Thursday, June 23, 2011

Vivian Maier

Many of you have probably already heard the story of Vivian Mair, the nanny who took thousands of photographs and never showed them to anyone. The body of work is as amazing as the story and I strongly suggest you visit the website: Be sure to check out the self portraits while you are there.

The reason I am writing about her today is I have been thinking about what it must have been like to be such a talented photographer and only do the work for herself. She didn't care if she impressed anyone, made any money, or won any contests. She was simply engaging in her passion. A pure dedication to her craft.

I know that even if I won the lottery today I would still continue to pursue photography. I really don't have a choice. My sanity and well being depend on it. I like to think I am making the images I want to make and not just for the market, but at this time in my life I do have financial goals that I need to consider. And to be perfectly honest, the need for some sort of validation is strong. I don't think I am alone in this, but just try to imagine for one minute, what it would feel like to create simply for yourself with no intention to ever share that work! ...........I feel so liberated and joyful when I think about that (even if it's only in that moment). Food for thought............

At the same time, I do believe art is meant to be shared. Art tells stories, teaches history, stirs emotions, forces questions, invokes curiosity and allows us to experience places and people in parts of the world most of us will never get to visit.

I am sure Vivian Maier had her reasons for keeping her images to herself and I am grateful for the gift she left behind, but I just can't stop thinking about "what if"??

I just know I am completely fascinated and inspired by this story and can't wait for the film and the book (which I just pre-ordered!) I also love how it is forcing me to look at my own motivations and stimulating my imagination. Good stuff!

Trailer: Finding Vivian Maier from John Maloof on Vimeo.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Visual Progress

This is really going to happen this time! I am making quite a bit of progress toward completing the "flower" book and wanted to share an image as well as show you the system I am using to stay on track.

©2011 Dianne Poinski

I like to be organized - especially when I have a big project to finish. When I committed to completing this book a few months ago, I knew I had to have a plan and a system.

The first thing I did was create an Excel spreadsheet with a list of images/flowers in one column. (This sounds very nerdy, but remember - I was going to school to become an accountant before I discovered photography).

The second column was for marking when I had a finished black and white print that was ready to color. A mark in the third column signified completion of the hand colored original.

I spent quite a bit of time working on the spreadsheet only to discover that I hated it! Hard copies were covered with notes and scribbles or simply disappeared. In the end, I became very overwhelmed whenever I saw that spreadsheet. I really had no idea how much progress I was making, so I tossed it out and started over.

The next idea utilized one of my favorite items - a bulletin board. I started making very small prints of the images I was considering for the book. Some of these were almost finished, while many were still in their raw, "out of the camera" condition. It didn't matter. If I thought there was a chance I would use it - it went on the board. When my original board became too small, I went and retrieved the only "Pro Panel" not in use at my studio and brought it in from the garage. It makes a perfect extra large bulletin board!

What a difference a visual makes! Now I can look at "my board" and know what I need to do next.

As I complete the original images, I find that laying them out so I can see them is very satisfying. (A great benefit of being an "empty nester"......extra rooms with doors you can close to hide just this sort of thing!)

I still have a lot to do, but I was amazed at how quickly I became organized and focused after switching to this system. Not only can I "see" progress and "see" what steps I need to take next, but I find that I am able to visualize the finished product now - and that is making all the difference in the world!

Stay a few weeks I should be able to announce an approximate completion date.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Grateful For the Light......

I know that one of the reasons making the decision to move from my former studio was so difficult, was because I wasn't quite ready to give up the amazing light I had in that space. I spent hours there using the natural light from the windows as my main light source for photographing flowers.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had the chance to photograph in my new studio and was very excited about the possibilities. That impromptu photo session came about when I was getting ready for my "Camera Basics" workshop. A "floral shoot" was one of the exercises I had planned for the students, and not knowing exactly how this was going to work, I thought I better try it myself.

As soon as I got out my camera and began shooting, I discovered that my worries about the light in the new studio were unfounded. The problem was, once I started, I had trouble stopping. I was having so much fun that when a friend called me during that time, I answered and asked her to tell me to stop so I could continue getting ready for my class. She refused - on the grounds that I was being creative and enjoying myself. Thank you Elizabeth!

Without planning it, having one of my ProPanels right by the window proved to be a perfect fit. In my old studio I had many tiny nail holes in the wall from putting up the backdrop - each time in a slightly different spot. This will no longer be a problem.......a little bit of sticky back Velcro is all I need now!

I eventually stopped shooting and finished preparing for the class. Knowing that it had all worked out and that I still had a good set up for creating floral images, put a smile on my face all weekend!

So here is "Approaching Spring" first piece photographed and hand colored completely in my new studio!

"Approaching Spring"  ©2011 Dianne Poinski 
PS: I want to thank my friend Linda for bringing these beautiful tulips to me as a "studio warming gift". The gift that kept on giving..............Thanks!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Choices and Definitions......

It's been a crazy couple of months. Ever since I gave notice on my old studio, it's been a deluge of activity requiring both physical and emotional reserves.

Making the decision to move was not easy, but once made, everything else was put on hold. After the mad rush to be ready for our first open studio on Second Saturday, I had a class to prepare for the following week. Small changes had to be made because of the new space, but I pulled it off and had a great weekend with the six students that attended.

No time to rest though......five days later I was on a plane to Baltimore to attend a family wedding and returned on Monday night to a couple of deadlines and appointments scheduled throughout the week. All things I had put off because of the move.

But this is life................I didn't know I was moving my studio when I planned the workshop or the trip back east. It just worked out that way. I am tired, but also energized by everything I have going on. In addition to the book project, I have a gallery show opening September 7th.

Energized yes - but also a little overwhelmed. This is where intention and planning come in. I am hoping that I will be able to get everything done in such a way that my husband won't be longing for the days I was away every weekend at art festivals.

I can plan and "intend" all I want,  but I also know how I operate. I get in trouble when I start comparing myself to others. I am astonished by everything other people seem to get done and think I have to accomplish just as much as they do. Frenzy develops, panic sets in and all bets are off.

But it doesn't have to be this way. This is where I get to stop and make conscious choices - who do I want to be and how do I want to work?

You have heard it a thousand have to define success for yourself. Right now my definition includes having the freedom to express myself authentically while living not necessarily a balanced life, but one that allows for some spontaneity, with time to enjoy my family and friends.

Does my definition of success include the financial rewards of getting my work out there? Of course it does. I would be lying if I said it didn't. It has been my experience however, that when I am in touch with why I have chosen to pursue this path, there seems to be a little less struggle and a tiny bit more flow.

So there you go..... see what happens when I have twelve hours to sit on a plane and think?

How do you define success?

©2011 Dianne Poinski
While in Baltimore, we took a quick side trip to DC. The magnolias were blooming and for some reason seemed to be closer to the ground than the ones on our trees here in Sacramento, making them much easier to photograph.