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.”
–thefreedictionary.com

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.

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