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Live With Your Photos Before You Delete

I am a ceramic artist with a passion for photography and I firmly believe that everyone out there has the ability to take a fantastic photo.

It doesn’t matter what sort of camera you use, whether it is a DSLR or the camera in your phone. A good photo is all about using your eye and really looking at the world around you.

All aspiring photographers should occasionally stop, take a breath and simply watch the play of light and shadow, enjoy the view and drink the life around you in with your eyes. Look, really look deeply for a minute or two at your chosen subject and then take the photograph.

When I was first starting out on my artistic journey I was an impatient beginner, I would throw a pot on the wheel, be unhappy with its form and so into the slop bucket it went. I would work hard all day trying to make the perfect pot and at the end of the day I would have a slop bucket full to the brim with my failed attempts at perfection. At the end of my first year of study I only kept one pot I was happy with.

An established ceramist gave me a very valuable piece of advice. Herme Cornelisse told me to stop throwing my work away so quickly. She told me that each pot I made had merit and that sometimes you need to live with your work for a while before the qualities are truly revealed.

It wasn’t until the end of my second year of study that I really started to understand Herme’s advice. I stopped being so hard on myself and I started to keep more of my own work, I started to keep pots that, whilst not perfect in form or function, had something about them that appealed to me. These imperfect pots have since become the inspiration for work that I am making today.

This is what I would say to all aspiring photographers, don’t be so quick to hit the delete button. Live with your photos for a bit. Allow the images to breathe for a while and come back and revisit them when you are in a different frame of mind.

I will illustrate what I mean. Here is a very ordinary photo, I took lots of very similar shots on the day. As I was scrolling through my image files pressing delete, delete, delete and pretending to be a dalek I noticed a speck on top of the rocks.

photo a.JPG

On closer inspection the speck turned out to be a man on the rocks. I magnified the image to 100x and cropped the photo until I was happy with the proportions of man to rock to sky. I fiddled about with the exposure until I was satisfied with the colour of the sky, as to my eye the original photo looked a bit washed out. I increased the contrast a small amount and also raised the percentage of black by a couple of percent to highlight the shadowy spaces between the rocks until I liked the feel of the image.

I often wonder what that fellow on the rocks is doing and each time I see this image on my wall I smile. It isn’t the best photo in the world and it won’t win any technical awards but I am very pleased that I paused for that instant before I pressed the delete button.

photo b.JPG

Another example of looking twice at a photo is this following image. I was filling up the wood box in the kitchen when the colours in this piece of wood caught my eye. The combination of the green on the black charcoal would look fabulous on a pot and so I quickly snapped a photo.

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When I was looking at the photo on my computer I was struck by the figurative qualities of the log of wood and I also noticed how interesting the background was as well. Again with only a few minor edits in photoshop a very ordinary photo becomes an interesting Arty shot. This photo is hanging on the wall in my studio and it serves as a reminder for me to always look deeper, to stop for a moment and just breathe, to remember that the most important tools I have are my eyes and to not be too quick to throw away any of my work.

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Kim Foale is a ceramic artist, based just outside of Hobart, Tasmania. You can find Kim blogging at Frog Ponds Rock, tweeting at @frogpondsrock or on facebook as Frogpondsrock. If you are ever in Hobart, Kim’s ceramics are available at the Off Centre Gallery, Salamanca Arts Centre, Salamanca place Hobart.

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