If you asked 100 people to give a definition of art, you would probably get 100 different answers. There are so many kinds and types and genres and styles of art. For each one, there are a multitude of different mediums and materials used in creating art. And there are literally hundreds of thousands of people making this thing we call art… and no one way is right and none of them are wrong. Some types or mediums or artists speak to me, something about their art resonates within me. Everyday my twitter feed is full of art. And artists. And ideas and talent and hours of hard work. And it is beautiful and uplifting and inspiring. Truth be told, I don’t love it all… in fact, some of it I don’t even like… but even for the individual pieces that I don’t like, I can appreciate the time and the effort and the talent behind it, and I am still in awe of their talent.
This is the first in a series of articles in which I will shine the spotlight on some of the talented artists within the SPNFamily. But before I get to that, let me be very, Very Clear… it is not humanly possible for me to know every single artist out there, not possible to know every single piece of work. So for the purpose of these articles, I will shine the spotlight on some of my favs. And you might agree, my favs might be your favs. But it’s also very possible that your fav might not be spotlighted in this series… and that’s ok. I mean no disrespect to your fav, I mean no disrespect to you, the Artist. Shine a spotlight on your favs by letting them know how much you appreciate what they do!
A long time ago, a teacher told me, “start with what you know and build up from there.” I’m a photographer, so I will start by shining the spotlight on a few of my favorite photographers, listed here in alphabetical order because there is just no way I could ever “rank” these amazing ladies: Amy (@amyshaped), Amy (sweetondean), Kelly (@nothing_magical), Krista (@kreespa), Megan (Stardust and Melancholy), and Stefania (@s_verasani). The following photos will show you why they are some of my fav photographers!
Whew. Is it hot in here or is it just me? Why did I think writing these articles would be easy? Perhaps we should take a brief moment to get some water (or something stronger!) because there will be more photos in this article.
I asked the ladies about their background (experience and education) in photography. I was very surprised to learn that they are all essentially self-taught. In their efforts at self-teaching, they have taken some sort of seminar, webinar, or course to learn more about photography. Amy (sweetondean), Megan, and Kelly had some photography classes in high school; I wish photography classes had been offered at my high school! Kelly and Stefania have even learned how to develop film. Stefania said she used to spend countless hours in the basement developing her photos, a process she said was “smelly and messy, but fun.”
Their advice for aspiring photographers therefore rings true to the fact they are all self-taught. Essentially, they all said the same thing, to just get out there and take pictures. And keep taking pictures. And you will learn new things about your camera, and ways to shoot, and you might even learn new ways to see things:
Amy (sweetondean): “The more you do it, the better your eye becomes, and the more familiar you become with your camera. You do need to work your eye and you need to get used to your camera’s abilities.”
Kelly: “Try out-of-the box things that might seem strange i.e. asymmetrical framing, cropping parts out of your photos, no negative space, lots of negative space, etc. There is never any harm in trying something different than your preconceived notions of what makes a good photograph; you may surprise yourself.”
Krista: “Do not compare yourself to others. We each have our own point of view.”
Megan: “No one else sees the world the same way you do and that’s your greatest weapon.”
Stefania: “Do it for yourself and find your own motivation. Don’t look for perfect, look for something that speaks to you.”
Interesting side note here: we also talked about self-doubt. They all experience these feelings to some degree. And they all said the same thing – they just push through it. Whether they are feeling overwhelmed before a convention starts, or during panels, or afterwards when they sit down to edit their photos, those feelings of doubt and failure and “why am I even doing this” creep in… and they just push through it. They keep shooting. They keep editing. They just keep doing this thing they love, and they just push that doubt down. They were all quick to offer support to aspiring photographers, and I think deep down, those same bits of advice help them help themselves.
Of course, I also asked them about their equipment. Some use Canon, others use Nikon (and the battle rages on!). While they use a more powerful lens at conventions, such as a Canon 70-300mm lens or a Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, several of them said they use their cell phones on a more casual, everyday basis.
They are self-taught. They take lots of photos. They have great equipment. So what do they think is their “signature look”? Initially, their responses were that they don’t think they have a signature look. But as they thought about it, each one of them came to the conclusion that, yeah, they do have a signature look, in the way they see things. And I think that’s so important. I mean, think about that. Take any two of these photographers and ask them to take the same shot – and you’ll get two different images, because each one sees the shot from a different perspective. Amy’s image might have rich colors while Megan’s might be a starkly contrast black and white with varying shades of gray. Krista and Stefania might have a final image where one focused on the twinkle in the eye, and the other focused on the full out laughter of the moment. Any one of these photographers might choose to edit a photo with an emphasis on the negative space, and each photo will be framed differently to highlight the negative space as they see it through their eyes. Kelly called it instinct, relying on this as she tries to “bring my subject to life in a way that showcases the subject, but also stays true to the atmosphere and mood of that moment when the shot is taken.” The bottom line here is that each of these ladies sees it from their own unique perspectives, and, in my very humble opinion, that is what defines a Signature Look.
We also discussed posting pictures on social media, wording these posts, watermarking, crediting and fanart based upon our photos. Although each person responded with her own words, they were all on the proverbial same page.
We talked about sharing photos that are derpy faces, or extremely emotional, or ones with children. They all agreed they don’t like to share derpy photos, if for no other reason than they wouldn’t want people to post derpy photos of them, so why do it to others? That being said, sometimes a photo really shows a great facial expression, which in turns captures a great/funny/emotional moment, and they oftentimes share those photos. They felt that if a celebrity brings their child on stage, then said celebrity knows people will take pictures of that moment, but each of the ladies in this article still felt it best to ask for permission to post photos of children. Ultimately, each photographer said that this really is a matter of personal preference. I think Megan summed it up best when she said, “You can catch some really genuinely vulnerable moments and it’s hard to know where to draw the line with them. I am usually too careful, and err on the side of caution.”
We talked about what wording to use when posting photos, pondering the use of hashtags like #TonguePorn, discussing what is and is not appropriate. They all agreed that it is frequently just too hard to come up with interesting or funny comments, so they often just post with the name of the person, date, and location/convention. As for the hashtags and what is and isn’t appropriate, that brought all sorts of different responses! Some thought these types of photos usually aren’t flattering, leading them to refrain from posting these types of photos. Others commented that sometimes the photos tagged in this manner are obviously just for fun, something to make us laugh, and not intended as an objectification of the person in the photo. I also found it very interesting to learn the point of view as it relates to different cultures. What one country or culture views as objectification… is definitely not the same as what another area of the world may think. In American culture, we tend to immediately jump to the conclusion that a photo is intended to objectify a person, and then people get all riled up and angry about it, and well, welcome to fandom wank. But in other cultures, beauty is, in fact, admired and appreciated and celebrated. In other cultures, a person can actually take a photo a of person fully engaged in a hearty laugh, a laugh that reveals dimples and eye crinkles and even a tongue – and in those other cultures, the photo is seen as something beautiful instead of a photo that is specifically intended to objectify the person. I guess this discussion opened my eyes to the whole theory of intent – and none of these photographers post any photo, with or without hashtags, pretty smiling faces or derpy faces, with the intent of objectifying the person in the photo. Yes, obviously a person could post a photo and then offer up some lame apology “I’m sorry, that was not my intent”; but I can assure you these ladies just want to take beautiful, emotional, a-moment-captured photos. And if those photos include on a flexed muscle, or a hand, or a tongue, well, it was not taken with the intent of objectifying anything.
All that said, enjoy these next photos for the beauty therein.
We also discussed watermarks, credit, and tagging. Again, all of the ladies were in agreement. Any given person is welcome to repost one of their photos as long as the watermark is intact. Let me say that another way… Don’t Crop Off Watermarks. Hey yo, people in the back, did you hear me? Let me say it again, a little louder this time… DON’T REMOVE WATERMARKS. I think that’s a fairly easy thing to understand, right? Ok, moving on. The ladies did have different opinions about tagging. Some would like to be tagged in social media posts using their photos, others are okay with not being tagged. Either way, they do appreciate that other people enjoy their photos enough to repost them, perhaps in things like #MotivationMonday or #WinchesterWednesday and so on. And listen, there is even a camera emoji, so it really isn’t hard to add that emoji and the photographer’s name. If reposting a photo makes you happy, makes your friends happy, then why not give a bit of credit to the photographer and make them happy too? #AmIRight #SpreadLove
The subject of fanart had similar responses. They all agreed that a simple “original photo by” with credit to the photographer is a nice touch (see paragraph above!); they all like to know when one of their photos has inspired an artist. And they definitely want to see the artist’s final piece. Some said they prefer to be asked if one of their photos can be used for a piece of art, in part because some of them do not want their photos to become nsfw; all of these ladies take great pride in their photography and they are uncomfortable with their work being portrayed in that light. They also agreed that they are not at all comfortable with an artist wanting to sell-for-profit a piece of fanart that is based upon their photos. I think Amy (sweetondean) summed it up best when she said, “I had to really think about how I perceive my photography and what it expresses to me personally. In the end… it made me personally assess how important my images are to me and what they mean to me.” Don’t misunderstand this… by all means, go forth and make art… but first, perhaps contact the photographer and find out how she (or he) feels about having her work used as fanart.
Who are your favorite photographers, who inspires you? To be fair, I only expected a name or two as an answer, but I love they took the time to explain why that person inspires them!
Amy: “Megan… you can almost hear her photos.”
Kelly: “Chris Schmelke… his photos are full of movement and always seem to convey an experience.”
Krista: “Chris Schmelke, Amy, Megan.” (she also listed me, but I’m no role model so whatever)
Megan: “Annie Leibovitz, Martin De Boer, Miller Mobley, Nino Munoz, Sarah Dunn, Brian Bowen Smith, Chris Schmelke. They all have very sophisticated, clean work that I aspire to so much.”
Stefania: “Anton Corbijin. His photos of U2 convey what their music stands for and fill me with so many emotions.”
Me: alllll of the ladies in this article, just sayin
Of course I asked them if they had a dream photo shoot. Amy, Krista, and Stefania want to shoot one of their favorite bands at a concert. Kelly wants to travel the world and capture its beauty. Stefania admits to wanting to spend a day on the set of Supernatural, although she admits she wouldn’t take many pictures because she would be too busy watching the camera operators at work. However, I found it very interesting that several of them said the same thing – to be free to roam at a convention, especially during the Saturday Night Special. The seats at conventions are so tightly packed together, and it would be nice to not elbow the people sitting next to them, to not have to bend and lean and twist as to avoid taking pictures of a fan’s head. It would be nice to be able to move freely in order to get shots from all points of the stage, whether it is a great shot of Billy Moran jamming on guitar, or catching a great shot of Jared and Jensen’s epic jump at the beginning of their panel, or oh dear lord finally finding the right angle to get that elusive shot of Mark Sheppard or Stephen Norton on drums. But alas, this is why this is why its called a dream shoot. And while we’re on the subject, yes, Megan’s dream shoot features a certain Chris Pine.
I also asked a question, which to be honest, I asked this to check myself. How many photos do you take during a convention? The answers ranged from 2,000 pics to 5,000 pics. How many photos do you delete? The general answer was about half, sometimes more than half. Whew. At least I’m on par with that.
To be clear, these ladies are more than just convention photographers. Although Amy (sweetondean) said she usually only shoots at conventions, she also said she loves to photograph her dog. Megan also enjoys wildlife photography, shooting at her local zoo; she said it is often the break she needs from portrait work. Krista enjoys taking pictures of her family and while she’s traveling. Amy also enjoys photographing her family, and she loves concert photography. Stefania enjoys landscape photography. And then there’s Kelly… yes, she enjoys landscape photography, and cityscapes, but she also loves astrophotography. I guess I know what I’ll be trying next, so thanks for that, Kelly.
One final note: Amy (amyshaped) was not available for comment for this article because she has been in the hospital, engaged in an epic battle with an infection that has taken her through six surgeries, pneumonia, and more-than-one’s-fair-share of anxiety. All comments and references to Amy in this article are my own. There was no way I was going to write this article without including her. Yes, she’s one of my dear friends, and yes, she’s one of my favs, but she’s also one of the best photographers out there. Get well, Amy, get well soon. #AKF #YANA #FAHYB
How could I write an article without asking if they have a favorite photo? Well, lemme tell ya, they all expressed great difficulty in choosing the handful I requested for this article, forget trying to choose a single favorite photo. Alas, in the end, they did choose a few favorites, and then I chose my favs from their favs, and well, I’ll just drop those here.
Want to learn more about these fabulous ladies? Want to see more of their fandamntastic photography? Check out the links below!
Alas, this ends my presentation of my fav photographers. I hope you have enjoyed learning about them as much as I have. I know I loved looking at their glorious photos! Many thanks to Lynn for allowing me to write this series and to shine the spotlight on some of the talented people in our fandom. Part Two of this series will be posted in July and will feature some of my favorite artists!