Welcome to our latest Artist to Artist post! In these posts you will hear firsthand hints and tips on a range of topics from our professional member artists.
Today we will be hearing from Larissa Blokhuis on the importance of photography. Larissa is inspired by the evolutionary history of plants, and the repetition of life cycles. Her current focus on using glass and mixed media, incorporating ceramic, steel, wool, polymer, and wood as needed has allowed her to develop a distinctive style. She also has an upcoming exhibition at the CCBC Gallery!
Why is quality photography of your work important?
Quality photography is important because it is often the first impression people will have of my work. My long-term goals include pursuing international opportunities, but even locally I can’t depend on only making my impression in person. Great lovers of art who attend exhibitions regularly may still have to make their decisions about what to prioritise based on the image on the invite.
Great photography can be the difference between looking like a professional, or looking like a hobbyist. Presentation is key, and high-quality presentation of your work says that you take your career as an artist seriously.
What have you gained as a result of having great photography? Is it worth the time and effort?
Sending quality images with applications for opportunity means that a curator is unlikely to be confused about what my work will look like in person. It means that a review panel can select my work for exhibition with confidence. When a gallery wants to promote my work, they know that my images will add to the quality of their promotional material. Review panels often have a set amount of time for each application, and you don’t want to be passed over because your images are unclear. I feel that my success with exhibitions starts with the images I include in my applications.
Why do you take your own photographs?
Well, it started because hiring a photographer can be expensive. You get what you pay for, and a professional photographer definitely would have taken better pictures than I took when I was starting out. That being said, you can’t always wait to be able to afford a photographer or business cards or a web designer, sometimes you just have to start with what you have.
As often happens while developing a skill set, I look back on some older images and artworks and I’m really glad that I’ve improved. Now, I feel that I do have the skills I need to document my work the way I want it to be presented, so there’s no reason to stop.
What are the benefits of taking your own photographs?
It’s nice to be fully in control of the images that represent what I do. I can work with my own schedule, I can decide if the number of artworks I need to photograph is worth the time it takes to set up my space for photos. I can take photos for a tight deadline. I know what I want to show in my images when I’m done.
What are the challenges of taking your own photographs?
A good camera is not the only tool you need! I feel much more confident now that I’ve been documenting my work for a few years. Lighting is always the biggest issue, and I think the sheer volume of lighting options for professional photographers indicates that it’s a major consideration for anyone wanting to take quality images. If the colour is off or the light is not right, image cleanup becomes a more intensive process.
Set up always takes a bit of time, so when I have my set the way I want it, I have to make sure I get enough variety in my images that I won’t need to do a second shoot. Without a second set of eyes making decisions about how to capture my work, I have to be very thorough in the angles I get. Sometimes I select my top pick for an artwork image, but a week later I think another angle would have been better, and I want to be able to find that angle in the set of images I have. Getting variety can include awkwardly kneeling or crouching or laying on the floor for longer than is comfortable, but I think the longevity of the image is worth it.
Any thoughts or advice you’d like to offer someone who is just starting out with photographing their own work?
Keep at it and you will get better. Analyse your images every time, and think about how well the image represents your work. Keep in mind that many people will see your image without a live reference. Seeing in the specific way that a photographer must see is a skill. I see immediately if I’ve overlooked something while setting up.
As your work evolves, review your old images. Sometimes it’s worth it to update images of older work as you improve your skills, whether for practice, or because the new images will help incorporate your older work with your newer work.
Even if your work is gritty or ephemeral or not intended for a clean gallery setting, your best bet is to make sure your images are crisp, well-lit, and show off your work well. Save your creative expression for your work, and then capture that with professional documentation.