When I was a little girl, I hated the invention of the camera. At the age of three I already knew I wanted to be a painter, and in my young mind, I somehow saw the machinery of modern image-making as a threat to the sovereignty of traditional artists; usurping our exclusive claim upon the creation of two-dimensional depictions of the world. Especially since I aspired to be a realistic painter, as a child I believed: If only cameras had not been invented, surely one day I would be as in demand and successful as any of the Renaissance legends. Anyone wanting a portrait would depend upon us, the painters, the artists of the world, and would not be able to simply point and click some box at themselves to create it.
Admittedly there was a lot of denial and hypocrisy in this line of thinking. At the age of nine or ten I had already begun using photographs as reference material for my work – consorting with the enemy, so to speak. And later, when I begun creating my surrealistic montage paintings as a teenager, photographic references became even more indispensable.
And yet I still disliked the camera, convinced it was my nemesis. I refused to learn how to use one, beyond a simple point-and-shoot, and to this day I still complain when I see a photo of myself, captured with the harshness of digital austerity — “A PAINTING would never look so unflattering,” I would assert, “Why would ANYone want an ugly, machine-made photo of themselves when they could have something so much more true to their inner beauty and spirit; a painted portrait by an actual human hand?”
But as harsh as digital photography can often look, with the innovation of computer pixels, comes possibility, and an invitation to even greater ARTISTRY. Enter: digital art, retouching, and the magic of Photoshop.
I began retouching photos of myself almost as soon as I first had one taken. It wasn’t just a matter of vanity, but of branding: my career as a TV personality required a polished public persona, and I aimed to deliver. And eventually, I became so accomplished at retouching (which frankly reminds me of painting, and therefore is highly enjoyable), I was able to offer it as a side service for both web design clients and entertainment industry colleagues.
But this past spring, when I purchased my first DSLR, ostensibly to produce videos under the auspices of my newly formed media company, as well as to take my own photo references for future paintings; something changed within me. As I began to learn how to use it, about ISO and shutter speed and f-stops; about lighting and lenses and technique; I realized, I could not only take rough photos to use as references, but I could take beautiful photos that stand alone as objets d’art in their own right. Add to that my years of retouching experience, and a portrait photographer has officially been born!
My first professional shoots this past summer have been a whirlwind of fun and learning. Results I previously thought I could only achieve with a paintbrush ensued, and at a fraction of the cost and time of physical painting. I will be posting my favorites from recent shoots as I continue to progress (and I will have to find a place for them – either on this site, or my company site?), and I am so thrilled and excited to see where this takes me.
In the meantime, please enjoy the above featured image, of my lovely client just before she gave birth to her firstborn child (and yes – I recently took photos of her newborn as well! Stay tuned!), and if YOU have ever changed your mind completely about something – whether it’s an artform or a theory, or a way of doing things, please feel free to share it in the comments below; I am really curious to hear others’ experiences!
This has truly been an eye-opener for me, as I rethink who I am as an artist. And although I will never ever stop painting, I am so grateful to have found yet another wonderful avenue for expressing the love I have for this breathtaking world we have been given.