protest mint it was twelve and if you look at them all together like that which we haven't done yet you can see that visually they fit right? So there's a lot there's a couple like the one that cancer image just got a lot of big red area that one stands out and it does stand out often fact when I'm publishing things have noticed that a lot of magazines and stuff want to use that image because it has so much impact but if you look at the rest of them, look at the color tones and things right that fit together there's a lot of gold and yellow even in the wood of the floors you know the costuming, the clothing that they're wearing like you see a lot of blues and things in the in the costumes and in the garments so that kind of stuff when you look at it all together it ties together right? So it doesn't mean it has to but that's what I like to do I'd like for them to feel like they fit so when I look at him in an exhibition setting they're all side by side the lighting makes sense the there's color harmony between the images things like that in this exhibition or in this bodywork I use only natural light I didn't use any elektronik light at all and so and I think when you look at it in the end when you see them all together that alone unifies them just using the same light source every time so there's a lot of ways to do it here's an artist heidi kirkpatrick who makes and she's got a lot of work and you really should look her up because I was reading about her last night there's a great interview on her on them lin scratch magazine she even makes like science titan garments and all kinds of things with this particular siri's this body of work she's focused her narrow that focus you know funneled it down into this and so she's taken little al toy tens and used photographic positives inside there to make these little precious objects that people can hold and so that's her specimens siri's and you could see it's mostly body part for people bodies women as specimens in these little tins I can open and close so that's a pretty focused idea right and the whole thing fits under that umbrella all the images are different in fact pretty different but just the idea of having them all in the same size little enclosed thing that's enough to unify it or the same photographic process that's enough to unify and call it a siri's and make it about this one thing right here's some close ups of what she's done here pretty cool stuff and so if you think about holding that object what is she asking her audience to dio you know when she hold when you hold this thing and look at it in your hand like a precious object we think back when people were doing like tin types on dh you help this little thing and kept it up your loved one and it was this big and precious that's a really different acts and then having someone look at a big print on the wall in the gallery she's commanding your audience she's making them do something you know and that's a powerful thing and sometimes it's a fact that you found something that works and you just do it twelve or fifteen times you make a body of work that way but I find that photographers tend to work mostly in bodies of work they tend to work mostly mostly in siri's is a completely different artist so different than than me in different than her abby hepner works out of new mexico this is a serious she did called caretaker robots so she's really interested in how technology has kind of influenced the way we care for each other on her artist statement's pretty interesting too you can read it on our website but specifically like in japan there's robots caring for the elderly and even for instant infants and things so to us that may seem shocking but it's it's happening more and more and more I have a robot in my house now that cleans the floors so I mean something that's a pretty interesting thing that she's narrowed her focus down to that it's boiled way down to interest in that very, very specific idea, right? And they just made a whole body at work about robots caring for people and so she made a robot costume and I think her husband wore it a lot. And so the robot is carrying for people in different ways and you can see I mean between the the photographs there's a style there too, right? She's got a photographic style that also unifies thes and makes him feel like a body of work and they're humorous too rachel cox is another artists who I met in new mexico she now lives in michigan she did this bodywork called shiny ghost about her grandmother who was having it's not alzheimer's but just generation as she became older and then she passed away so she documented this whole process of her grandmother passing away really in kind of fading away so she called it shiny ghost again it's a very specific very, very specific narrow think that she's dealing with so if you think about your ideas like we talked about earlier coming down from all these things that have influenced you all over life going down again to that that liquid that makes sense, that delicious thing in the end and then you go even more specific than that, okay? And that is where maybe a body of work comes from and over a lifetime you're going to make a whole bunch you're gonna make a lot of different bodies of work, but I think if you look up you're going to see that they come from the same place. This is her artist statement and I can't seem to read much of it, but when I like about it first of all it's a different format that you normally see we're going to talk about this in detail in a minute it's short but I've always taken pictures of my grandmother when she was diagnosed didn't to general of brain disease I took even more. The images were made during moments of conversation, gesture and experience of death. Did you tell you? Kind of how she may him it's that simple it's a simple concept, but they're pretty powerful images, so they include portrait of her, and rachel uses more of a documentary style. So she's not directing everything that's in the images not calculated it's more she's reacting to her environment and then documented little bits and pieces and using vivid color. And I mean, look at the way she's using light, right? It almost looks like paparazzi feeling like things are happening quickly, and I think that use of light helps dissect the subject matter a little bit like she's trying to grab things before they're gone. Sort of. This is her leg and her grandmother's leg. I think this one's called same knees that they have kind of the same shape leg but she's using almost like flash on camera, right really different than a really romantic light coming in, and that technique is used through the hole, body of work so the light is unifying them, the use of color, the use of gesture, that kind of response to the camera in that style, I have something happening quickly, so it was a million ways to do it there's so many ways to do it, but and I think if you take your your visual cues and we talk, we're going to talk about in detail. What's this. We're gonna look like. It'll start to make sense, how they're going to work together in a body of work.

Class Materials

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Book Proposal Sample.pdf
Critical Mass - Digital Book.pdf
Curriculum Vitae Example.pdf
Keynote PDF Segment 1.pdf
Keynote PDF Segment 2.pdf
Keynote PDF Segment 3.pdf

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

"Thinking about art is not making art." In this inspiring and informative workshop, Jennifer helps you put thought into action - through meaningful self-reflection, exploration and by taking her through her own processes. Through exercises and examples, she explains how to pull out a thread of an idea and develop it into a conceptual project that is informed and invigorated by personal experience, preference, interests, and so much more. Her workshop not only feeds the creative soul, but offers earnest information on taking first steps toward publishing and showing fine-art. Jen so beautifully shares her talent and her love of teaching - I first "met" her on Creative Live and have had the joy of being mentored by her in-person as well. This workshop is a very close second to spending time with her one-on-one. Thank you, CL, for bringing her back!

kalei harmon

I love Jennifer, she's one of my cL favorites! She is such a soulful photographer and her art just resonates with me in so many ways. While she was creating her conceptual piece with the mother and child, my eyes welled up because it was such a profound experience to witness. I appreciate that she has a graduate degree in art and is able to refer to others in the field who are leading the way. She is so genuine and I'm grateful for her willingness to bare her soul to us through her art and process. I've learned so much by watching how she interacts with models and communicates efficiently and gently to get AMAZING poses. Definitely worth the buy if you're looking for inspiration from an artist who creates images which evoke emotion and communicate a message, not just trying to make "great photos." I can't wait to learn about the business side of it all!


I am so grateful for this class; it is just what I have been looking for to help me go beyond my "photographic potty training". By leading us through her own creative process, Jennifer Thoreson invites us to think about why we do what we do and to make our work more meaningful and authentic, creating our unique visual vocabulary. Moreover, she provides detailed info on submitting work to galleries and publications, contests, printing editions, preparing an exhibition and pricing. In her calm, unpretentious manner, Jennifer demystified art without trivializing it and I finally saw light at the end of a rather long tunnel.

Student Work