We are thrilled to showcase the best work of our oopoomoo Creatives Facebook group. This group of our students, friends and colleagues have produced creative and thoughtful work over the course of 2016. We are proud of their creative vision… most of the pictures were not taken at far off places or in iconic locations but rather were taken locally of everyday scenes. These 70 images confirm that it’s vision and individual expression that pushes art and not technique, gear or even location. Whether it’s the sweep of curtains across a carpeted floor or blades of grass in a sidewalk crack there is art everywhere if we are open to seeing. We want to thank all the oopoomoo Creatives out there for your continued inspiration and passion. Your great work deserved to be seen and we plan to provide even more opportunities to share your images with the world – stay tuned!
Out of all our students who took the 7/365: The Mentored Photo Project this summer, George Clayton is the one who appeared determined to torture himself the most. Not only did he choose a topic that was challenging in interpretation, it also came along with obstacles of access! Luckily, George demonstrated a fabulous “can do” attitude, a skill that will serve him well in all his endeavours. Here’s George’s project statement:
My project is about advancing the positive public perception of Canadian agriculture and the men and women who shape the landscape one casually sees driving on any prairie highway. These images will hopefully reflect the care and stewardship they passionately practice year after year to produce healthy food for millions at home and abroad.
George’s passion for telling the story of farmers and agricultural families is palpable. We were fortunate enough to meet George over coffee after his project was complete and discuss in more detail the importance of creativity, daily practice and the pursuit of excellence. George will continue to work on his project over time as this is a topic near and dear to his heart and is fueled by his past work in the agricultural industry. So without further ado, here is a collection of George’s images representing the care and stewardship rural folk have for their lands.
We’ll give George the final word:
The images may not show what was to be captured with a lens during this week. But the lessons, the encouragement and the place You, Sam and Darwin took me will not be lost. I can take that year, that summer and try to capture something that could be, for me, easy to avoid. I ask for the challenge and have accepted it. There is more work to do.
Highway 762 is different things to different people; just another road on their way to somewhere else, a destination for cyclists and motorcyclists, a place to drive slowly while viewing the scenery, the route for an annual cattle drive; and probably more besides. I intend to peel back my familiarity with the subject in an attempt to reveal what I see as the essence of this short, 22 km highway.
Meet Chris Bone. Chris is someone who travels Highway 762 a lot – whenever he wants to get anywhere from his home, in fact. While there may be more iconic stretches of pavement in the world, 762 has its own particular charm. But if you are setting a mentored project for yourself, and you want to push yourself to see something… deeper than scenery, more unexpected than cliché, is a road a good subject matter to choose?
It’s certainly not an easy choice! That’s Chris’ project statement above, and his portfolio of ten images below. In some ways, Chris was easy to mentor: he needed little guidance on goal-setting, articulating his idea or curating a final collection. We think he has come up with a very thoughtful story about Highway 762 as portrayed in his photo essay below. We suspect Chris will continue to travel everyday roads and come away with something unique to say about the experience.
For previous students’ mentored projects, click here.
We love it when photographers get creative.
We also love making mentorships a weeny-teeny bit challenging for our students. Pam Jenks confessed at the outset of this mentorship that she loves “big, spectacular landscapes” but when in the field struggles a bit to see compelling leading lines or interesting foregrounds. Her initial idea involved layers. We liked that concept, but wanted to make things a bit more interesting…Pam’s job was not to photograph just simple layers, but to make an image where layers were paramount and the first impression…overlaid upon what on second look is straightforward, raw nature. No post-processing props, no glory light or dazzling colour (ok, a little colour)…Pam’s images required careful, objective seeing in the field and strong composition work.
Here is Pam’s project statement:
I want to create a collection of images where the viewer first notices layers (lines/rectangles) and then secondly sees what was used to create those layers. I’ll do this by creating abstract images; the realism of the landscape or natural scene will be hidden in those layers.
Ten of her images are below. We think she did very well, don’t you?
In fact, we think more photographers should delve as deeply into their subject matter as Pam did in this mentorship – Shrek and Donkey think so too – because everybody loves parfaits!
From the movie, Shrek:
Shrek: For your information, there’s a lot more to ogres than people think.
Shrek: Example… uh… ogres are like onions!
[holds up an onion, which Donkey sniffs]
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes… No!
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry?
Donkey: Oh, you leave ’em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs…
Shrek: [peels an onion] NO! Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers… You get it? We both have layers.
Donkey: Oh, you both have LAYERS. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions. CAKE! Everybody loves cake! Cakes have layers!
Shrek: I don’t care what everyone likes! Ogres are not like cakes.
Donkey: You know what ELSE everybody likes? Parfaits! Have you ever met a person, you say, “Let’s get some parfait,” they say, “Hell no, I don’t like no parfait.”? Parfaits are delicious!
Shrek: NO! You dense, irritating, miniature beast of burden! Ogres are like onions! End of story! Bye-bye! See ya later.
Donkey: Parfait’s gotta be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet!
Our students may not believe it, but sometimes Darwin and I torture – ahem! – teach each other through guided assignments. Relatively recently we experimented with small, mentored projects. Here’s how it worked: one of us picked a topic to shoot – that person was the mentee – and the other developed a series of linked assignments within an overall goal for the project – that person was the mentor. We took the projects seriously with concrete deadlines – that was the torture part – and managed to complete the projects between and sometimes during other work events. We then swapped roles. My project was about trees, of course!
When you know most of your partner’s strengths and weaknesses, you learn to be diplomatic in your critiques for the sake of your personal relationship and, in our case, our business relationship as well. But you also benefit from the deep interest you take in your partner’s creative development. It’s something we strive to bring to our work through oopoomoo as well. Here’s Darwin’s instructions to me to fit my art in “snippets of time” between working with students at a workshop.
I decided to fit my project, which was all about capturing the essence or soul of tree personalities in nature, into a scrapbook. I put the assignments and the images in the book. The project was a combination of drawings, musings, assignments and photographs.
What was the point, you may be wondering? Fun! Creativity! Just ’cause! Even though I have a larger, multi-year project underway called Pressed Landscapes, these ‘mini-mentorships’ were about shaking off the shackles of working as a commercial artist and just shooting some little idea that appealed to me, engaging in something that was stimulating and fun. As a mentor, I honed my skills at listening to my student’s interests and gently guiding him through blind spots. As a student, I reminded myself to be open to constructive feedback, ignoring the urge to defend a shot, and instead take a step away from the work to see it for how it really came across. It was good to be on both sides of the desk.
Watch for Darwin’s post about his small project mentorship this Friday!
This year, Darwin and I decided to curate each other’s images to select what we felt was that photographer’s oopoomoo best for 2015. Just as we stipulated in the oopoomoo Newsletter announcing the challenge, an oopoomoo best had to meet three criteria:
- represent who they are photographically as an artist or demonstrate something they learned this year
- be as well-composed as they can do at their learning level, and
- be taken ethically.
You can see what Darwin picked as my oopoomoo best here. And here is the image I’ve chosen as Darwin’s best image of 2015.
In pouring over Darwin’s work for this year, I’ve noticed a shift in his usual subject matter. Instead of photographing grand landscapes, Darwin has started to concentrate more on intimate studies and abstractions. Some of the same elements of style are present in his work, making them a ‘Darwin shot’, such as a fascination with light and shape and an attraction to colours and tonal contrast. But I sense with this image a refinement perhaps of ‘seeing’, an engagement with the mind rather than just senses. There is many layers to this image and it is quietly intriguing.
This image was taken at Lake O’Hara, probably one of the most iconic of places in the Canadian Rockies. We were standing far uphill on the trail to Opabin Plateau and Mary Lake was being covered by a giant shadow cast by Oderay Mountain as the sun set behind it. Darwin had to work fast to frame and make this shot before the light was gone and the lake covered in shadow. When photographers say that they refuse to photograph iconic places, I feel sorry for them; I suspect they are insecure and may suffer from a lack of imagination. A great photographer can always make a place his own as Darwin does here.
Usually, but not always, I’ll have a plan for post-processing an image while I’m setting up to take that shot in the field. The image below is a good example.
Out in the mountains this past fall, Darwin and I were meandering along my favourite highway, the Bow Valley Parkway. The bright overcast light was turning the forest into a magical realm, highlighting the skeletal branches and brightening up the underbrush. The bright yellow caught my eye, but even as I worked this stand of pine, I wondered if this might be a candidate for conversion to black and white later on the computer. The reason I thought this might work better than the lovely colour which first attracted me is that I didn’t like the green colour of the trees in the background. Converting to black and white would preserve the bright tones in the yellow leaves but strip away the interest in the dark green background. So did it?
Creativity and vision are tough concepts to define sometimes. They’re even a little overused. When Darwin and I think of creativity, we think of original expression, as in, something you made yourself from your interests and passions. In a world saturated with images, it can be tough at times to even know what our interests are! That’s why getting out by yourself to photograph what catches your eye is such an important part of being a photographer. And when you are more comfortable with knowing what motivates you to press that shutter, that vision is going to carry you through the process in three parts: ‘seeing’ the image, making the image and processing the image.
What do you think? Is your creative vision a three-act play?
That’s the thing with personal projects. They get done when you have time.
Despite pushing my deadline back, I’ve been chipping away at the Pressed Landscapes project all fall – here are some results. I plan to kick things up a bit over winter and maybe even finish! Luckily, the project has been very enjoyable to me. I think that’s because I’m truly in love with my subject matter. Some may not understand the attraction – after all, it’s just dirt, grass, rocks and trees. On the other hand, what is a grand landscape photo anyway? Even Ansel Adams’ Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico is made up of…dirt, rocks, trees. Even the buildings and crosses are from mud and wood. The sum is always greater than the discrete parts when translated through an open heart and good hands. That’s what I’m aiming for with this project.
I’ve received feedback from some of you that you find the idea interesting and are keen to see how it unfolds. Well, stay tuned! When we’re back and rested, I’ll be wrapping up this and some other photo projects and interested to hear what you think.
This year we’ve had the pleasure of working with Brian Graham on a personal project of his: photographing the Rideau Canal near Ottawa. We mentored Brian in the creation and direction of the project and during the shooting process. Finally, we provided our feedback and helped curate the collection into a final ten or twelve selects. We were so impressed with Brian’s unique interpretation of the canal that we asked him if we could showcase his work here on the oopoomoo blog. He said yes! Below is a brief statement from Brian explaining his thoughts on the project and some information about the canal.
I want to show how the man-made beauty of the Rideau Canal and locks…the regular structure and patterns of the canal, locks, and the machinery used to operate them….can exist harmoniously with the surrounding natural beauty of the lakes, rivers, and vegetation. I don’t see the canal/locks as destroying nature but rather co-existing with the surrounding natural elements allowing me to produce photographs that attempt to show the beauty of man-made objects alongside nature.
The Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America. It was built to provide a navigable waterway between Lake Ontario and the Ottawa River largely as part of the aftermath of the War of 1812. Preparations to build the canal began in 1826 and the canal opened in 1832. The canal is 202 kilometers long and originally had 46 navigation locks and one guard lock; today the canal has 45 navigation locks plus 2 other locks. The canal is now used by pleasure boaters during the summer months and has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Before there was the crazed hunt for candy, Halloween was a celebration of life before the dark and decay of winter. Like all good ancient holidays, its a nuanced tradition which reminds us to keep close and treasure our loved ones and while remembering and honouring the spirits of our ancestors – lest they become peeved and spoil our morning cereal milk. In a world of uncertainty, it’s a good idea to hedge your bets (you never know who may be lurking about). So, in the sense of paying a little homage to that which we don’t always understand, we are sharing a couple of images made on public lands of the prayer flags ceremoniously placed by the First Nations people in the area. Without knowing the prayers behind the placement of the strips of cloth, we can still appreciate and respect the haunting and lovely nature of the objects themselves.
Happy Halloween, everyone!