The Art and Business of Conceptual Portraiture


The Art and Business of Conceptual Portraiture


Lesson Info

Testament Series

So this is the house um and these are the end photographs that ended up with so again I experimented lots and lots of times and play with them in different ways, but this is what came in the end, and so what I was kind of doing wass making vignette of relationships that I either had personally experienced or witnessed in my lifetime. So and you everybody's gonna look at these and see something different in this, like, is this two people that are forced to be together? They can't get a part or two people that want to be together and are light minded and are bearing the same burden in the same way I don't know if that's up to you so that's, what happened? Finally, it was a magical moment when I realized that work is asking questions and not answering all of them, and then I felt good. I felt happy this is what I want to do. I want to ask people questions I know what's going on in that picture, I know what they're vignette is, but I hopefully haven't told you all of it, right? You have to...

figure some of it all on your own, too, and so with the first round, when I went through this, I photographed just pretty much just the person with the object, and I found that I hadn't celebrated the house enough and that's when I started bringing in all the objects and the furniture and things that were special to me, this one's called cancer, so the title can tell someone a lot, but there's still a lot, I think you can read in there and just having things like people's animals, I had people bring their own pets to the photo shoots and sometimes their own clothing, their own objects. We'll get into that in the second segment to the clothing and the objects and what all those things specifically meant, but it again, I'm adding, trying to add some layers of meaning these are the balloons I made, like five thousand of them, and it took me a month, so yeah, it's commitment, but this is a gonna work moment. This is my wool suit that I made, and I photographed this so many times and it wasn't working, you know, I wasn't happy with it, and finally it made sense in this kind of dining room set, and this one, I feel like it's a difference than some of the others, because it's, like an active I want to help you sort of feeling, is what I see in that and everybody sees something different. This one was the first one I made and it's called soulmates and so it's about my marriage to my husband now and that we are like minded and that we are bearing the same things together and embracing each other holding each other through things some people look at that though and see two people that are stuck together and can't get a part so it's kind of where you're coming from in life I was in a really interesting experience having someone on stillson again this is something I would have done digitally before but I think there is something that resonates and when you look at the photograph and you know I think you can know when you look at it that it's real that it's happening in that time and then it's not digitally manipulated I think there's a risk there's a little nervousness that happens when you see this believing that that's actually happening versus knowing well it's not really so I can I can remove it from morality a little bit I can be more comfortable with it because it's not riel I wanted to get rid of that part and have something that was happening in real time so I felt like people would identify with it more people would empathize with my subjects more knowing they were actually going through this physically in that space this is the one I photograph with my pastor and then what we took all those off of his back it was it was really an amazing thing this was for sure the most difficult one because the baby was so upset and the beginning I thought in my sketch I wanted the baby sleeping and she wasn't sleeping she was crying the entire time and I photographed it this way and I know now I just letting myself respond to the environment respond what was actually happening in real time it's so much more effective with that it's like you do empathize with her right? You empathize with that baby and with the parents and that was one of my goals. In fact, in my notebook I'll show you some pages from it later it says empathy there's a big word empathy on there I wanted to draw that out from my audience another thing we're going to get into later is goals for your audience what do you want people to pull from the work? And that was a big one empathy and I noticed that my medic work that wasn't happening because because you were removed from reality so much you know, it wasn't really you know and so yeah, there was something there but not quite like that you're later work has color and your previous work hard was more sepia yes what what does that creatively say about how you work translated and what was it? What is the big important that's a good question that part of that was allowing myself to change allow myself to work in color. I was I've always liked it, but the black and white what it was doing was removing the viewer and from morality a little bit and making things feel kind of vintage. Does that make sense? So you were not in the current time, you were looking at something that maybe happened fifty years ago or sixty years ago, and I wanted to bring people to the current time with clothing, with set design with color, so it felt like it could be happening in front of your face in the moment. That's why I used color that was that from the graduate school experience? Yeah, yes, this is the family portrait with all the latex casts, my family commit from texas to do this, so it was pretty neat experience that's, my actual family. So in the final exhibition I mission was in the house, I staged the house with the photographs, as you can see that are on the wall there, and also with other sentimental objects and new sculptures that I made just for the installation night, just for the opening night, that tablecloth isn't boarded, my mother imported it. For me, that is a big pile of salt, which has a lot to do with biblical symbolism palm leaves, which he used on palm sunday pomegranates everything is very symbolic on the table. You can kind of get an idea of what that front room looked like. Here's, a close up of the table with the lily of the valley, which symbolizes jesus and the two headed lam. They're my mom and porter. I put human hair in the closet. So just little things that kind of that show you, that human d and anything that I'm so interested in, I cast, um, thirty three sheep and thirty three goats in resin. And so the number thirty three significant that's the age. Jesus wasn't. He was crucified. So I was using that number a lot. Quite a bit in the exhibition. Just again. I'm just trying to add layers. Get back to pulling things back from things that was significant to me and add information to the show to the images. Um, so, yeah. Sheep and goats. That's I put their intestines and stomachs on the outside. I made them all out of clay and then cast them in resin that I made these little dishes. Uh, learn again how to paint pottery. When I was in the pottery class so something I never thought I would use again in photography, I did. Did you add layers? You inform yourself and put it all in the big cauldron and eventually oh my gosh, I can't use that so then I filled these with honey and fill the milk the bathtub with milk for the opening night the milk and honey this is a big pile of ashes on a bed with to cast latex pigs, pears and figs which are also symbolic and this was so much fun. Two d'oh it was a lot of work but it was so much fun my mom and quartered these tanks uh linen garments for me we put those in the closet with praying hands and she also in border this bed cover for me I sketched out the design and she projected it on there and so this is my husband and I and at the time we were trying to conceive so it's a lot about that process in which we did I'm co teaching today ps yeah there's a little one in there. Um so yeah that's what that's about kind of an adam and eve sort of jen and greg effect. I made this dear there's a verse in the bible about the deer on the side of the mountain who labours and that even she is important and so I made a deer out of clay and I made a weaving for her to lay on out of wool roving this is her. I named her janet p s being made in the studio and there she is on the night of the exhibition I use apples a wreath around her head also symbolic. This is a pregnant woman than I made out of wool again when we were trying to conceive and it was a kind of a tough process it was a very emotional process and I know a lot of you probably know what that's like so I made this felted pregnant woman with her two fetuses in her hands and that's the human hair cloak that she's laying on there there she is, being made in the studio you see her two fetuses umbilical cords. I put moore on the kitchen counters, which is pretty interesting is when you walked into the kitchen it felt and smelled like a barn and the kitchen is in the room of the house and you want to be the cleanest right, the kitchen in the bathroom so it really it was very effective when people walked in there. If you really felt that kind of animal landel in greasy thing, it was a pretty cool thing. Um all of that will that's on the counters there I had process and cleaned and we will use it in the last segment of this class and some new photographs I have just a trough kind of like a manger scene I made a weaving their to go underneath it out of red freshly dyed red wool this is the final room of the house I had latex cast fish that I painted the latex on system wouldn't fish and then peeled off so together and filled each of the fish with water so the night of the opening they were dripping water onto this bed which then sort of looked like minstrel blood or some kind of some kind of blood on the red bedspread so it's kind of an interesting thing and you could stand there and listen to them drip water and water it's office symbolic too like a baptismal effect so there is a close up of the fish also freshly dyed some wool yarn that I had spun from the that rove it that wool that's on in the kitchen dyed it read and let it bleed into the water in those bowls below so over the night they just became more and more red here's some felt it so the big red cancer sculpture that was in that photograph I repurposed that wool and felt it into hands human hands and put those in the exhibition I made some woven covers for them so there's the hands and the bulls are paying to the bowls with symbolic things human hearts and lungs and there been such with pigs so yeah in the end, and it took me almost almost two years to put this thing together, so it was a labor of love for sure, but it has completely changed the way I see it. How will make work for the rest of my life? And so I learned something every time I learn something every time I make something, every time I photograph someone every time I allow myself to have an experience and develop and add to my vocabulary that's all I'm doing so, I have a different vocabulary now, even from the last photo shoot we did just a couple of days ago. So yeah, here's how to get me you ever want to find me facebook, twitter, instagram of course you can email me there's my website do have a store on my web site you can see I've got tutorials and things like that on there, you can just look it up we have cem cem, great comments coming and people are really loving this jennifer couple questions teo absolutely philip wants an that does the artist's statement give clues about the symbolism in objects or materials? Otherwise, how does the viewer understand the meaning of hair or whatever? Just by looking that's, a really good question in the next segment? In fact, we're going to get into writing an artist's statement step by step but yes and you as the photographer as the artists have the control how much you want to disclose to somebody and it's it's kind of a careful thing because I don't want to tell him everything but I want to tell him some things if you clues somebody in and they'll start to figure things out on their own and what I've found with a little of the viewer if you can engage reviewer and let them discover things it's like I saw that I figured that out then they're interested they're you've caught them and so it's a delicate balance between how much you want to say in the statement but yes, you do need I find I need the statement to help people get into those kind of ideas um iris says is part of the reason you're early earlier work is black and white rather than color because when you add things individually rather than photographing them together it's harder to replicate the lighting in a realist realistic way so muting them just makes color correcting easier just curious because I'm still trying to make realistic images it's a good that's actually really good observation because yes, it is ah lot easier in black and white I did that one piece of the family uh supper the lord's supper in color and all my gosh yes it is harder but the full on reason wasn't just because of the compositing expert aspect, I was kind of working in an antique environment, trying to make things feel as if they were older when I didn't flora and medic and things like that and that new piece even if I was compositing I wanted it to feel present time, so that was it, yeah, but it is harder for sure awesome. One final question jan wants to know I'm wondering whether she just makes interesting things and then makes him interesting in your photos like creates interesting things and then you make them interesting look interesting your photos or if you have an idea for the final image first and then you create the objects like to make the image that's a great question to both so like this clay wants a little communion wafers I had no idea what I would do with them, no idea I just made them and hope something cool what happened and I did try them in lots of different ways and a lot of things didn't work. But finally I realised what would but like the stilts I made specifically I mean I got a pair of stilts and wrapped them in the wolf, so I knew somehow they were going to be long legs whether she was laying, sitting, standing, whatever so I had a pretty more like a target in mind of what it would look like awesome. So you make things that you like. It sounds like I just making in my life, yeah, out of materials that are special to me, or symbolic. So that's, how I'm bookending myself, because there's billions of things to make stuff out of out there, right? I mean, you could choose anything, so I'm able to say, I'm going to use it well, latex, clay and wax, those four things, I'm gonna make this exhibition out of that. So I just made lots of things, and I made a lot of things that didn't use to so.

Class Description

Conceptual portraiture is where art and photography meet. In this class, Jennifer Thoreson will explore the intersection of fine art and photography and discuss the practice, process, and business of bringing conceptual portraits to life.

Jennifer is a visual artist, speaker, and lecturer whose photographic work has been widely published internationally in print and online journals. In this class she’ll reveal the process for developing commissioned and exhibition work. You’ll learn how to:

  • Create unique, imaginative props 
  • Secure the right type of model
  • Price your work
  • Approach galleries, museums, and publications

Jennifer will help you define your personal style and show you how to put together a conceptual series. You’ll get the inside scoop on what it takes to make a living through fine art photography and also get Jennifer’s tips on managing the business side.

If you want to expand into the expressive and exciting genre of conceptual photography, The Art and Business of Conceptual Portraiture with Jennifer Thoreson is the perfect place to begin your journey.