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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

An Apostle at the Workshop

Our Creative Natural Light Portrait Workshop last Saturday had a slightly different but absolutely wonderful appeal to it. For the past years, Creative Photo Workshops has hired attractive young men and women to be our models at our workshops. There are plenty of young people around who enjoy earning a few extra dollars posing for the camera. But Saturday saw us enjoying the honour of photographing our oldest and perhaps most captivating model yet - Apostolos. Apostolos is 91, and is the father of Sophia, one of our customers and attendees at our workshops. While we also had one of our regulars, David Hirst, modeling for us. David is great to work with and handsome to a fault. But unfortunately he was overshadowed by the presence of our other model, Apostolos, who, despite being quite tired, sat patiently near the window, posed for the light. We are only glad that David wasn't too worried about playing second fiddle as our attendees clamoured to capture Apostolos' life-revealing face and features. 
Young and handsome, David didn't stand a chance....
It is an interesting and wonderful experience capturing the face of a man who has seen so much of life. It is the kind of portrait photography that adds so much more to the experience than just beautiful lighting. It is about honouring, seeing, respecting and capturing for posterity. It is, I suppose, one of the greatest gifts of photography. Young, attractive people have their own beauty - the beauty of youth and vigor. But the aged bring with them something more far reaching. They are vessels of experience and wisdom. 

Thank you Apostolos for being our willing model and thank you Sophie for bringing your Dad along. We were honoured to have you both there at our workshop.
Father and Daughter - Apostolos and Sophia

Monday, December 05, 2011

Getting The Mojo Back

I remember a conversation I had with a prominent Melbourne wedding and portrait photographer many years ago. I was just beginning on my journey as a working photographer and he was well on his way. He was also heading off on a well-deserved holiday to the Maldives. I was very excited for him, having never been to such a place and considering that on my income at the time it would only ever be a dream for me to go to such a place. Interestingly, since that time I have seen and captured my fair share of the world. Anyway...I digress...
In my excitement at the prospects of going to such an exclusive idyll, I mentioned that he will be able to take some beautiful photographs there. While never having been there, I had seen the photographs and that was enough to get my juices going. Naturally, I exclaimed something along the lines of "Wow! You'll get some great photographs there!" to which he responded "I'm not taking my camera! I work with the damn thing!"
Now, this threw me completely. It saddened me to think that this prominent and talented photographer was so disenchanted with his craft that now he sees his camera only as tool he uses to earn a living. Once upon a time it represented enjoyment, passion, fulfillment and creativity. The thought of earning a living with it would have filled his heart with excitement and ambition. Now...decades later that is all changed.
Now...for me...decades later, I can actually understand his feelings. I don't agree with them. Not at all. But I do understand them. Years of shooting can actually destroy your love for photography, even though the life of a working photographer is without doubt more interesting than most. It is human nature to take things for granted, to change our passions and endeavours and, as we age, look for simplicity. In this endeavour, I have also found myself wavering. Recently, for instance, while in Hobart, Tasmania running workshops, I found myself leaving my LowePro ProRoller in the car, filled with DSLRs and lenses, only to use my iPhone and a plethora of apps to create the images I was looking for while we strolled the streets. The images were very rewarding, but there would have been a time when limiting my options like that would have appalled me. 
If you have been following our Creative Photo Workshops events, you would know that Glynn and I recently returned from another tour of duty, running workshops for Dan's Camera City in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Dan's are without doubt the awesomest, bestest, most wonderfullest photo retailer in the United States. Yeah..we love 'em. Anyway...We were kept very busy, running about 16 events in 11 days...or something like that. It was exhausting, and after each workshop we would grab something to eat and then return to our room, often falling asleep on our beds while in mid conversation. Anyone would think that on our planned day off, TV would be the order of the day.
Nope. Not at all.
What does a photographer do on his day off? He gets out and takes photographs. Why? To get the photomojo back. 
After we'd given a brief presentation to the staff at Dan's, Glynn and I got into our rental vehicle and headed for a little town called Jim Thorpe. This lovely little place consumed our day as we strolled the length of it, stopping to converse with locals - so we could photograph them of course - and capturing the details that make this town so lovely in its late autumnal context. Driving back from there to Dan's, we followed Glynn's instinctive nose for great locations, finding barns and ruins and streams that we could photograph before the light failed us. As the shooting day ended, Glynn and I agreed that it had been one of the best days we had ever spent together. While we enjoy our work immensely, this was a day in which we could indulge ourselves in our own vision and simply enjoy photography for photography's sake. And in the end, that is why we took up photography in the first place.
Add caption
Glynn sports his
LowePro Street
and Field Gear
in Jim Thorpe
It goes without saying that I still find the viewpoint of the photographer I mentioned at the outset one that I cannot accept. But I can understand how it happens. Your camera once represented the very thing you longed to do - create images, and hopefully make some kind of living in the process. A photographer's life is probably more interesting than most but it is human nature to yearn for change, and take things for granted. After a while, the very thing you once loved becomes only a means to an end. That is a sad thing if you let it happen. 
If your photomojo is beginning to wane, do the one thing your instincts may disagree with. Grab your gear, get into your car and find something to point your camera at. Anything. You don't even have to go to Pennsylvania - unless you already live there of course. Wherever you go, whatever you capture, the process will do you good  - especially if you ever find yourself on the way to the Maldives with little interest in bringing your camera with you.

The Life, Times and Images of photographer, Shelton Muller

Images on this blog are copyright Shelton Muller