Telling stories and letting your characters go

princess in a forest clearing leaning down to smell daisiesI have had so much going on recently that I will update on soon. But today is all about telling stories and those of fire and ice in particular. I’ve been very inspired by Game of Thrones but I doubt that is much of a surprise. I love epic costumes, fabulous embroidery, crowns and pretty much everything about fantasy. Therefore, a love affair was inevitable!  So I’ve been rather sad that its the final episode – no spoilers don’t worry.

After eight seasons I feel like I’m saying goodbye to old friends as the characters head off to their future without me.  When I finish an image and send it out into the world I sometimes have the same sense of mingled loss and excitement.

Telling Stories

When I create an image I envisage a character and a story, even if I never share them with anyone. I get to spend a lot of time with my characters whilst shooting and then editing images.  Then I send them off into the world when I share the final picture with others.  Once out there they have a life of their own because of course, we have no control over how others perceive our work. I find that both exciting and scary!

I love that people find their own stories in my images and it is great to hear about these.  I’m often surprised by the similarities and differences in what people take from them and the emotions they evoke.

Telling stories in a single frame can be challenging but it is very rewarding.  I think about how every aspect of an image can work together to create one cohesive piece.  Styling, location, model, expression, colours, textures and so much more have to come together.

There is often a lot of planning involved and I’ll talk more about what goes into a shoot another time.  However, there is also a lot of me in my images.  Hopes, dreams and fears all go into the process of creating and sharing my work.  So today I have real sympathy for the writers of GOT who despite all their talent for telling stories were never going to be able to please all of us.

Farewell

RIP GOT, I’ve loved having your around. I plan to enjoy the reruns for a long time to come (and the rest of the books when they finally arrive!). I’m sure I will be continuing to pay a personal tribute to the wonderful visuals through my work over the coming months. Now if anyone knows where I can find a dragon I’ve got a great dress and crown that would be just perfect for the shot…

 

 

A Lovely Month

Looking for Love

Well, I have to admit to being sad to say goodbye to February, a month in which I definitely felt the love!

Talking of love, I wanted to share this new image ‘Looking for Love’. This is from one of a number of great shoots I had in February. I will be sharing more from those with you soon.

I hope those of you who follow me on Instagram have been enjoying my occasional light-hearted series on Instagram stories. A key topic for February was what stylish princesses are wearing under their ballgowns this season. For those that didn’t see it, jogging bottoms and trainers were definitely trending!

Wishing

I was delighted that Wishing was, accepted into the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) Photo Prize 2019 exhibition.  It runs until 9th March 2019 so there is still time to visit and there is some really interesting work on display.

It was great to get to have the chance to kick off the exhibition tour a few weeks ago talking about my work. As well as talking specifically about Wishing I also touched on how I create images and fine art photography in general.

Wishing

As with a lot of my work Wishing is heavily influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and intentionally edited to have a more painterly feel. The photograph was taken last year whilst the trees were still very green. My Autumn look comes primarily from the post-processing. I love that it has a feel of an earlier time but it shows an emotion that is universal and timeless.

What is she wishing for? That I leave to your imagination…

Inspiration

I really enjoyed hearing the other artists who were chosen to take part in the Photo Prize tour talking about their work. It is great to hear what inspires others to create and I think we all approached the talk from slightly different perspectives.

I want to say a big thank you to the RBSA and Argentea Gallery and all their team for staging a great exhibition and tour.  A particular thanks to the lovely gentleman who was organising the pictures when they were delivered. He made my day when he referred to my work as the “lovely Pre-Raphaelite pictures”. I love it when others also see what influences my work.

Thanks also to the Birmingham Photography Festival for the mention in their newsletter along with fellow Photo Prize exhibitor and fellow speaker at last year’s festival Kris Askey.  In keeping with the theme of love, do go and share some by checking out his work. He takes some great portraits and street shots.

Thanks also to Igers Worcestershire for making Wishing their picture of the day earlier this week.

Ending the Month on a High Note

A great month throughout, February has concluded with more good news. I’m really pleased that one of my images will soon be exhibited at the PhotoPlace Gallery in Vermont, USA. ‘Racing the Sunset’ has been selected for the upcoming Altered Realities exhibition curated by Brooke Shaden.  Brooke has been a big inspiration so I was particularly delighted to be selected for this exhibition.

Well, that was February, March you have a lot to live up to!  I hope you had lots of love in February too.

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Limited edition archival prints are available of the images above and many of my other images.

 

 

 

 

 

Inspiration

Last week I got to see Mathew Bourne’s amazing contemporary ballet Swan Lake for the second time. I love watching the ballet both classical and contemporary and this one is particularly powerful. If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it. Seeing work like this always inspires me and it got me thinking about all the places I find inspiration for my fine art photography.

Books and screen

My inspiration comes from a range of sources, but literature plays a big role. The Ladybird book of Cinderella with its pictures of beautiful flowing dresses, sparkling carriages and prancing horses was where I remember my love of fantasy starting. Then onto Grimms’ fairytales and many others gathering so many ideas from classic stories along the way.

Children get some of the best fantasy literature and books like the Chronicles of Narnia remain much loved although my copies are rather dog eared now. Over the years I discovered new loves and sources of inspiration including other fantasy novels such as the Mists of Avalon, Dune and Wheel of Time. I also love the seemingly unending supply of great inspiring legends like The Mabinogion and other Arthurian tales. Epic tales of gods, goddesses and heroes from Greek and Roman myth and the Celtic and Norse pantheons abound.  These of course include those about Ceridwen.

Visually I enjoy the Lord of the Rings movies with their amazing costumes and sets. Recently I have revisited my childhood delving into the the wonderful live action Disney fairy tale movies.  On the small screen Game of Thrones brings a wealth of medieval based inspiration.  Of course GOT also has those amazing big set pieces and the dragons; if only I had the budget!

Turning back the clock

I’ve always had a love of history particularly the Tudor and Medieval periods and there are some wonderful stories to draw on from those times.  The style of clothing of these periods are a particular favourite of mine but I’ll talk more about costume specifically another time. With them as historical inspiration it’s probably not surprising that I love much of the work of the pre-Raphaelite artists. The recent exhibition of Edward Burne-Jones work at the Tate was fabulous, so much so I went round twice!  I discovered some amazing colours and textures within the works that hadn’t been evident when looking at pictures. My visit will be a big source of inspiration for some time I’m sure.

I am an admirer of gothic revival architecture and in particular the work of Augustus Pugin. I enjoy both his overall style and his use of colour and decoration for the interiors though mostly sadly so little of the interior painted decoration remains today.  I also enjoy the wonderful flow, colours and fantasy appearance of Antoni Gaudi’s architecture.

Every day

Other photographers are a great source of inspiration but that probably merits a blog in itself but for now, suffice to say I enjoy my instagram feed! However, there was a bonus on my Swan Lake trip.  I got to see some more of the wonderful pictures Bella Kotak has taken to promote Birmingham Hippodrome’s upcoming Beauty and the Beast.

Inspiration can be found in so many places around us, not just the obvious.  My list of photo ideas has been inspired by very varied things – a reflection in a window, an old film and a song included.  Sometimes I’ve been seeking out inspiration, sometimes admiring others’ work but often it just pops up in the most random of places.  One of the great things about smart phones is that you can always take a quick picture when you see something and even play around with a quick edit too.

Inspiring others

I’ve been delighted that I’ve been able to inspire others with my work. It is lovely when someone gets in touch to comment on this or ask to base a work on an image.  I wanted to share a work from Mike the Oil Artist along with my image ‘Searching for fairies’ at the top of this page that was the inspiration for it.  I think it is really interesting to see the two takes on the same topic together.  It is wonderful we all look at things in such different ways.  It is great to connect with other creatives and be inspired in turn as well.

Where do you find your inspiration?  I’d love to know!  Please get in touch using the comments below or connect with me on Instagram or facebook if you prefer.

Sign up for my mailing list if you’d like to hear from me occasionally about new blogs and images.  You may also be interested in this blog where I talk about why I create.

 

Create your Story

create story vulnerability woman doorway balloon windowI’ve been a bit quiet recently but I’ve been using the time to reflect on my work and taking part in few weeks of ‘creativity practice’.  I’m not sure what I expected from it beyond getting another perspective.  However it has meant asking lots of questions of myself about the work I create and why I do it.  Now I’m approaching the end I thought it was time to share some of my thoughts here with a blog or two.

Historically I would not have described myself as creative, after all I failed art at school and don’t even recall being that keen on doing it!  However, since taking up photography I’ve discovered a hitherto unknown creative side to myself.

Telling Stories

My images feeling like they have a story behind them is important to me as is making the observer experience an emotion.  For me the story I have in my head is often one that comes from a fairy tale or other fantasy work.  However, everyone’s will be different even though we are viewing the same image.  I’m always fascinated to hear the stories that people take from my work and the feelings it evokes.

Stories are definitely what drew me into this type of photography.  Largely self-taught I have experimented with a few different genres but photographing people was the first one that really gelled for me.  Photography is very much just part of the process though. Increasingly post processing is where the images really evolve and I talked before about whether I consider myself a photographer or an artist. Sometimes my images seem to have a mind of their own; they become something completely different to what I had in mind when they were taken, but more of that another time.  Sometimes I just can’t create what I’m aiming for but that happens less and less. Practise may never deliver perfection but its helped a lot!

So why do I create?

I’ve mulled this over a lot over the last few weeks and concluded that there is no one answer but instead a lot.  Here are a few of them; I create because:

  • I enjoy it;
  • I enjoy others enjoying my work;
  • I like to challenge myself to create something I have in my head;
  • I want to create something better than I have done so far;
  • I can lose myself in the process; and
  • I can.

I’ve chosen the image to share with this blog as for me it is one about vulnerability.  It seemed appropriate because when we create something we invest ourselves in it.  When we share what we have invested in we make ourselves vulnerable.

I’ll be sharing more from my creativity practice over the coming weeks.  I’d love to hear your thoughts about my work or your own creativity as you #createyourstory.  Please get in touch using the comments below or connect with me on Instagram or facebook if you prefer.  Sign up for my mailing list if you’d like to hear from me occasionally about things like new blogs and images.

Artist or Photographer?

Racing the Sunset, fine art fantasy image in which a lady in red dress runs through a field of tall grasses away from the sun setting over the distant mountains

Inspired by various recent posts and the ponderings of friends I’ve recently reflected on how to refer to ‘what I am’.  Am I a photographer or an artist?  Do I take photos or create images? When I started taking photographs it was all about recording what was there.  That could be either by capturing a great view or creating a staged image intentionally for the purposes of photographing it. I’d definitely have used the term photographer. Whilst I still do both of these they are no longer the focus for me. I’m much less concerned with depicting reality and much more with the final image.

Photoshop skills help and for many of us these are hard earned.  I can’t tell you the number of times I have and still do wrestle with making something I’m trying to composite appear believable.  I don’t always win either sadly.  However, the number of times I succeed is getting higher, probably often because I learned so many new skills in the failed attempts.

Creativity

Its not just photoshop skills though. My approach has also changed as well as in the past I would never have considered myself to be an artist or even a creative person. I can’t draw or paint, heck I failed art! However, over time and inspired by many other peoples’ work I’ve branched out and become more experimental.  Perhaps I just wasn’t brave enough until now, after all ‘creativity takes courage’ as Matisse said.

My attitude to colour is changing too. Not only do I not feel constrained to stick with the colours that were there I no longer stick even to what was possible.  The sole determiner now is what looks good to me when I’m editing.  Moving away from reality and being much more experimental with colour grading has been really interesting. There are lots of great actions and tools out there that can make it really fun and easy to play with colour. Some of my personal favourites are fine art actions and the infinite colour panel.

Blending the ingredients together

Whilst I still am a photographer I now think of photographs more as raw materials for a production process or the ingredients that go into a meal.  Photoshop is where I process or blend these together, developing them to make the finished product. I’m not averse to adding in plenty of herbs and spices to really add some zing to the flavour and appearance either.

So if I had to pick a label today?  Well then I think I am an artist because I’m increasingly an image creator rather than an image recorder, after all why let reality unnecessarily get in the way? However, perhaps its more appropriate that the viewer should judge my images and decide for themselves.