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Into The Rabbit Hole with Michael Donnor

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Welcome to the 1st Installment of Guest ‘Slaw, where we get the story behind the photos from an invited photographer.

Michael Donnor, a commercial and fine art photographer, recently published a new portfolio called The Rabbit Hole. These photos were a departure for Donnor, a foray into the world of color.  These images aren’t sitting still, their world is one of mystery, intrigue and innuendo. If these photos were alive, they would be up over at the bar ordering a Jack Daniels, straight up. They represent the work of an artist willing to walk across the line of his own boundaries and also to ignore accepted conventional aesthestics.

I asked Donnor for some thoughts on his creative process and this is what he shared:

“In February myself and photographer Mike Sakas set out to create a photo shoot that would be a unique departure for us. We placed restrictions on ourselves; first budget – basically we had none, then time frame – we had one day to shoot, add in minimal wardrobe, 4 models, and one farmhouse… ready go! This portfolio represents the images that came from that one day.

The creative process for me begins by being uncomfortable. I knew I wanted to have a visual aesthetic that was different from anything I had done in the past.  I chose color film, used a flash for the first time in my life, and I never let myself feel comfortable. It was time to shoot and the models were the first to arrive, then the wardrobe, and everyone was ready, waiting for me… what was I going to shoot!?   For me to get to the frame I need, I have to work behind the lens. This went on for the whole day, a kind of uncontrolled chaos, not knowing what I was doing but knowing I was doing exactly what I needed to. I essentially boxed myself into a corner for this shoot, and then wanted to see how I fought out of it.  That also best describes how I worked with the camera, I like to photograph as if I am in a dirty scrapping fight with my camera, one I must win, I can never fail it is not allowed… “to the death!”    But when it was all over and the dust settled I thought I had failed miserably.

But then it came to the edit, which for me is as important to the creative process as shooting. When I edit I keep in mind the mood that helped drive the aesthetic, I use music and feeling, building it together into the cohesive body of work that was always there, but hidden. The same way every stone has a sculpture within, but the excess just needs to be chipped away.

When I was done I had the work I wanted to create all along.”

Here we go…

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Today is my 30th birthday.  Birthdays are interesting occurrences – they’re almost like New Year’s, but just for you.  A time for reflection and evaluation.  This morning I found myself taking a personal inventory, thinking “I still don’t know how to fold a fitted sheet, but I am getting pretty decent at parallel parking.” By 30 it’s pretty much established whether you squeeze the toothpaste tube from the top or the bottom.  How you feel about meatloaf is finally settled.

The first thirty were about training. Acquiring some experience and establishing some convictions.  The next thirty are for action.  The pieces are set, now its time to play.  Just you, a looming game board and that intimidating figure known as “Your Existence”

Time to start focusing my photography.  Begin trying to tell the stories of our times.  Attempt images that speak to the rational and the irrational; that appeal both to mind and to heart.

I firmly believe in the ability for images to impact change.  Photography is all about creating an emotional reaction in the viewer. Composing highlights, shadows and midtones into a message.  Hopefully a message with an edge.

Lots to do.

But luckily that all starts tomorrow and today is one of good friends and family.  Thanks to everyone who made this day feel incredibly special, it will go down as one of the best birthdays I can remember.

A Second Glance

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The best photographs are the ones that require study.  In a world where imagery is strewn about with unprecedented rapidness, I appreciate the favor of something pausing me for a moment.  One superlative second of introspect reflecting a moment of captured time.

Billboards, Google and iPhones all attempt to seduce our attention. We whirl through our days in a protective stance from new input.  But every so often, something taps us and asks for a second glance.  That’s what a solid photograph does – it requires a second glance; initially from the photographer and secondarily from the viewer.

Written by Spelman

01/20/2010 at 12:38 am