Why Call Myself “Found Art Photography”

I am a special event photographer.

found art: Art consisting of found objects,
found poems, or other found materials,
often modified or manipulated by the artist.”

When I first starting shooting events, I found the live musicians and the masters and mistresses of ceremony to be particularly difficult and often times impossible to capture, or capture well. The lighting (for my skill and equipment at the time) was often either insufficient for the circumstance, or bright light is literally moving, and of course the quite inconsiderate object of my focus refuses to sit still for my camera, even for a moment. Speakers and musicians are not performing for me.

I find them, and the attendees of special events, just as they are.

I am a portrait photographer, and I consider event photography–portrait photography.

Successful candid photography, opportunities for which are in abundance at special events, still requires readiness, framing, and a frozen moment that tells a story. And a successful impromptu portrait requires freezing a moment where a person or persons are relaxed in being photographed, captured not-mid-expression, wherein lighting is cooperative and framing pulls focus appropriately to the intended subject. But event attendees are not models (generally), and are not (generally) modeling for me.

Found object (redirected from found art) originates from the French objet trouvé,
describing art created from undisguised, but often modified,
objects or products that are not normally considered art,
often because they already have a non-art function […and…]
Found objects derive their identity as art from the designation placed upon them
by the artist and from the social history that comes with the object.” –wikipedia.com

As I navigate each event I shoot with the objective of capturing the experience of being there, it’s important I succeed in getting shots both:

  • of people interacting when they don’t know my camera’s focused their way, and
  • of people who are aware of the camera.

It would seem that one would be easier over the other –candid versus posed or vice versa– but I couldn’t agree less. Both have their distinct challenges.

Candid Photography–Not Always Candid

“A candid photograph is a photograph captured without creating a posed appearance.
This is achieved in many ways, for example:

* when the subject is in motion,
* by avoiding prior preparation of the subject,
* by surprising the subject,
* by not distracting the subject during the process of taking photos.

[…where the…] crucial factor is the actual absence of posing.” —wikipedia.com

Many people, most in fact, experience a significant change in demeanor when they realize a camera’s pointed their way. Attempts at a candid shot are often botched when the subject achieves awareness and attempts are made on their part to either improve on the photographer’s vision of the moment the photographer had sought to capture, or the subject may shy away from the camera, or find themselves literally unable to continue engaging in the previous moment’s activity while consciously being watched.

Yet it was that previous moment’s activity that depicted a story, deserved to be captured, and to have it’s story told. And that’s why every event photographer should have a really good zoom (distance) lens in their on-body kit.

found object: A natural or manufactured object
that is perceived as being aesthetically satisfying
and exhibited as such.” —dictionary.com

But distance risks camera shake, action risks motion-blur, and always pointing one’s camera in a different direction risks exposure, white balance, and depth of field disaster. Hundreds (1000s?) of shots taken at events go in the trash bin. And I’m okay with that. The gems are entirely #worth it.

And I’m getting better, faster, stronger, as is the technology I carry.

Impromptu Portraits–Not Intended to Be Perfect

I love taking impromptu portraits. In this kind of shot, the subject (the person or persons) is aware of the camera, and they’ve likely got their smiles on because if I’m shooting them close up, I saw their smile from a mile away and I wanted it in my #GreatSmiles collection.

But I’m not perfect. And, my camera is not perfect.

My camera may not be set for the light in the moment, my auto-focus may be exhausted (need a modern camera and better glass), my ability to manually focus may not be on point. Yet the picture must be taken quickly — because nothing is more boring than waiting for a photographer.

So I’ll likely take a barrage of photographs. In one, you’ll be blinking, in another, you’ll be blushing because I paid you the compliment that was likely why I wanted your photograph. In another, you’ll be bantering with me and I’ll catch you mid-speaking in a deformed grimace I promise will be deleted.

Therefore I’ll spray and pray. Because there’s something there I see, something beautiful I want, and I’m motivated to get it — all while maintaining the good mood of the moment and hopefully for that short time being part of what you’re enjoying about the event. Sometimes I realize it’s better to signal I’ve got it and let you move on. Not everyone enjoys having their picture taken.

I have to admit though, I will attempt to cajole the camera-shy. It’s my favorite thing in the world to see someone’s beauty like no one has told them before that they see it, and show them how beautiful they are. Not everyone has had a decent camera pointed their way with someone behind it who gets it. But actually capturing it takes teamwork, and trust.

And you, you beautiful human being, are not perfect.

If you and I were perfect, we’d be in a studio–you the model, and me with a 6-figure lighting rig and camera kit–and these photos would appear in magazines and on billboards. Perfection is not what event photography is about. 

You didn’t come to the event to be photographed. Rather, you were enjoying yourself, and I noticed, and we took a very brief time out to try to memorialize the mood.

Chances are, you’re not wearing your best outfit. Your makeup hasn’t been touched up since the morning. Your hair doesn’t have the benefit of a stylist just-off-camera. You may have blemishes, or red eyes from partying the previous night(s), or kale in your teeth…

–all of which are examples of things I’ll take care of for you in post-production– 

…but you’re really glad to be here. And capturing that spirit is what will create a portrait photograph that will have lasting meaning and illicit the affection of those who know you–and those who want to know you.

That feeling you’re experiencing, it’s what makes–
…all of you conventionally attractive people,…
…and all of you unconventionally attractive people,…
…and all of you people who don’t think people find you attractive in the least,…
–shine most distinctly, most truly, attractively. Please trust me on that.

My Art Is Finding You

I arrived with equipment ready; these are my preliminary crafting tools. You, and the moment I find you in, are my medium. With my post-production tools, I shape the artifact we created together, highlighting and focusing for the viewer the emotion, the personality, the story I’m looking to tell with each single still photo. This is what is Found Art Photography.

Found Art Photography lady icon wback

WordCamp Site Attendee Lists & You

Ever met anyone awesome at a WordPress WordCamp?

Speakers, sponsors, attendees, and volunteers gather for the inaugural WordCamp Europe, in 2015 #wceu

Speakers, sponsors, attendees, and volunteers gather for the third annual WordCamp Europe, in 2015

If you claim you haven’t, you’ve either never been to a WordCamp or you only go for the recommended URLs and the catered lunch — which at only $40 for two days of education and at minimum two usually pretty darned good meals, you’re missing out but still getting a pretty darned good deal.

WordCamps attract budding and seasoned entrepreneurs, tons of smart people, so many of them fascinating in not always obvious ways, and most of them incredibly kind. Okay, I’ll cop to being a fangirl of geeky smart nice people and lucky for me in 2012 I hit the gushing oil well of them when I heard about this WordCamp thing, had a sneaking suspicion it might be awesome, and took my brother to WordCamp San Francisco.

Over the years I’ve made friends I cherish day to day on online and can’t wait to see at my next Camp, and I’ve watched the seeds of things discussed at one Camp get planted, grow, blossom and become tools, organizations, job positions, and missions that are discussed at subsequent Camps as fixtures of this sphere.

So you can bet networking is part and parcel of a WordCamp, and if you’re not findable after a Camp, you’ll never know what may have come your way.

Ever tried to find someone awesome you’d met at a WordCamp?

WCATL Attendee Page
…but you went to the Camp’s attendee page and you couldn’t remember their name but you couldn’t find anyone there who looked like them either…

Not being able to find someone there would likely be for one of three reasons…

* the person’s picture, their avatar (on WordCamp sites populated by something called a Gravatar), isn’t populated, or

* the person is using a picture of something other than their face, or

* the person is a guest of an attendee who hadn’t updated the information for their guest’s ticket

The Camp’s Attendee page is the ideal place…

* to appear (along with your Twitter handle) so that someone who thinks you’re awesome can find you if they didn’t happen to catch your name (if you have a Gravatar registered)

* to review who will be at an upcoming WordCamp you’re attending so you can plan on who you’ll want to meet that you’ve wanted to meet for a long time

* to review who will be at an upcoming WordCamp you’re attending so you can remind yourself of their name before you run smack into that awesome person in the restroom (I’m one of those bad-with-names-people; sometimes in the middle of an event with lots of people I’ll forget the name of someone I’ve literally been talking to online the previous week that I actually adore; it happens; thank goodness for the Attendee page)

* to review who’s already registered to be at an upcoming WordCamp so you can decide whether you want to (or really don’t want to) attend that particular Camp (never done that? what, it’s not a thing?)

* to in one place find all the people from any Camp you’d like to follow on Twitter

Ever marveled at how many people on an Attendee page haven’t registered their Gravatar?

Me too!!! And I think it’s because enough of us who know what a Gravatar is haven’t helped to inform enough of our fellow Camp-goers. Because wouldn’t all of them register their Gravatar before Camp if they knew what what they’re missing out on? Marketing! Job offers! Friendship!

So let’s help them out. Mention it to someone when you see their Gravatar isn’t populated. Use this post as a checklist of Gravatar benefits, or just tease them mercilessly until they comply–whatever your personal communication brand. Of course maybe the real problem is…

So WTF (that’s “what-the-flickr”) is this Gravatar?

A Gravatar is the avatar often used to portray you on WordPress websites you’ve registered with, via the email address you used to register.

And, from Gravatar.com:

“An ‘avatar’ is an image that represents you online—a little picture that appears next to your name when you interact with websites.

A Gravatar is a Globally Recognized Avatar. You upload it and create your profile just once, and then when you participate in any Gravatar-enabled site, your Gravatar image will automatically follow you there.

Gravatar is a free service for site owners, developers, and users. It is automatically included in every WordPress.com account and is run and supported by Automattic.”

Sounds pretty convenient, no?

Is there anything I should know before going to Gravatar.com to register my photo?

Why yes there is. To create your Gravatar, you are creating a WordPress.com account. You might say…

“But I don’t need a WordPress.com account. I already have a blog site.”

However, you cannot have a Gravatar without registering for this WordPress.com account.

So, I hope I’ve sufficiently convinced you of the importance of having a Gravatar, and you don’t get scared away by thinking registering for a Gravatar means you’ll have set up an empty website out there registered to you (however again, if you’re starting out and ready to blog in a super-supported fashion, totally use this opportunity to get your blog started with WordPress.com). 

But if you don’t want to set up a new blog via “.com”, just follow the instructions in this particular link, and you’ll be fine. These are by-the-way awesome step-by-step graphic instructions now available on Gravatar.com since the last time I wrote up pictorial documentation on this topic for a team (kudos on that, Automattic)…

Here is a Do-Not-Miss piece of information from the instructions…

Gravatar Registration InstructionsYou may miss this if you speed through the instructions or are a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of person and don’t even read them:

The email confirming your email address will come from WordPress.com, not “Gravatar”. Don’t panic!

Here is another Do-Not-Miss piece of information about the Gravatar…

Gravatar - Multiple Emails, Multiple PhotosYou do not need multiple WordPress.com accounts if you want to register a photo or photos with multiple email addresses. 

You only need to create one WordPress.com account, where you will have a (changeable) primary email address (and its corresponding photo), and as many other photo-connected email addresses as you need. Don’t do what I did years ago and get bogged down with too many .com accounts.

My last piece of Gravatar advice, because I’m about to run out of WordCamp Atlanta Attendee Page graphic here (well, at some point; Go WCATL!)…

I’ve got Gravatars registered for email accounts I no longer use, like from jobs I used to have. I swear they’re not just affectionate mementos.

For all those sites such (as WordCamp sites) on which I’d been registered while each of those emails had been my primary email, I want my Gravatar to appear in perpetuity.

It’s pretty cool to go back to a WordCamp site from years ago, check out their Attendees page, and realize…

* you’ve actually known a certain someone for that long, or

* you missed out on meeting that awesome person your BFFs with now, but probably ran into way back when (maybe because you didn’t have your Gravatar populated back then)

* you have a way to follow up on a conversation that’s been an earworm for years, because that person had had a Gravatar registered at the time (featuring their face) and you found them!

In summary, Networking + Gravatar = Awesome

Be smart and be kind — find and be found. Cheers!

VIDEO: Tips For Speakers When There’s a Photographer About

Having photographed hundreds of people speaking to groups, crowds, convention halls over the years, I’ve got some tips for speakers who want pictures taken of them to turn out great if there’s a photographer worth their salt in the area.

This talk is specifically aimed at WordPress WordCamp session speakers, but the tips remain universal for many types of public speaking and the public impressions given when in networking environments.

I Hope You Use That Selfie Stick

It’s time for me to weigh in on the selfie-stick (apparently one-sided) debate and outspoken selfie-hatred in general. And yes, I’m doing it for my first official full-length blog post on my professional photography website where selfies are basically banned.

[Warning: I do use salty-language here. Do turn back if that’s not for you.]

Full disclosure – I do own a selfie stick, though I’ve never yet used it to take a selfie.
Full disclosure – all my favorite pictures of myself are in fact selfies.
Okay, except for one when I was 23 taken on a movie set, but that’s cheating.

So call me devil’s advocate. Call me vain. Call me an underdog, but I am going to defend the act of taking one’s own picture tooth and nail.

Not Everyone Has Someone Around Who Wants to Take Their Picture

I’m single. I’m sort of recently single, it’s been about a year. But even before that turning point, as far as photographs of me were concerned, for the previous five years I may as well have been single. My husband and I had an extremely (with a capital E) busy (with a capital B) worklife. Rarely if ever did we get together with non-business-related friends, much less have date nights or days where we were so relaxed that we were feeling like recording where we were at, what we were doing, what we looked like doing it, what we looked like we were feeling doing whatever that thing was we were doing. And many days, we weren’t even in the same city.

All that’s not a complaint (except the part about not enough being in the same city). Rather I’m very proud of what we built together during that time. But relative to this conversation there is little record of my life over the previous six years. That’s a hard reminder that a marriage where there are two people who don’t take pictures of each other, who don’t consciously create times worthy of picture-taking, just might be a marriage that won’t last long as such. In retrospect, it was in fact a clue.

On a soon to be explained related note, I like to travel. And for my entire life I’ve often done it alone. Every job I’ve had since my early twenties has involved at least a little or really a lot of travel. Being child of divorce with a dad in the Air Force got me accustomed to going to new places. I’ll get on the plane at the drop of a hat and take any opportunity to explore a place on my own if there’s time for it. Not having someone to do that with has never stopped me.

So if there were going to be pictures of me in these travels, or in these years of co-work-aholic-itis, I could maybe make new friends (not impossible but I’d rather that happen naturally); I could hand my camera or phone to a complete stranger; or I could take a selfie.

Why is Having — and Actually Posting — Pictures of Yourself Important?

What I’m about to say may not be important to everyone. But for me, I live in a highly digitally-oriented world. And if you’re reading this, chances are, you do too. Pictures, and blogging, whether you do it via a blog-proper, or Facebook style, or Instagram or Tumblr style, is modern journaling. To my knowledge, journaling has been encouraged for centuries, and these digital methods of making our diaries are a way of life in today’s era.

Why do each of us who do it, do it? Let’s leave out those of us who do it to promote a specific business objective. Why do the rest of us do it? Because we get a reward. And that reward is the attention we get from others in addition to the special feeling we get when we can look back in time and re-witness our lives. But for the greatest many of us this is absolutely not a one-way street. It is an interaction.

I didn’t get on Facebook and stay on Facebook because I wanted people to like pictures of me. What got me on there and keeps me on there, even if I don’t use it for months at time – especially when I haven’t used it for months – is the pictures and commentary left by my family and friends around the world, of and about themselves and the people around them.

90+% of my Friends on Facebook aren’t pushing an agenda, but many of them are defacto experts in creating content, and thank goodness. If all of us on there hadn’t thrown self-effacement out the window and selfishly posted pictures of ourselves and our children and our dogs and cats and rabbits and our interests and our concerns… not only would there be no content, no Facebook, Instagram, etcetera… but I would have lost touch long ago with these people whose place in my heart grows and grows as we continue to get to know one another long distance.

Isn’t Posting Pictures of Yourself Vain?

Hold onto your boot straps readers, but I really couldn’t give a fuck. So you’re not going to like me if I’m vain enough to post a picture of myself? So you’re going to unfriend me, unfollow me, disconnect from me if I post a picture I took myself of myself?

KLM-Avatar-201503_webKLM Facebook Profile Avatar 201502

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I’ll Make It Crystal Clear…

…If I’m connected to you, I’m begging you to post pictures of yourself. And if you have to take pictures of yourself to do it, fucking do it. And often.

I miss you. I love you. I like you. I care about you. I want you to exist and keep on existing and if you stop existing I’m going to be crushed that not only wasn’t I close enough to you to take your picture for you and often but that you were too concerned about people’s perception of your vanity to take a fucking selfie.

Or worse, sadly you were too concerned no one would want to see pictures of you, too worried about revealing your imperfections to let people take pictures of you or take some yourself and get them posted, for me.

But Isn’t the Proliferation of Selfie Sticks Hateful?

What’s starting to distinctly interest me is why you are being so hateful about people buying, carrying, and using selfie sticks, or posting selfies at all. Why do you care so much? Because you’re good at pithy aren’t-they-full-of-themselves commentary at these people’s expense?

I’d venture to say any derogatory commentary delivered in any form or format renders the same effect as taking a selfie and posting it. You’re seeking attention and approval. And if people keep Liking your hateful commentary, I get it, you’ll keep making your hateful commentary. I totally get it.

In the case of the selfie, a person is recording something that makes them feel good, a moment they will feel good remembering. And the truth is, for anyone who loves, likes, or appreciates this selfie-taker in any way, it will make that person feel good too when they see it.

Even when there is someone with you who you trust… someone you trust to give you back your phone or camera after you’ve handed it to them… someone you even trust to take a really good picture of you… isn’t it a thousand billion times better for both of you to be in the picture?

Isn’t it a googol times better for all five of you, all ten, twenty of you to be in the picture at the same time? [If you don’t know what I mean here by “a googol times”, do Google it.]

The answer is YES. And as the one of you who couldn’t make it on that trip with you, as the one of you who couldn’t make it to that particular concert/dinner/hike, as someone who is happy you’re adventuring — happy you’re all adventuring — I absolutely do want to see that picture where you got all of your faces in it and the Taj Mahal in the background.

And for all those people around you who scowl in your direction, for all those people thumbing away at their phones crying their woe on Twitter about the horizon of selfie sticks laid before them…

…kindly, gently, mustering all the trustworthiness you can, offer to use their camera or phone to take a picture of them, maybe just them, maybe them and their date, or friend, or family, in front of the photo opp. Because there’s someone in the world who will be glad you did. And it just might be them.

[Note: I’m crushed I deleted the darling picture of the three girls using their selfie stick together in front of the Templo de Debod monument in Madrid, Spain, pictured above. My purpose there was to get a background image for an art project I’m doing, one devoid of people, and they were in my way for so long I became charmed watching them and snapped the pic. If I still had it, I’d include here. Never delete your b-roll. Never.]

Found Art Photography Blog Coming Soon!

Please peruse my project galleries and contact me for photography session information and booking.

Phone Number | +1 310.989.6850

Email Address | found-art-photography@gmail.com