University of Colorado - CMDP 3700 (Digital Photographic Practices)
The reading from the previous week and the class practices provided several new insights and tools for capturing photos in ways that I haven’t ever pondered or used in the past. Reading / listening to / viewing Bryan Schutmaat and his work was a hugely valuable experience. His work gave me a load of inspiration, a vision for having a breadth of depth behind every image captured, and also a hugely effective pairing of portrait and landscape. Schutmaat also does an incredible job of capturing so much emotion with each photo he takes. Whether it’s a close up portrait or an extremely wide-angle landscape, he is able to invoke deep feelings and emotions in the viewer. With my photos for this week, I made an attempt to incorporate the same. I also decided to go black and white with all five of these images, because it’s an aesthetic that Schutmaat has used, it’s something that has been brought up in class multiple times now, and it’s also a style that I have never really owned before. I found that deciding to go black and white with all five of these images, for me, actually brought out a greater level of beauty and detail in each one of them - something that seemed counterintuitive to me in the past. I’m thankful to be viewing the work of some incredibly talented photographers such as Schuutmat, and getting to incorporate what I’m learning from them (and this course as a whole) into my own work has already been a privilege.
Getting the chance to view “Minding the Gap” in class on Monday was a serious treat. I had been hearing about this doc for a while and had been wanting to watch it, and it really lived up to all (and more) of the hype it received. Bing Liu does an amazing job throughout of continually developing the trust of his subjects over the course of many years in order to capture some incredibly emotional and impactful shots (some are pictured here). All of the film is really well done in terms of the cinematography and the editing, but the real power came from the fashion in which Bing decided to tell all of these stories of some of his closest friends. The various nuances and layers in which information is conveyed, stories are told, and change is called for are what made this film what it was: unforgettable. The icing on the cake came with some really beautiful cinematography and some super cool shots from Liu allowing you to feel like you were present with these guys experiencing what they were experiencing. I think these photos that I’ve included above do some slight justice to the beauty of it all.
My favorite part of Doug Dubois’ work, and the way he speaks about it, is the integrity and honesty that he holds on to in portraying all of his subjects. A standout line for me from the article we read was when doug said, “But in the end it all comes down to a faith that I can make and combine images in a way that doesn’t betray the trust given to me by the people in the photographs. If I can do that with honesty and a faith in my own sense of truth, the smoke and mirrors don’t matter much at all.” It’s quotes like these that make sense as to how Dubois is able to draw out so much emotion and authenticity from these subjects that he apparently barely knows. The time he does spend with them, and the manner in which he works and carries himself, allows for him to gain the trust of his subjects - which makes for some incredible photographs. Keeping with the theme of authenticity, I like how so many of his photos are actually unstaged and just in the moment (which Doug touches on the article). Selfishly, I also loved the insight he gave on his process of deciding to (and then actually acting on) create a photo book, because that’s something that I’ve always wanted to do personally. I feel as though I have a better grasp on steps I should start taking now in order to potentially make that a reality for myself down the road.
Reading from some amazing portrait photographers from the likes of Dubois and Laub and others on what they feel like they owe the subjects of their photographs was a super interesting new perspective for me. We’ve looked at a lot of portrait photography work so far this year from a lot of different artists, and I guess the thought didn’t really cross my mind until now as to how these photographers go about respecting and honoring their subjects before, during, and after the process. It was cool to hear some of the various different things these photographers do - ranging from sending them prints of the photos they’re in, all the way to actually maintaining friendships/relationships with the subjects. It was also really eye-opening to hear an example of the potential pitfalls that can come with being a subject for a photography body of work. In the example of Laub’s work involving a racist community (Southern Rites) we learned that one of her subjects went on to face a lot of internet backlash for her association with what was going on - and Laub actually admits to feeling really guilty about it. I guess sometimes it’s just easy to forget in portrait photography that these people have real lives and stories that carry on past that photograph, and those lives and stories can be alternated by the photos taken of them. This article was a really thoughtful and necessary reminder of that.