Category Archives: challenge

A Revelation

Those of my readers who know me in RL know that  in a previous life I worked as a teacher. Up until now I was more than happy to have left that career behind me. Teaching itself was always fun – I particularly loved dealing with the 14- to 16-year-old age group. Puberty at its best – maybe I was so good at dealing with them because I never left that permanent state of awkwardness myself? In any case, when I left teaching, it was a relief – because I hated grading my pupils. It never felt right to me to discourage them with bad grades. Big Mummy Bear Sonja always wanted to encourage them with positive feedback. Not an option in a results-oriented environment like school.

So off I went, easing myself out of the business by moving my teaching activities to a third-level institution, then to a language instruction magazine and then into the world of marketing before I finally arrived in the realm of media and photography where I am now at my happiest. But who would have thought that a “blast back into the past” would prove to be such a fun, gratifying experience? 

I am just back from a day teaching. But not my dreary old, cerebral subjects of History and English Lit and Language, but — Photography!!! The job landed in my lap through sheer luck and I have loved every second of it. Turns out that this is actually a marriage of my hard-earned and studied skills of teaching and my passion for photography. And even though my students today were not necessarily interested in photography beyond its documentary value for their own area of expertise, I enjoyed passing on my knowledge in an appropriate, applied and meaningful way to them. What I got out of it – apart from an insight in my own talents and skills – was a large number of really brilliant photos that I produced together with my students and models – a class of make-up students in a third-level institution in Co. Dublin. The girls became most receptive to my instruction when I actually allowed them back into their comfort-zone – doing make-up – and then popped them in front of the camera to take some portfolio pics for them. 

Some of the girls were absolute naturals in front of the camera – playing around, cheekily posing and generally not being afraid to look funny. They were the best shots of the day. Like the one above – approprately wintery with the gloves and hat and an understated winter make-up (I suppose… what do *I* know about make-up…). This was a truly humanist experience, as if the Humbold brothers had written it up for me (See what I am doing here??? Yeah, showing off that I still know my history of teaching…). This is what teaching is supposed to do. Not just the passing on of knowledge from the instructor to the instructed, but a mutually beneficial interaction in which the instructor receives ideas, inspiration and insight from the students. I’d love to do it again – I would have never thought that I would ever say that…

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Replacement Activity

What does a photo addict do when she feels absolutely no desire to touch a camera, but has to fuel the addiction? Right, she looks at photos. Pity that I cannot show you the images here – they are not mine and cannot be used without breach of copyright. And they are of fangrrly nature and therefore unsuitable for a respectable blog like this one. Instead I will do what the internet seems to go crazy for at the moment. Or is that only because the fangrrly circles I am currently knocking around in are populated by 14-year-old girls who love everything furry, soft and warm???
Reports have reached me that my cat has gone viral. Apparently Jag is making the rounds of the internet, pictured on the bonnet of a car, stretching his claws. And the picture wasn’t even taken by me. What is the copyright situation on that? Can pictures of my cat be taken by other photographers and then made viral??? (Just kidding, of course they can.)
Well, kitten Jag up there is my attempt at a strike back. Go on, that sad look in his eyes, the big blue peeps, the soft black fur against the white wood. You know you want to. Want what? Want to make him viral. Go on – steal my pic, post it on Facebook, on Twitter, Tumblr on whichever platform takes your fancy. Preferably and for fairness’s sake with a credit.
Gee, I am half tempted to take that camera up and take a follow-up shot of the full grown tom-cat right now. Nah, just joking, I think I’ll stay in anti-photography land for a while yet.

Patterns

I am thinking about patterns at the moment. The reason being that my favourite user-generated magazine, deinblick, has just put on another photo competition again. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may have heard of that mag before, because I regularly read, contribute and help with the mag myself. The idea is really simple: A topic is chosen by the editors for every edition. Readers are then asked to submit articles, artwork and photographs that are related to the topic. You can see for yourself here.
Anyhow, patterns is the current topic. I have already sent in a couple of pics and am currently looking through my archive for more stuff that would suit the theme.
Here is a surreal one. Seriously, the longer I look at this, the more my head is spinning. The perspective really sucks you in, doesn’t it? There is a slight Escher’esque quality to this, or maybe more Victor Vasarely, with those dark blocks sitting slightly beside the lighter ones. Can you guess what this is?
You won’t know the place but you probably have figured out that this is a row of columns seen from under a colonnade. Or rather, it is the shadow of the columns against the wall of a temple. It was the afternoon and the sun was kind of low. The temple is the “Walhalla”, a kind of 19th century rock’n’roll hall of fame in the South of Germany. Inside it contains the busts of such luminaries as Copernicus, the original drummer of famous band “The Ptolemaics”, punk producer Wolfgang “Godless” Mozart, Peter Paul Rubens (pop art painter, most famous for his “rude nudes”), Otto von Bismarck (promoter and impresario of world-famous metal heavy-weights “Dreadnought William “), and Albert Einstein, who rocked the industry with his revolutionary amplifier EMC2 in 1911) among others.
Don’t quote me on this, though.
Anyhow – I’d love to see the deinblick competition flourish, so please go check out their upload page  or their Facebook fanpage and submit something of your own. And if you do, please let me know you did – leave me a comment with a link to your image or something like that. Good luck with that!

Comfort Zone

While in Germany the other day, I practiced a bit of Street Photography.
“People should feel great. For a social revolution.”
*teehee* I captured lots of “street” with marky Mark because some enterprising sprayer had been rather busy on this path along the river Weser. This is actually in the city of Bremen in the North of Germany. Home of Bundesliga soccer team Werder Bremen (which probably means something to the male readers of this blog – as I have found out countless times when explaining where I am from). The Werder home pitch was actually just behind from where I was taking this shot.
But back to photography. I have been thinking hard these days, which type of photographer I am. I am most definitely not a wedding photographer. The pressure of producing the shots of a lifetime – well, from the couple’s point of view – would just be too much for me. And while I really enjoy interacting with people, I cannot imagine it being very pleasant having to run after all and sundry to organise shots and place people etc. So wedding photography is most definitely off my list. – Product photography was something I really enjoyed when not working on it alone. I loved the experiment in college where the whole group had to produce a shot together. The diligent set-up, the lighting, the slow process really appealed to me. But when I had to do it on my own, it kind of went pear-shaped. Well, maybe that was due to the object I had chosen to photograph (the iPhone), I don’t know. 
Surprisingly I really find myself enjoying fashion photography. I have assisted on several shoots over the past year and found each and every one fascinating. Partly because you are working with professional models who know how to move. You hardly have to give them instructions – they will offer the poses themselves. And because it is their job they do not feel or look awkward. I wouldn’t enjoy it very much in a studio setting, but location shoots really did it for me. Because you can create a story, a scene, a context for the shot – and that I found very creative and inspiring. 
What I shoot most, however, could probably be classed as documentary-style photography. I tend to document my surroundings all the time. Whether it is the way to the cinema, my house or any other location that catches my eye – I like to snap it and preserve it for posterity. There is so much fun in that – I love that it is mostly done with daylight and no awkward flashes and lighting set-ups are necessary. But does it really challenge me?? No, probably not, because it is increasingly a bit like holiday snapping. There is no guiding project or principle in it. 
Maybe I need to push myself a bit more in the fields that I do not seem to be so interested in – do more studio work, portraying people. Practice some nudes. Do people photography on the streets, which involves communicating with my subjects to get their permission. Leaving the comfort zone…

On To The Next Project

I have had a bit of a lull in terms of my own photography for the last while. Or more precisely: I haven’t taken a decent shot ever since before my last college exam exactly two weeks agoAt least not with marky Mark but only with the iPhone.

Malahide

However, it is time to start on the next project. And luckily The Friends of Analog Photography are onto the next thing. After the success of our 24 themes project we are now doing another group exercise which will hopefully culminate in yet another visually striking group display. 

The subject this time is to document a whole month by taking a picture a day. We are less prescriptive with format and film, so that the participants can choose between b/w and colour, 35mm and 120mm, and landscape or portrait orientation. The only stipulation is to shoot film and to do so once a day.

Seeing that I still had a heap of b/w films sitting in my fridge, I have opted for monochrome. While remodeling my study I happened upon my cheap little Lomo camera, given to me by my photographer friend Karl Burke as a thank you for assisting him on a shoot. It’s a multilens affair like this, and I had not played with it so far, so here is my chance. However, chance it I do not want to. So I am concurrently shooting with my trusted old Canon eos 500n. That essentially means two images a day. No, I am not trying to cheat. (And if I were, I’d be clever enough not to announce it publicly!) Once the rolls are processed, I’ll see which film is usable.


Interestingly, I have found it quite hard so far to take my daily shots. I found it much easier to work through the 24 themes of our first analog project. This time it is all wide open – and I find it hard to apply myself to the hunt for an image without any chance of preparing in my head what I want to document that particular day. Cos look in the future I cannot. (What is it with me and jumbled up word order today???)

I am sure there is a lesson in that. What it is, I don’t know – but, hey, any lesson is good, I guess! Updates, soon!  
  

Pay it Forward, Guys!

You all know I am a sucker for Facebook. And it was in my beloved social network, also subject of my on-going photo-project “Anti?social Media“, that I saw this great idea posted last week. Essentially it was a call to commit to giving a hand-crafted item to five friends. I cried “here” immediately. And then I thought – why don’t I suggest this as a specific photography challenge?

 
Admittedly – the motivation for this wonderfully altruistic scheme (what a good human being I am…) is not altogether unselfish! Thing is: I love collecting other people’s photos. Not that I have much of a collection, yet. I have bought photos occasionally when I was able to afford it – at amateur exhibitions and auctions. But I often thought during the last year in college, that it was such a shame I did not have any of my fellow students’ work. There were so many photos there which I admired – original ideas, fantastic vistas, brilliant bokehs. Plus they would make such nice mementos of my time in college – and of the talented people who produced them. Of course I never plucked up the courage to suggest a picture swap. (I do not like to assume that anybody would want my stuff in exchange for their great work… aw, Modesty is my middle name!)

So here is the deal:  Pay it forward 2011: 

I promise to send a 8×10 print of one of my pictures to the first 5 people who leave a comment here. They must in turn post this and send one of their own to the first 5 people who comment. Where you post it – whether it is on your private Facebook wall, on your Facebook Page or in your blog – doesn’t matter. The rules are only that you promise to send on an image that you have the rights to and it must be sent to your 5 people sometime in 2011.

I mean it, guys. Drop me a comment here in the blog – and you are in. Let’s grow our photo collections! But don’t forget, you must also post this and pay it forward.

PS: Gee, I hope I will get replies to this at all. Otherwise this will look pretty dumb *um*…