Thinking back on my childhood, I realize photography has always been part of my family. As I was growing up, my father was often taking pictures. I remember the excitement when he brought back the developed images that we all gathered to look at. My mother was in charge of sorting and creating albums that we later enjoyed looking through while talking about the memories. Through my early years, I had access to different kinds of Instamatic cameras. When I entered high school I inherited my older brother’s Minolta SLR when he bought a newer one. That became my first camera.
During my 20s, I became an avid traveler, and while spending a few days in Hong Kong, I invested in a manual Nikon FM2. I started to create visual diaries of my travels. I was shooting mostly in color, not just the obvious sights of interest; but rather, everything including people, food, landscapes and detailed architecture. Inspired by travel magazines, I would create photo scrapbooks upon my return home, and photo albums with added “tokens” (i.e. admission tickets, menus, travel documents) and occasional short stories.
In my later 20s, I completed my first photography course, “Beginners B/W Developing and Printing”. A couple of years later, my husband landed a job in New York and we made the move. As a stay at home mom, I would take occasional trips into the big city …and what a city!
I continued to take B/W printing classes as well as lighting, and a couple of portrait classes at ICP (International Center of Photography). It was an exciting time. I felt it was a true inspiration to be around other photographers and enthusiasts, feeding off their creativity. Unfortunately, it was very costly.
During this time I was exploring self-portraits as well as still life combined with some human form. Anybody that has done a series of self-portraits knows the time and hard work that goes into it. With this being said … I eventually wore out the time-release crank on my camera and decided to make an upgrade.
Just like many parents, I have taken numerous photos of my daughter as she was growing up. I began using Tri-X film, then slowly moving over to color film and eventually graduating into digital photography in 2006, when I bought a Nikon D300. By the time I got my digital camera, my daughter was already in high school and her interest in posing for me had diminished. Now she is 23, and I am lucky if I get one opportunity per year for a portrait session with her, although sometimes that is all it takes.
Three years ago, I got my first smart phone. My interest for iPhone photography grew with easy access of availability to the phone. I started to explore a variety of editing apps, and found Hipstamatic to especially be a great tool in expressing what I wanted to capture in the beauty of nature. I shoot mainly in the comfort of my backyard, and other nearby surroundings.
As much as I like portraits and the idea of shooting portraits, it’s challenging because my preference as a photographer is to study and explore as I work patiently with my subject. I find it difficult to focus on shooting while interacting with a model at the same time.
When photographing nature, I allow myself time, and the process becomes a slow unfolding discovery of the object. Most often I shoot outdoors, incorporating the use of different papers as background to avoid clutter and to help isolate the object. I explore different angles, turning the object continuously trying to find the right perspective for my shot.
After throwing out a dying poinsettia this past winter, I discovered a tiny dry leaf that resembled an embryo left. I do believe in pre-visualizing images, but with phone photography, I work differently. For me it is important to have an open mind about what I am shooting. There are many variables when shooting outdoors in ambient light and therefore it will frustrate me if I can’t capture that image. I try to assess and from there let my creativity take over. If time and light allow, I shoot extensively. Better too many than too few, because I may not be able to do it over.
A couple of months ago I had some friends over, and one of my guests brought me a lovely flower arrangement with miniature daffodils. As they eventually wilted, its leaves and flowers turned a faint golden and were cascading over the glass brim in which it was planted. In what is clearly garbage to most, I saw photographic potential. After separating the bulbs and untangling the leaves, I ended up with a bulb that looked like someone with a “bad hair day.” Sitting on my back porch, I was shooting against a black cold pressed artist paper, exploring shapes, patterns, lights and shadows as they changed while I turned it around. Finally I chose a self-made spray-painted silvery background – the reflections at times gives the impression of me using a background spotlight. I think my choice of shooting in Hipstamatic Classic with the John S lens enhances this effect. I really like how the new improved Hipstamatic 300 allows me to adjust the shutter speeds. I rarely shoot in “A” (Automatic). Changing speeds manually gives me better control and I almost always use a software flash, to give the image a bit of “kick”. I strive to get as good of a negative as possible, to cut down on any post-process editing.
I try to convey moods, or bring out expressions interpreting feelings of my own at that moment, whether spontaneously or triggered by collected experiences and old memories. When looking through the viewfinder, I see natures’ little secrets unfolding, and these discoveries make me feel very special and truly grateful to be able to recognize them. I often get so intrigued that I lose track of time.
You can find more of my work on Instagram as Swash63.