Sunday, September 12, 2010

Photography: Introduction to Zillions of My Pictures

Currently, the black sheep of my crafting family is my photography. It's gone from being in an exalted position where I put it almost number one (while always remaining entirely amateur) to being overlooked. There are a few reasons for this, but I think it boils down to two simple ones:
1. I got a new camera, and hadn't put in the work necessary to get comfortable using it.
2. My photography based cards on Etsy only sold to my friends.
The first should have been a spur - a new camera with nicer features, you'd think would prompt me to take lots of new pictures - but this upgrade has meant that I have a lot more control over my images, which is kind of intimidating, and just that I was so, so used to my old camera, that it's been hard to adapt. The second has definitely been a disappointment. It's the classic example, I guess, that just because I know I'm a decent photographer, and my friends think I'm good, doesn't mean that my stuff really stacks up to the competition - it's just so hard to stand out in this medium when everyone and their mother has a camera and many know how to use photoshop.

However, on my very first blog post over on the Hive, one of my fellow users indicated an interest in seeing my pictures, and that simple comment has really renewed my interest. This makes sense - it was never far from my heart, I never stopped loving it, I was just frustrated and discouraged. But yesterday, instead of working more on my crocheting, I took the camera and went to one of my favorite places in the world to take pictures: the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I took some pictures, started to feel much happier with my camera (this process actually started last month when I went to the Brooklyn Museum of Art for the first time), and when I got home and continuing today, I've spent a bunch of time starting to do a lot of necessary maintenance on my Flickr account, stuff I'd been remiss about. The first step was to finally switch the entire collection from a Creative Commons Share-and-Share-Alike license, which hasn't made much sense since I started trying to sell stuff and had some other problems to boot, to an All Rights Reserved license. Then, I uploaded all the pics that had accumulated on my computer over the summer. Finally, I got some basic organization done. And now, I'm ready to share my Flickr account in general, and a few of the pics from yesterday in particular. :) I've had the added spur of this of wanting to get this done before Wednesday, because that's when I leave for a 2+ week trip to Italy with my mother. It can be safely assumed I'll take a few thousand pictures while there, so I needed to get prepared for that.

I started my Flickr account (username Unforth) in May, 2007, when I had accumulated enough photographs to feel silly just keeping them on my hard drive doing nothing, and had a few that I wanted to share with my friends. However, it really started to take off when I re-discovered my love of art over the following summer, and I started to post a ton when I then spent August - December 2007 in Japan. Now, three and a half years later, there are 38,530 images in the account, of which I've carefully labeled and tagged just over 27,000 (deceptive numbers, as many of the unlabeled photographs will ultimately be deleted); my main page has over 120,000 hits, and overall the account has 1,492,393 hits (I'm getting close to that 1.5 million mark!). I'll take photographs of almost anything, and I love to go to museums, gardens, and zoos, but I'd say the majority of the images are of art. I LOVE art of all kinds, and whenever a museum lets me take photographs, you can assume that I'll take lots, whether it's fine art, paintings, drawings, sculptures, decorative art, folk art, you name it. I have particular weaknesses for Dutch 17th and 18th century painters, pencil, ink and chalk drawings, arms and armor from anytime and anywhere, ridiculous Rococo furniture, 20th century American glassware and pottery, Baroque sculpture...actually, I can't list all my weaknesses, the list is too long. :)

I originally started taking pictures of art when I accepted that I would never be able to own a collection of Rembrandt originals. Photographing of art is a way for me to build my own museum, with items from the greatest collections in the world, and put them all in one place. This collection is for me. However, what's the point of uploading them if no one can use them? And that's why I'm so careful to label them thoroughly - every photograph I take of a piece of art, I also photograph the museum label, and accurately label the photographs so that people can find them and enjoy them as much as I do. Happily, I've now also accepted that I could collect art even if couldn't afford the finest of fine art, and I now have a modest collection of fantasy art originals that I love and have framed all over the walls of my tiny apartment.

Yesterday, I took a set at the Met, and because I knew I'd be sharing it here, I've already gotten in labeled (I'm usually lucky if I get sets labeled within a few months...). Some of the images that I'd say turned out best include:

St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness (Claude Mellan, French, 1629):

Standing Figure (Japanese, late 17th century):

Krishna Battling the Horse Demon, Keshi (Indian, 5th century):

Detail on an Incense Burner (Chinese, Ming dynasty, dated 1512):

Detail of a Tapestry depicting the Liberation of Oriane (from a set called "Amadis of Gaul," Dutch, 1590 - 95)

I would say that almost all of the best photos I've taken are of artwork. Unfortunately, there are all kinds of messy copyrights involved in museum photography, and so I can't market prints of any of these images until I work up the nerve to approach the museum staff and ask what would be involved in getting the necessary permissions.

I'm sure I'll end up talking more about photography, art, my art collection, selling the art, how and why art inspires me, and all manner of related topics, but for now, I think this post is long enough. :) Now, to get away from this computer and finish the baseball hat while I watch the Giants beat the Panthers... :)

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