• Inspiration
  • Mar12

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    Wow – The last you heard from me on the blog I was selling off a bunch of gear, and then… Nothing.

    If I wasn’t me and I saw that happen to another professional, I’d think that they gave up and closed shop.

    2014 was my best year in the photography business yet, but by the end of it I didn’t appreciate that fact at all. I realized that the sole reason I got into photography was to be creative, and I started to become bitter at a lot of the business side of things. I already run a very busy consulting business and I was burning the candle at both ends. I hired staff to run my other business so I can focus on being more creative, but guess what? I ended up managing those people, which took up even more of my time.

    I also began resenting requests to recreate what clients saw on social media from other photographers. I couldn’t help but think “Why don’t you find the person who shot that and hire them instead?” Combine that resentment with people contacting me for jobs and saying things like “I love your work but I don’t want to spend a lot of money” or the constant requests for usage with no compensation.

    It’s more than enough to make someone walk away.

    But I’m not walking away. I’m transitioning my focus.

    I’ve been saying no a lot. Not to jobs that make me nervous, but to jobs that I’ve tried before and realized are not for me. It’s not about what I’m good at, it’s about what I love doing. If I’m not loving the work, there’s no point in doing it.

    I don’t want to capture templates of life.

    I wan’t to capture real moments and authentic emotions.

    You know, actual life.

    Louis Mendes Outside of B&H Photo

    Furthermore, I want to create. But how do you create something using real life? Once I direct a subject, or manipulate a scene, aren’t I manufacturing reality and creating something that wasn’t there naturally? How the hell do I interpret a real emotion or moment and make something out of it without betraying the authenticity of the medium?

    I just don’t know.

    But I’ve got to ask myself, do I even care about the authenticity of the medium in that way anymore?

    I do care about capturing life. I do care about making art. So I began focusing heavily on something else while looking for answers.

    I found a group of artists from all walks of life, both amateur and professional, who attend drawing from life sessions at different locations in the area every week. I tried doing something I’d never done before – Drawing live models. The focus on drawing a timed sketch of a human is not on the exact realistic representation of the model. It’s about the gesture. It’s about the body language. The essence of the subject is more important than anything else.

    I really liked this one tonight - Mary at #TheArtistsLoft in #MountPleasant 15 minute #sketch #FigureDrawing #graphite #fabercastell #livemodel

    Pastel #FigureDrawing from life #20Minutes

    Like photography, technique comes into play. There are also tools of the trade (although pencils and paper are pretty accessible in comparison to lenses and lights). I do find myself “geeking out” over a brand of pencils or a type of paper. It’s part of who I am. Give me too many pencils and I’ll stress out over which thickness is best for whatever I’m drawing. It’s just like packing too many lenses for a job. I make better work when I limit myself (I hope that sinks in one day). The gear is all a noisy distraction.

    I also started to practice drawing from photos again. When there’s more time to draw, I find that the muscle memory of drawing gesture from a live model is taking over first. Once I realize that I have time to relax, I’m able to focus on the technique again. The more I practice both drawing live models and from reference photos, the better I’ll be equipped to capture both gesture and accuracy without even thinking about it.

    Here’s a pastel drawing I recently made from a reference photo:

    Trying a different medium tonight. #Pastel #FigureDrawing #PhotoReference #fabercastell #Strathmore #Female #Nude

    This is a piece I made for my wife using a photo I took years ago as a reference:

    Pastel Elephant Drawing for Amy by Joseph W. Nienstedt

    So, what does this all mean?

    What I’m looking to create photographically and through drawing and painting is starting to come a little more into focus for me.

    I know I want authenticity, but not technical authenticity.
    I want emotional authenticity.

    But how do I achieve that? I guess the simplest way is for me to believe it first. I have to believe the image. If I know I’m not being genuine, then chances are everyone else knows too. I’m a terrible liar anyway. The challenge is to take that authentic gesture, or emotion, or general essence of whatever I’m trying to capture and use my technical skill to push the envelope. I need to marry the real with the surreal but not force it.

    So while all of this is swimming in my head and weighing on my heart, I happened to catch a very inspiring talk at The Citadel last night by an artist and gallery owner named Robert Lange.

    As he told his story and talked about his craft, I was mesmerized. Here’s a guy who’s clearly gone through all of this shit already and is still struggling with identifying himself to himself. I know it’s not necessarily news to most people that artists don’t tend to settle, but the honesty he used in conveying that was enlightening.

    He reflected on his college years and how he worked harder than anyone in his classes – Staying up all hours working on his paintings and making work that looked exactly like his subjects, and when it was time for a critique from working artists, they all told him that art wasn’t for him. They said he lacked soul in his work. So, feeling dejected, he decided make paintings of his puppy and his fiancée because he genuinely loved them and they made him feel good about life. Lo and behold, when the artists saw these new paintings, they praised his work. They could see his passion through his brush strokes – He just needed to paint what he truly cared about.

    He showed us the different bodies of work that he’s created, and his natural progression of creativity covers 15 years of artwork. 15 years is a long time, but it’s also a blink of an eye. It’s easy to download a band’s whole catalog of music, or see an artists whole portfolio of work and get discouraged. We get this instant gratification but lose the sense of time that went into creating that work. We immediately think “I’m nowhere near as talented as that guy” and put down our camera/guitar/paint brush in disgust.

    There’s something missing in conveying that time in the creative world. The journey is just as important, if not more important than the work for an artist. In the end though, the work is what lives on. It’s sad until I think of the current popular culture of people being famous for being famous. When they die, there’s no work to show for their fame so their fame dies with them.

    During Robert’s talk, he mentioned that photographers should take as many portraits of strangers as possible. He does that to capture people off guard and being themselves. If he uses their portrait to create a painting, he sends them a print of that painting. They have no idea that he’s going to do that either, so there’s no pretense to it for them – I imagine that they’re just signing what amounts to being a photo release and then months later a print of a stunning piece of artwork shows up at their door.

    After his talk, I ran to my car and grabbed my camera. I decided as the talk came to a close that I would take his portrait. Who knows, maybe I’ll make a painting of it one day…

    Very inspiring talk from @paintdifferent of @RobertLangeStudios at #BehindTheLens tonight at #TheCitadel - I took his portrait when he was done #CHS #CHSArt

    So, what exactly is it that I’m transitioning my creative focus to?

    I’ll let you know when I find out.

    Until then, I’m going to enjoy capturing the search.

    Thanks for reading.


  • Oct16

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    Worldwide Photowalk 2014 - Charleston SC

    Welcome to the 300th post on my blog! I’ve had some posts here that have been pretty popular, a lot that have been virtually ignored, and hopefully some that have struck a chord with my readers.

    But this isn’t about that, this is about Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photowalk 2014. Just take a look at this crew of local photographers who ventured out on the historic streets of the lower Charleston peninsula:

    Worldwide Photowalk 2014 - Charleston SC

    Weather-wise, it may have been the most perfect day ever conceived. It was like San Francisco perfect. I brought my daughter again this year, and she invited 4 of her art-school friends who all took to the streets in true teenage fashion.

    Worldwide Photowalk 2014 - Charleston SC

    Worldwide Photowalk 2014 - Charleston SC

    I was sporting my trusty Fuji X-T1 camera, and my approach this year was a little different than the past. Possibly because I was herding 5 teenage girls around, or maybe because I was carrying a smaller camera, but I just let the pictures come to me instead of seeking them out. Plus, I was able to get the girls involved to make a memorable and creative experience with them.

    Worldwide Photowalk 2014 - Charleston SC

    Using the environment to influence a photo, I was able to setup a shot with the girls, but then this woman walked into the frame walking this massive dog, making for a cool street photo:

    Worldwide Photowalk 2014 - Charleston SC

    It’s pretty common this time of year to see another photographer earning their living by shooting a beautiful couple. When I stumbled upon this scene, I thought to myself, “What better street photo in the French Quarter than one of a wedding photographer at work?”

    Worldwide Photowalk 2014 - Charleston SC

    Cooler still, the entourage had a limousine complete with a silver-haired driver in a tuxedo. I asked the driver if I could make a portrait of him, and asked him to stand naturally just like he was before I approached him:

    Worldwide Photowalk 2014 - Charleston SC

    My favorite shot of the walk came by the harbor in the reeds. I saw this cool lone purple flower in the reeds and decided to get low and shoot it. One of the girls came walking into frame and this photo came together – I asked her to turn around and look back in my direction to capture this:

    Worldwide Photowalk 2014 - Charleston SC

    Strange thing about this photo – It became one of the most viewed photos of all of the photos in my Flickr stream overnight. Sometimes the less you try to create something special, the more likely something special will present itself to you. You just need to have the eyes to see it when it happens and enough skill to capture it in a concise fashion that lets the photo do the talking. As Seneca once said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

  • Sep9

    1 Comment

    Sunset Venice Beach
    Sunset Surfers | Venice Beach, CA 2014

    Venice Beach Sunrise
    Sunrise Declaration | Venice Beach, CA 2014

    Venice Beach Sunrise
    Early Morning | Venice Beach, CA 2014

    Venice Beach
    Late Day Skate Park | Venice Beach, CA 2014

    These four photographs I made in Venice Beach, CA are ones I keep going back to. I don’t think they need much context, they’re just images that speak to me personally and artistically and I thought I’d share them here with you.

  • Sep8


    I’m not a wildlife photographer…


    But I love to shoot the birds and bugs in my backyard.

    I’m not a landscape photographer…

    Hanging Rock State Park 2012-72

    But I love to capture the beauty around me.

    I’m not a sports photographer…


    But I love to witness mad skillz, yo.

    I’m not a street photographer…

    Manhattan 2011

    But I love to find art in the moment.

    I’m not a fashion photographer…


    But I love to collaborate with artists to make something interesting.

    I’m not an architectural photographer…

    Day 146 - United States Customs House

    But I love to witness man’s feats of greatness.

    I’m not a portrait photographer…


    But I love to see a part of a person’s personality conveyed in an image.

    I’m not a wedding photographer…

    Eileen Bridal-19

    But I love to see a bride looking her best.

    I’m not an abstract photographer…

    Bass Strings

    But I love to see the Devil in the details.

    I’m not a maternity photographer…


    But I love to see a woman becoming a new mother.

    I’m not a pet photographer…

    Day 144 - Goodbye Max

    But I love to capture an old man saying goodbye to his old best friend.

    I’m not a music photographer…


    But I love music and I think it’s what saved my life.

    I’m not a headshot photographer…

    Sue Campbell's Head Shot

    But I love to capture a person the way I see them.

    I’m not a fitness photographer…


    But I love to capture a person in the best physical shape they can be in.

    I’m not an editorial photographer…


    But I love to make a portrait that tells a story.

    I’m not an event photographer…

    Charleston Brewvival 2011

    But I love an opportunity to score a free beer (or seven).

    I’m not a fireworks photographer…

    4th of July 2012 U.S.S. Yorktown-2

    But I love to see things that go boom!

    I’m not a travel photographer…


    But I love to see new places and faces.

    I’m not a fine art photographer…


    But I love to stretch my imagination.

    I’m not a family photographer…

    Family 2013

    But I sure do love my family.

    I’m not any single kind of photographer.

    I’m all of them and none of them.

    I’m just a person who loves to capture life in a bottle so I can open it up and share it with everyone else every once in a while.

  • May29

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    Willie Nelson B&W
    Willie Nelson | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 55-200mm

    Last year I entered the world of mirror-less interchangeable lens cameras with a score on the Canon EOS-M. I love that camera. The touch-to-focus LCD screen is amazing only because it’s just like the way I use a camera phone, but it also has the option to actuate the shutter when you touch-to-focus (which is doing my phone one better). Anyway, the love affair with the EOS-M got cut short because of one glaring issue – Canon gave up on the system and there’s no glass for the damn thing. I looked at the options out there and as far as lens selection goes for a APS-C mirror-less class of camera, it really came down to Sony or Fuji. I’ll just say it – I have no love for Sony’s cameras (even though they make excellent ones). They’re just not for me.

    The Replacements in Atlanta
    The Replacements | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 55-200mm

    My first digital camera ever was a Fuji Finepix (which I still have stuffed in a drawer) and I’ve always had fond memories of that P&S. I had no hesitation diving right into the Fuji X system of cameras and lenses. There are things about the Canon I wish existed on the Fuji (mostly the touch screen), but everything else on the Fuji blows it out of the water. I’m happy to have a useable viewfinder in such a small camera. I’m impressed with its tilting screen (It was used a lot for the images in this post). I’m overjoyed at the WiFi capabilities. But most importantly – There are amazing lenses galore and they keep on coming out with new ones!

    Avett Brothers at First Flush Festival 2014
    The Avett Brothers | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 55-200mm

    The Fuji X-T1 really has the ability to blur the line between fun camera and work camera because for a lot of applications, it’s results are of professional quality. It’s also lightweight, I can push photos right to my iPhone and post them just as I would from my phone’s camera, and I’m able to tackle difficult lighting conditions because it gives me choices. Not only choices in fast lenses, but expandability due to it’s hot shoe, PC port, and WiFi remote control. It’s also the first camera I’ve ever owned where I enjoy using it to convert RAW files right in camera. I can quickly get a great looking jpeg out of the camera and post it online immediately. It’s truly revolutionary in that respect.

    Cusses Live At The Charleston Pour House 4/19/14
    Cusses | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 18-55mm

    There comes a point with professional photography when it all turns into actual work. When you start looking at your camera as a tool that you use to do a job, and not as a magical box that you create memories and artwork with, that’s when you start justifying “play” cameras. The truth is, modern pro cameras and lenses are too damn good. They’re very efficient and they are designed to be world-class tools of a trade. The size, control system, and aesthetics of the Fuji X-T1 make you want to experiment. I know when I put it up to my eye in public, nobody is asking if I’m working. It’s under the radar enough that I can walk into almost any location with it on my shoulder without so much as a cursory glance from the powers that be. The only time I get comments on the camera is when I hold it up at a show and the people behind me can see the review images on the LCD screen. I’ve received business cards and/or email addresses scribbled on scraps of paper from the people standing or sitting near me at every show that I’ve shot for this post.

    The Replacements in Atlanta
    The Replacements W/ Billie Joe Armstrong | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 55-200mm

    So, enough gear talk. You can see what lenses I’ve been sporting underneath each image in this post. Part of the fun of going to a show for me is capturing a piece of the performers while they’re in their zone. I’ve shot from the photographers pit in the past, and it’s not the same as being out in the audience. Sure it’s safer, but it then begins to feel like work. I’m not there to work – I’m there to have an experience… To have fun. I love music and I love photography. They’re a perfect match for me to have fun with. Hopefully you can get a sense of that from these images – They’re truly a labor of love.

    Gillian Welch
    Gillian Welch | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 18-55mm

    And The Devil Makes Three
    The Devil Makes Three | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 55-200mm

    Fitz & The Tantrums at the Music Farm in Charleston, SC 5/15/2014
    Fitz & The Tantrums | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 55-200mm

    Alison Krauss & Union Station
    Alison Krauss & Union Station | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 55-200mm

    Avett Brothers at First Flush Festival 2014
    The Avett Brothers | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 55-200mm

    Hayes Carl in Atlanta 2014
    Hayes Carl | Fuji X-T1 | Rokinon 8mm Ultra Wide Angle Fisheye

    Fitz & The Tantrums at the Music Farm in Charleston, SC 5/15/2014
    Fitz & The Tantrums | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 55-200mm

    Avett Brothers at Charleston Tea Plantation @theavettbros
    The Avett Brothers | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 55-200mm

  • Dec7

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    Dereon - Help-Portrait 2013

    That picture says it all. Little Dereon was the first to come visit us in the atrium at MUSC Children’s Hospital on Friday for our annual Help-Portrait event that we organize there every December. She was also the last to get her photo taken! It took her a while to warm up to me, and she wanted to watch the other children with a curious eye to see what the deal was. The whole morning she was wearing a mask that covered her beautiful smile, and when she finally built up the courage to get her picture taken, she took off that mask and instantly transformed into an excited and confident little girl. I couldn’t think of a better story to explain what our Help-Portrait event at the children’s hospital means – It’s a way to make these kids and their families feel normal.

    Joe Help-Portrait 2013

    The holidays are an emotional time, and to add the struggle that these kids are going through is not easy to say the least. To give them any experience that lets them feel like regular kids is important in keeping them hopeful and strong. We’re just but one event of the hundreds of different kinds that are held every year for the hospital, but to see the happiness in Danielle’s face and the gratitude from her mom, you can see why we get so excited for this event every year:

    Danielle - Help-Portrait 2013

    How about little Kloeiann, who came out like a rock star? We had her and her mom design a sign for her to hold up for one of her pictures, and very awesome is quite appropriate for her 🙂

    Kloeiann - Help-Portrait 2013

    We also had a frame crafting station set up for the kids to design their own picture frame to put one of their photos in.

    Crystal - Help-Portrait 2013

    Thanks to Amy, Crystal, & Christina who volunteered to make this happen with me again this year. Also, thanks to the staff at MUSC Children’s hospital for letting us do this every year!

    The photos are up on my gallery here, and there’s also a set on Flickr.

  • Sep8

    No Comments

    Here is #sketch no. 2 of @emmawatson that I got a little more ambitious with #drawinglaceishard #moleskine #sketchbook #art #graphite #drawing #draw #pencil #fabercastell #emmawatson #orlando #florida

    One of the most important things I’ve learned about photography is that the equipment is not ultimately important. The overall image is. I’ve hammered it in so many blog posts that I’m not even gonna bother linking to them here. Just choose any month from the right-hand list and you’ll find me ranting about some facet of photography that has nothing to do with lenses or light modifiers.

    Tonight's #sketch is of #AngelinaJolie - I dig her more now than ever for promoting women's health #art #sketchbook #moleskine #fabercastell #graphite #pencil #draw #drawing #portrait #girl #actress #bighair

    So, I’ve recently rekindled my love for drawing with graphite – Something I did back in high school but never really pursued again until now. The whole process has inadvertently turned into an advanced lesson in portraiture. I scour through Pinterest feeds looking for faces that move me, and before I know it, I’m studying. I’m learning about which photos appeal to me, but more importantly why they appeal to me. Expressions, quality of light, overall mood, etc.

    Tonight's #sketch of @nottildaswinton was made in 3 different airports and caught the attention of the TSA (in a good way).  #TildaSwinton #moleskine #sketchbook #art #drawing #draw #graphite #pencil #portrait #face #actress #artist #woman #girl #shorthai

    Once I’ve settled on a portrait to sketch, I then get a chance to slow down and really tear the image apart so that I can put it back together again. Every facial feature, every shadow, and every highlight gets meticulously recreated.

    Tonight's #sketch is of @gilliananderson #sketchbook #moleskine #art #drawing #draw #graphite #portrait #hair #pencil #fabercastell

    I even started adding my own little adjustments, such as the tears in this sketch of Benedict Cumberbatch that I did for my daughter:

    Tonight's #sketch of a sad #BenedictCumberbatch @cumberbatchb was commissioned by my daughter @frostymac for a school research project.  #art #moleskine #sketchbook #draw #drawing #graphite #pencil #sherlock #necromancer #fabercastell #portrait #tears #fa

    The real trick is in translating that inspiration and effort back into photography. I find that getting people to slow down with me is helping me get some deeper images of their faces. Here’s an photo I shot recently after a head shot session where I just asked Christina to relax a bit and look at the camera without any predisposition. Just take it easy and let the face tell the story without forcing it.

    Christina Dramatic B&W

    If you want to keep up with what I’m doing in my sketchbook, follow me on my Instagram feed

  • Apr22

    No Comments

    Ashley P

    I’ve been chasing down my muse lately in one way or another, from getting tattooed to collecting art prints and books, and basically scouring the web for inspiring images and creations (check out some of my findings on my pinterest feed). I don’t think we ever settle down as artists. Sure, we may hit peaks, and sure we hit rough spots where nobody connects with what we’re doing, but we always strive to keep growing either way. One of the worst things that can happen is that you get so bogged down with work that you forget to play. That can drain your soul quite quickly.

    Don’t get me wrong, shooting anything is better than doing just about any other kind of work for me, but if I go too long capturing other people’s visions, dreams, and desires, I can start to feel the burn out demon creeping up on me. Every once in a while I need to reset my brain to fine tune that creative spark that got me into this mess in the first place. And with every step I climb up of this ladder, I get a better view of what I want to be doing with my photography and where I could take it.

    That brings me to Ashley, who I met via an annual photography event here in Charleston put together by Modstudios. I was hesitant to participate for working reasons (and I did end up passing up a paying gig to do this on Saturday night), but I knew that it would be a no-pressure situation to try something a little different. And, by no pressure, I mean total timing pressure as I lost track of time with my wife at Holy City Tattooing Collective as she got this kick-ass Mehndi-style peacock tattoo by the awesome Margo. Time has a way of disappearing when watching a great artist work. As I rushed to Folly Beach afterwards, I ended up missing a shoot with another cool girl with tattoos (hopefully she understands, I’ll make it up to you Kelsie).

    Amy's Peacock Tattoo

    So, back to Ashley. This girl might have the brightest & bluest eyes in the world. Check this out, here’s Ashley with her natural hair color:

    Ashley P

    And then I pulled out the blue wig and flowers to match that awesome colorful dress:

    Ashley P

    She looked like she stepped out of a painting by Camilla d’Errico. Once the sun started to do it’s thing, we just made some magical images. A beautiful location, a beautiful model, and an onslaught of color to tie it all together. This is the direction my head is going right about now:

    Ashley P

  • Apr2

    1 Comment

    Ink & Art

    Posted in: Inspiration, News

    Rosa Tatiana Suarez Tattoo by Margo

    This photo at the top here is of my newest tattoo and it’s based on a painting by Tatiana Suarez called Rosa. The tattoo was done by Charleston tattoo artist/genius Margo, who currently inks at Holy City Tattooing Collective.

    Check this out – This is the original painting by Tatiana:


    And here is an iPhone shot of the tattoo right after Margo finished:

    Finished New Tatiana Suarez Tattoo

    She interpreted the painting so well, I’m in awe of her skill. To watch her mastery of color and shading as I see the image come alive on my skin – It’s just an inspiring process.

    Getting a New Tatiana Suarez Tattoo

    Margo also recently did this tattoo for me, which is based on a creature from one of Caia Koopman’s paintings. The little guy looks like he’s gonna take out my Patch Whiskey monster tattoo:

    Finished Tattoo!

    This is what Caia’s original painting, entitled “Bad Bee” looks like:


    And the Patch Whiskey tattoo was done late last year by Cristian at The Queens Ink Tattoo in, you guessed it, Queens, NY:

    New Tattoo

    Here’s a shot of the original by Patch Whiskey, which was painted on a vinyl record:


    And here is Cristian Neamtu at work on it:


    The reason for this is not to show off my tattoos, but to show off the artists involved. The Patch Whiskey and Caia Koopman ones are like small little bite size samples of their bigger work, which in Whiskey’s case is usually the whole side of a building, like this:

    Chateau Patch Whiskey Mural

    And Caia’s work is filled with little details that could stand on their own, but are usually part of a larger story involving a pretty woman. The Tatiana Suarez tattoo at the top of this post is the largest tattoo I’ve ever gotten, and it really does capture what I love about her work. Her paintings have such emotion in them and they’re sexy and soft. Her Brazilian and El Salvadorian heritage mixed with American pop surrealism makes for work that I find highly attractive.

    AnyHeadshotI actually have an appointment set for next month to do an even bigger piece featuring another one of Tatiana’s paintings on my forearm, but I got a little too eager and visited Margo on her shop’s walk-in day this past weekend and pretty much monopolized her time. The reason I chose “Rosa” was because it simply reminds me of my wife Amy (and her similar birthmark on her bicep). I’m sure my wife would kill me if I posted a photo of her topless, so you’ll have to look at this lovely head shot instead :p Needless to say, I’m a lucky guy.

    So, if you’re a fan of my Facebook Page, you may have seen a post recently calling for models, designers, & stylists. I’m putting together some ideas for personal work and really want to capture some of the inspiration from my favorite artists and do something on my own terms. I’m excited to meet up with a friend this week who I’ve worked with in the past and bounce some ideas off of her. I’ll be formalizing my plans soon, so come back!

    Now, here’s a concise list of the people involved in this post:

    Tattoo Artists:

    Margo Karolides AKA Margo Venomous
    Holy City Tattooing Collective
    Cristian Neamtu AKA Cristian Zink
    The Queens Ink Tattoo

    (both are kick-ass painters as well)


    Tatiana Suarez
    Caia Koopman
    Patch Whiskey

    Lastly, I’ve got a Lowbrow/Pop Surrealism board on Pinterest that I pin lots of my favorite artwork on. If you’re a Pinterest user, please go ahead and follow it.

  • Mar12

    No Comments

    Karson B&W

    It doesn’t feel like that long ago when I decided that my passion in photography involved the connection to people. I dabbled and still dabble in still life, landscape, and architectural photography, but the photos that mean the most to me are those frozen moments of humanity that I’ve captured. And I think I’ve figured out why. It’s something that isn’t entirely tangible. It’s the magic that happens between the subject and the 4th wall (which is usually the photographer).

    This is not a spiritual thing, but there is certainly an emotional bond that photographers have with their subjects. There’s a trust and a connection that radiates in their expression, whether it’s a candid shot or a completely staged portrait. If that connection is lost or broken, the image is cold. The subject looks out of place. It’s like they don’t want to be there, or worse, it’s like they don’t believe in the photographer.

    This is something I’ve been struggling to identify for a while now. Why do some photogs take amazing scenic shots, but fail miserably with people shots? Why do some people know every single lighting and exposure rule and live by proven compositional theories but come up with off-putting portraits? I think it comes down to personality.


    There are photographers that can make a building come to life, and others that can make you feel like you’re in the habitat of a wild animal. There are ones that will make huge sacrifices and fly all over the world capturing the perfect light at the perfect time of year. Then there are those that can peel back the walls and bring out a person’s soul. An introvert may not be the best person to capture the light of humanity. They might be amazing at seeing leading lines and balancing the exposure of natural light with artificial light. But, they make people nervous when they attempt a portrait.

    On the flip-side, I see a lot of photographers struggling with the technical side of things, yet they make amazing portraits. I was reading a thread on one of the photo forums the other day about a photographer who was upset by the popularity of a local photographer in his area who he thought was terrible because she didn’t know the difference between a RAW file or a jpeg. He then posted a gallery of some of her shots and they were really good. He didn’t get it because he didn’t have it when it comes to shooting people.

    What is “it”? I think it’s a deep love for your subject – an appreciation for their inner beauty as well as their outer beauty. “It” is also something that someone who lights up a room has because “It” is a drive to bring everyone up a notch. “It” is not just one thing, it’s also a creative eye, an eye for detail, and an eye for spotting a good story and conveying it in a single image. Whatever you believe “It” is, I don’t think you can find it in a manual. I don’t know if “It” can be taught in a class. That special attraction that some people possess is different for different people. I do think “It” can be nurtured and grown. I do think everybody is capable of their own version of “It”. Confidence, skill, experience, morality, emotion – these are some of the key ingredients. The recipe is unique to all of us and it’s our job to be honest with ourselves in realizing what our passions are and if we’re serving the art over some unrelated motive.

    It makes me cringe when I see people obsess over F-stops and focal lengths. There are articles written about what aperture is most used in the most popular photos. While the technical information is very important to learn and it’s great that there is so much educational info available, I feel like many people never escape from it. They’re so concerned with technical perfection that they’ve never tried to capture a meaningful photo. In a perfect world, you’d use that information to help you capture an image you’re envisioning, not capture a photo to demonstrate technical skill.

    The magical moment that a beautiful image comes together because of the personality and interaction between the photographer and the subject, combined with technical skill and artistry is what we should all be hoping to achieve. Those images are the culmination of lots of hard work both with the camera and more importantly with relationships. What it all boils down to in my opinion is that the moment and the “It” factor are far more important than the technical stuff will ever be when it comes to shooting people. It’s what I’m currently focusing all of my attention on. How can I be a better communicator and make images that resonate?