I have struggled with this question for many years, all my life actually. I was born in Joliet, Illinois and I my family lived there for three years before moving to another town about 10 miles away. This was a big move in the 50′s because back then most families put their roots down in the town where they were born and many even lived on the same street next to other family members. So for our family was making a big move. We lived in the house my parents bought for about 7 years. Then hard times hit. My father lost his job and they were forced to sell my mothers dream house which then resulted in years of renting and moving from house to house. My mom use to comment about how many times we moved when I was younger, I think we counted maybe 9 or 10 times in the same town. This situation did not change for me as an adult. I got married young and had four children, during that time we started in a small apartment, then our first house, then a bigger home suited for a growing family and then my dream of living in the country on mini farm. After the mini farm we moved due to a work transfer and built another home in the country where things settled down for about 15 years.
Life continued to be challenging after my children were raised and I found myself on my own. With constant moving being a continual theme in my life. I found myself in Montana, Wyoming, Florida, back to Montana and then a bold move to Belgium and now splitting my time between Belgium and Colorado. All in all since 1998 I have moved more than 20 times.
With every new place came the same question from the locals,”where are you from?” where do you live?’ “where is your home?” The answer was never simple.
But today I found my answer and a feeling of knowing where home is for me. I found it in a TED talk.
The speaker talks about having many of the same experiences I have and how he explains it put me a peace. You see people like me that live a non conventional lifestyles is becoming very common. Today many of us find ourselves in different states and countries far from where we were raised. The world is changing and apparently my life is more common then I thought. Your home is not where you think it is.
I highly recommend listening to this talk: TED talk Where is Home? It will open you up to a new way of looking at the place we call home. Now I have the simple answer to the question I am so asked often.
I have been working on my business plan and organizing how my business is going to run. This is an overwhelming task that is taking hours and research and decisions on what my business will be in the future. I get afraid sometimes of all the photographers out there and all the new technology that comes out and trying to keep up with this crazy industry. I feel a lot like the horse in this image, worried about what is coming next
But today I came across a blog post from the Lesser Photographer http://alesserphotographer.com that set me at ease and made me feel good about the path I am going down. I realized that most of us are more than willing to pay extra for the experience of having dinner out where a highly skilled chef is in the kitchen looks after every detail to make it the meal special. The restaurant is clean and decorated and you feel comfortable just to relax and enjoy your meal as compared to going to a fast food drive up window and get your dinner in a bag with plastic forks. I can see I now the difference in the photographer that shoots and burns compared to the photographer that creates a business like the chef in a top restaurant. It is all about the experience and the quality of product and the price usually reflects what you will receive.
Sometimes life can be confusing especially with all the information that is at our finger tips. I have to be so careful of my addiction to learning on the internet right now. When I decided a few years back that I needed to learn and attempt to master a skill I turned to the internet for inspiration. I was drawn to the amazing photographs that would appear on my screen. I also realized how many beautiful things there were in my world and wanted to try to capture not only the image but what it was saying to me. So I began my journey of education in everything photography.
I would say I am self-taught, but that is not true because it is the talent and generosity of others that have help me learn photography. Their sharing of techniques and photos, and education and technical advise that has brought me to my skill level today. I have met and work with some amazing teachers over the past years. But with all this education there is one thing no one can teach me and that is how to find my gift, what I want to give to the world what makes my photography a kind of art only I could offer.
This question has been on my mind for quite a while lately. I get so sidetracked watching and learning what other photographers are doing yet not able to find what I am called to do.
Recently I decided to work on an old photograph I took of a friends dog and give it an artful feel. I posted this photograph my Facebook page and it got many comments. Most admiring the beauty of this dog. But a few comments came through that changed my thinking and made me realize maybe I do have something to offer that is uniquely me. The comment said ”I wish I knew how you bring out their personalities!” Or this one from someone who recently viewed my website “I can see you have a real passion for horses.” It made me realize that this is not only what I do, but who I am. I see animals deeply when I photograph them and it seems to come through me and at just the right moment I capture them. I know I need to honor that and work in that direction.
Funny how it can only take a few kind words to set you on your unique path.
I feel we all have gifts to give, if you are seeking to know what yours might be, just ask and listen and it will be revealed to you.
I had a conversation the other day with a very good friend of mine who has been an artist all her life. She draws wonderful illustrations and has now been writing and using her art to help illustrate her thoughts in her blog Commonplace Grace. I was telling her that I am playing with some of my images and seem to be turning them into more art feel rather than photography. Then she brought up that with all the things Photoshop can do, that this will only make her work more valuable. Is that true? Because we can simulate art with a software program does it make it less valuable?
What makes art valuable? I googled it and found a variety of answers to the question. Some came from the art collectors point of view where something is valuable because it is old or rare. But does that mean people do not spend the same amount on new furniture that they may on an antique? One article said that the art worth the most are the pieces that were created first, a fresh idea and new perspective. But if that were so why is there so many kinds of paintings and drawings and music and books that are still selling? Others say the artist has to have died to make the art work valuable…hmm that is a real heck of a way to make a living.
I think it all comes down to the buyer. Sure there is a world of art collectors out there but are they buying for investment or because the art spoke to them? When money is involved it is funny how something you would have walked past suddenly becomes of interest because a dollar amount has been placed on it. While just recently in Belgium a pigeon sold for over $75,000!!! How many pigeon have you looked at lately?
I think the real value is in the creation. None of know why we like one thing over another but certainly if we are attracted to something there are others who will value it also.
I remember a few years back my husband gave said he wanted me to go into an art gallery and pick out something I liked. I was so excited to be able to actually buy a piece of art from a gallery. I was living in Wyoming at the time and so a western art gallery was my first choice. I walked into a nice gallery in Sheridan Wyoming and started to look around. I was convinced I would buy a western piece, like something Tim Cox had done or something you would see in Western Horseman magazine.
But there was a framed piece hanging on the wall of six cows in a field. Three were Herefords my favorite breed and three White face cows looking out of the picture like I had just walked up to them in their pasture. I was fascinated by this. The art was called “Pasture Patrol” and that is exactly what they looked like they were doing. I didn’t know if it was a painting, photograph or pencil drawing. All I knew was it would not leave me alone. I never heard of the artist and really did not care.
I walked away from this piece because it just wasn’t what I had envisioned myself buying. As I strolled around the gallery the lady at the counter could see my confusion and asked if I needed any help. I told I came in to buy a western art piece but those crazy cows will not leave me along. I was confused as to which piece I should buy.
She then informed me that when a piece of art speaks to you this way there is usually a reason and she said if it were her she would buy the one that speaks to me because it probably will not leave you alone until you do. So I took her advice and bought the cows. I still have it hanging in my house and I have to admit with the decorating style I have today a western print would probably be up in the attic. The cows look fine in my country home, so I guess I made a good choice, and those cows still speak to me every time I look at them.
So what makes art valuable? I think none of us know for sure because if we are creating it we do not know who is going to buy if anyone at all. We just should create out of the spirit of creation and not with the end goal of making a sale.
So I created the flower photograph in this post and I did because while riding my bike I spotted these lovely wildflowers on the side of the road. I picked myself a nice boutique and put them in water. I love the color and the shape of them. Then this morning I realized they will not be around but just a few days so I got my camera a small head lamp and a piece of black paper. I made a few adjustments and took a photograph. I then took the photograph to Photoshop and played with it for a couple of hours until I created something that I really liked.
So is this art? Is it valuable? Will someone every buy it? Well it is my art, it has value to me and will anyone buy it? I am not sure but I know I am going to invest in a nice frame and hang it in my kitchen because I love what I created and I love the beauty of these nice little wild flowers. I will also put it up on my website and if it speaks to someone else that would be great. But the value really lies within me the creator.
Here is where I started off with the photograph so you can get an idea of what I was thinking.
I just was reading a new book on my Kindle called “The Creative Life in Photography” by Brooks Jensen. This book has got me thinking about why I am doing the type of photography I am doing. I mean really digging deep into why I am photographing horses, dogs, nature etc.. Sure I am always in the pursuit of learning more and perfecting my craft, but why? What is it I am trying to accomplish by photographing my subjects?
I sat in silence to really dig deep. Here is what came to me. Since I was small I have been attracted to the animal kingdom. I had an imaginary farm in my head at age three, I still can recall every detail of this farm. As I grew up I was continuously bringing home lost dogs, kittens, rabbits, baby birds, turtles and mice I drove my parents crazy with these creatures I wanted to have live with us. So there started the root of my interest.
But today after many years of living (59 to be exact) I am asking the question why? What is it about animals and nature that has dominated the decisions I make not only to photograph but how I live my life.
I am now starting to ask why do I want to photograph animals and nature? Why must I live near them. Why horses and particularly draft horses, why dogs, why regular dogs and not the beautiful show dogs, why nature, not the landscapes you travel to but the ones I stumble upon. Not just flowers but weather.
This is the question I am asking myself today, why?
It never hurts to stop in your life and ask why you are doing what you are doing. It will bring you to a spot to examine your life before you make choices that may lead you away from yourself rather than toward who you really are.
So here are some answers to my why. Because animals let us into their world if we just ask rather than insist. Because the draft horse can overpower us but chooses not to. Because nature can inspire and destroy us all in the same day. Because the relationship is more important than the activity. Because the eyes speak and beauty inspires.
I have a feeling I still need to dig a bit deeper, but a least I know why I photograph what I do. Now I need to ask what I will create with my photography and why.
What is your why?
Most photographers today realize that unless you are doing photo journalism the image that comes out of camera and the image you have in mind are far from each other. If you are a photographer like me who wants to create fine art photography the camera is just the start. Something like an artist first pencil of the rough image, or a writers first few sentences this is not the final product but just the beginning.
With all the digital tools we have to create it is no wonder we are seeing some amazing digital art and photography all over the web. When I first started down the photography road and just learning to get comfortable with my camera I remember looking at those amazing images and saying “yes but they are not real they were photoshopped” like photoshopped meant that the photographer did not have to have the camera skills to take the photograph but opted to just do something with it in Photoshop. As I learned and grew I realized this is far from the truth.
You have to be an accomplished photographer to get a great image, even if it is just the starting part. You need to know what subject your subject is, where to place the subject in the photograph, how to direct the viewer to the subject, get great exposure and focus and do this all under great light which is really like your paint. A photographer with experience hopes you will linger in the photograph and connect as they did to the subject. What comes out of the camera is only the start to achieving this goal.
Sometimes however in the case of this photograph, I had no idea what I wanted to do with this image. I just knew that when I saw this mare and foal I loved the close connection they had. There were many distractions in the background but I was focusing on them. In fact when I uploaded this image I passed it by several times due to all the distractions, and just wrote it off as a lesson in moving to avoid distractions and get a better angle. I did not delete it, but it was going to live in my archives as a lesson learned for quiet a while.
But it kept haunting me because of the eye of the mare and the connection she had with her foal, Something told me it was worth looking at again. Then it dawned on me that if I play with it maybe I could use the digital tools I have to make something create something.
Here is where I started and the different things I tried before getting to the final image at the top
After trial and error of this photograph I had finally created something I really loved. It started as just a photograph, but it would not leave me alone and ended up to be an art piece I loved so much I made the investment to have it framed and is now hanging proudly on my wall. It also taught me to look at photography a bit different. Look for the art, look at my subject more and know there could be a hidden gem in there. I do not always have to take the perfect photograph when it comes to background and distractions but I do have to make sure the exposure is correct, the focus is right and the subject is placed where I need it to be. But the bigger lesson is to slow down and listen to what my subject wants to say. Then it is my job to create and tell that story.
This image will be available for purchase on my website https://gigiembrechts.com