Epiphany in Mexican Muralism

As many of you know, last year I, Carrie-Anne, decided to go back to school for my Masters in Fine Arts degree. This has always been a personal goal of mine and with a little positive energy, prayer, and much help from the Veterans Administration–it came knocking at my door. In the Spring of 2014, I began attending Long Island University for my MFA in studio art with a concentration in photography. It has been an absolutely amazing ride!

My goal for going back to school, was not only to work with and be around other photographers, but to also work with and be around other artists with similar passions; it was to learn things that I had never explored before – ceramics, painting, print making. To see photography in a different way, to learn about myself and the deliberate choices that I sometimes unconsciously make in my art work.

What I am working on now-

In the Spring of 2015, I took my last required Art History course. I had already taken History of Photography 1 and 2, and in my undergrad I had taken art history in the Rococo, Renaissance and Medieval periods. So when I saw Mexican Muralism, taught by Niria E. Leyva-Gutiérrez Ph.D as an option for my graduate studies, I immediately took it. It is now, and will probably always be, the hardest Art history course I have taken to date. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but I not only had to learn the art that was coming out of Mexico, I had to learn the history of Mexico. I mean of course I did! How can you study Mexican Muralism and not know the history of Mexico? I mean art imitates life does it not?

I will say, we were so incredibly blessed with an amazing Professor who was so passionate about the subject. In class, we studied “Los Tres Grandes,” The three BIG ones – Diego, Siqueros, and Orozco. Of course, with Diego, we studied the amazing Frida Coelho. I struggled a bit. I felt like I was studying and reading all of the time. By the second week of class, more than 5 people had dropped out.

I am really glad I stuck it out. It inspired me and led me to one of my current, in progress, bodies of work.

First, let me explain the circumstances of the night that it came about:

Many of you who know me, know that I tend to be a bit OCD. When I enter a room, I like to stand in a certain place, be in a certain area, and in a class, I like to sit on a certain side and in a certain place as well. I generally like an area where I can see the whole room and where it is not too terribly congested. On one particular day, I had come to class about 10 minutes late. When I entered the room, not only was my seat taken, but every seat in that general area of the classroom had been taken! Annoyed and a bit disheveled, I reluctantly found a chair on the other side of the classroom, behind two girls who always chatted throughout the entire class, both of which mostly surfed the internet looking for clothes and such.

Annoyed, I sat down and kept my hat on, pulled down to just above my eyes. This is how I block people out. Niria was handing back out midterm exams, 3 essay questions. I got an A-. It was then that even she noticed me in my discomfort on the “wrong side” of the room. We chuckled and she began her lesson.

David Alfaro Siqueiros_Proletarian Victim_1933

David Alfaro Siqueiros_Proletarian Victim_1933

On this day we would be discussing David Alfaro Siqueiros. As she began her lecture and going through his work, I found myself sketching. At first, just a few notes, but then I began to feverishly sketch out proposed studio lighting, model ideas, and names and dates of certain Siqueiros pieces. I became so incredibly inspired by her talk, by this class, and by the work of Siqueiros. I thought to myself: these would really look great in studio. As many of you know, once upon a time I was a pretty accomplished designer. I think that it was because of that era of my life that I now choose to use as minimal Photoshop as possible in my photography.

I believe that there is a certain level of knowledge and skill attained when one can come to a place where they strive to first get it “right” in camera. So when I am in post-process of my images (in the “editing phase”) I will, most of the time, only do in Lightroom, what I would be able to do in a traditional darkroom. Usually, there is no photoshop involved. And these next 4 or 5 pieces would involve tricky lighting and body makeup.

Every artist should have a network of really good friends, with different talents, who love to work on something creative… just for the sake of doing it. Art for Arts sake. I am blessed with a nice network of other creatives, makeup artists, other photographers, models, etc. My makeup artist was the first call. Now I do work with quite a few makeup artists, one or two for my portrait sessions… but I knew this project would require a certain level of special effects make up. I immediately called my very good friend, Grace Vasquez. And like Thomas Hart Benton said when commissioned to create his amazing mural “America Today,” I told Grace that while I could not pay her, I would be able to “finance the eggs.” Anything she needed, airbrush, make up, anything at all, would be provided…. Oh and of course, I would feed her! With that, our deal was made and we set out to create our first piece together, a recreation of Proletarian Victim, 1933, by David Alfaro S David Alfaro Siqueiros, iqueiros. We found a model willing to hold the grueling pose in the nude and we set out to the studio.

Below is the first draft, my notes for fixing some issues, and the final UNEDITED piece. 🙂

Carrie Anne Gonzalez, Proletarian Victim First Draft, 201

Carrie Anne Gonzalez Proletarian Victim Shoot – Notes

Carrie Anne Gonzalez, Proletarian Victim (after David Alfaro Siqueiros, Proletarian Victim, 1933), 2015

Carrie Anne Gonzalez, Proletarian Victim (after David Alfaro Siqueiros, Proletarian Victim, 1933), 2015

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Amanda and Jerry

Second shooter, Joseph, and I really enjoy shooting our weddings together. We love being apart of our couple’s big day, and getting to know both them and their families. Amanda and Jerry were no exception. During the months and weeks leading up tp the big day, we really got a chance to bond with them, be it over beers or coffee, many laughs were had. Amanda and Jerry were just as excited to have us photograph their wedding, as we were to shoot it. Guys, it was truly an honor and a blessing. I hope you love your images, and we can’t wait to see you again! Congratulations!

You can view some highlights from their wedding here.

Lets talk about “Available Light Photographers”

We’ve come across many individuals who claim to be “available light photographers,” and we always advise our clients to be on the guard when they hear that. While this may be a bit controversial, I firmly believe there is no such thing.

If we break down the root meaning, photo literally means light. A “photograph” means to make a picture with light, or to paint with light. Therefore, a photographer literally must be the master of light and/or light painting.

If your photographer claims to only use natural light, you should immediately become cautionary. Since a photographer must be the master of light—all light, in all situations—a photographer must know how to manipulate light.

I love natural photography as much as the next—natural light is beautiful and often flattering—but the truth is, you will not have natural light in every situation. As any great photographer will tell you, 75% of photography is trouble-shooting.

Case and point:

We recently had a wedding shoot—we love weddings and were, as always, super excited to get to the venue and scope it out well before start-time. A point of pride for our team is being able to “find the light—“ we love taking amazing portraits and dynamic scenes with natural light shining through windows, skylights, stained glass, etc. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the venue, we were faced with a conundrum—NO WINDOWS—not a single one.

Literally, there were no windows in the entire venue, not even a single skylight in the bridal suite. To make matters worse, there were mirrors—wall to wall, ceiling to floor—everywhere.

We decided that we would shoot our portraits and our bride and groom outside. It was an overcast day in the beautiful Astoria, Queens area of New York and we were sure to get some cool shots with brick walls, or on the water with amazing views of the Triborough (RFK) Bridge in Astoria Park. When we came back upstairs to go outside, there was a downpour. Not your drizzle kind of rain, not the “we can just grab some umbrellas and it’ll still make a cute shot” kind of rain. Nope. Full on monsoon. Our bride made it VERY clear that she was not going out in that – who could blame her

We would have to make our own light.

With 2 cameras, 4 lenses, 4 flashes, and 5 soft boxes for our flashes, we got our game faces on. From bouncing the light off of the mirrored walls and ceilings, to strategically hiding behind our subjects in the mirrors, we were able to really capture some amazing shots. At the end of this work day, we both agreed that this was by far, the MOST challenging shoot EVER.

In the end, photographers must know LIGHT. Period. Available light, natural light, artificial light…. we MUST know it all and know how to work with it, how to manipulate it.

So stay cautionary when you hear “natural light photographer,” because without the knowledge of how to use light, it’s just another person with a really nice camera.

Why I Hate Summer Sunsets

I’m a full time marketer, a full time writer, and Carrie would call me a most-of-the-time critic. I love things that are beautiful, but I really hate cliché, which leads me to this article…sunsets during summer.

Well…I love sunsets and warm weather, especially with a drink on the beach at dusk surrounded by friends and camera in hand. But it’s so cliché! It falls into the category of “everyone is a photographer” because they added a sepia filter to their sunset picture and posted it on Instagram. So to all instagramers—think of something more original! Yes, it’s beautiful, but seriously, google “summer sunset,” is your work really better?

Okay, so you’re capturing your moment. What differentiates that sunset from others? What makes that day stand out? I bet a year from now, you’ll know where you were but not who you were with, what made that day rock or insufferable, and you can’t even remember the date.

To that end, remember that truly great photography doesn’t rest within HDR and editing, it derives from the photographer. Some tips and tricks to help differentiate your landscape shots:

  1. Solid ND filters and polarizing filters still have their place in landscape shots.
  2. Solid neutral density filters reduce the amount of light entering the lens, which extends shutter speeds for long-exposure shots.
  3. Polarizer filters remove reflections from the surface of water and shiny leaves.
  4. Polarizer filters also help boost the contrast between blue skies and white cloud

– T.

For the Love of Art

Earlier this month, I (Carrie) started pursuing my Master’s in photography.  For the past several months I’ve been gathering portfolio pieces, putting together essays, requesting transcripts and letters of recommendations…. all while maintaining and running a business packed with assignments and shoots. It truly has been challenging, yet amazing year. So after months of preparing and finally submitting my work, I have been accepted into an MFA program, with a concentration on Photography.

Most people think its super cool to be perusing an MFA, but I have gotten those that have asked me why? Why go back for your Masters? An artist doesn’t really need a masters degree, why not just work in your field and keep getting “experience.” To that I say this –

What will differentiate us from the next guy, gal, fresh young college student? What will differentiate us from the guy up the road who just bought a $3,000 camera and is super excited to be a “photographer?” Or the girl who takes “good pictures?” Or the family member who will be shooting your daughters wedding because “they have a good camera?”

What will differentiate us from those “self proclaimed” photographers other than our outstanding work and attention to detail? Other than my photographic military training? Other than…. well the list goes one…. but one thing we will be able to say – “Carrie has received her MFA in Photography.” And THAT… says something.

This isn’t a hobby for me, this isn’t something I thought would be cool or easy to do. This isn’t buying expensive cameras and calling ourselves photographers.

This is love of Art, and that is what you will always get from Carrie Weston Studios. This degree, will only make it that much better.

Five Great Gift Ideas (For Any Season)

Finding the perfect gift can make the holidays a stressful time of year. Whether you’re trying to buy for the person who has it all, or you’re on a tight budget….coming up with the perfect gift for someone can be daunting.

Over the years, I’ve done it all, from sewing pillows to making scrapbooks…Carrie has given away her artwork and we’ve both made some pretty amazing dollar store gift baskets. Over the years however, we’ve decided that the almighty photograph somehow makes its way to the top 5 gift item list.

So, if you’re on a budget and in need of some creative (and perhaps last minute) gift ideas, here are our top 5 favorites:

1457549_735574039790324_2090134288_nThe canvas print. It’s big, it’s beautiful, it’s art. We have found that this is not only great for when you’re on a tight budget, but great for when you just don’t have the time to get crafting.

The portrait session.  Portrait sessions can be as inexpensive or over the top as you want them to be. They can include makeup, hair styling, one or a dozen outfit changes, be in the studio or at any location. If you cant decide or if you have a picky friend, just getting them the most basic package is an incentive to start. Helping your friend or loved one feel beautiful and glamorous is a great gift, not to mention it’s fun! Book a double session and do a photoshoot together, turn your gift into a fun day out—the experience and your time spent with them is always the greatest gift of all.
The infamous family photo. Perhaps the last time you received a picture from Aunt Sue 644345_730897133591348_1066737187_nwas from 1998. Whether the kids or adorable or fully grown, get the family together by buying them a family portrait package. Not only will it be a great day out for the entire family, but they’ll be able to update the artwork on their walls and be able to turn the gift received into gifts for others! It’s a win-win for you and the entire family.
Photo memorabilia. This is always a winner…if you’re looking for something unique and completely personalized, photo memorabilia is the way to go. Prior to starting our own studio, I lived for the CVS photo lab, I’ve made calendars, puzzles, etc. What’s better about going to a studio is knowing that you’re going to receive high-resolution images and not run the risk of you not being able to tell if it’s Aunt Barbara or Uncle Mike for the July family photo. In addition, you can get really creative…make a story book, make a bookmark, make a newspaper wanted sign, make a video, make a huge poster, or put your face on a magnet. Regardless, the possibilities are endless and the best part is, you can send the file, send the idea, and let the magic happen, on your budget, and without slaving for hours trying to crop the image into a template.
Couples therapy. Perhaps they’ve been married for 50 years, perhaps they just got engaged, or you know he or she is going to pop the question this New Years…regardless, a couples session can be intimate, reinvigorating and fun. You can get them an engagement session, a portrait session, a canvas print, or an anniversary photo book. My friends recently got engaged and I had photographs from the early 90s when we were kids. I restored them and digitized them, creating a beautiful and long-lasting album for them to have and show their children…yes it was inexpensive and yes…it brought tears to my soon to be bride’s eyes.

Overall, these gifts are great for: the new mom, the mom to be, the family, your best friend who just lost a ton of weight, your friend who wants to feel sexy, YOURSELF, your girlfriend (no girl complains about her hair and makeup getting done and being the center of a photoshoot), your boyfriend (make it fun and sexy!), your husband, your wife, your anniversary, the newly wed, the sweet sixteen package, the pretty princess package for a five year old…the list goes on.

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If you’re out of ideas, get creative…I just made my brother a calendar filled with hilarious photographs. He’s 23. He’s in the Navy, and he’s going to love it, laugh at it, hang it on his wall, and keep it forever.yfriend (make it fun and sexy!), your husband, your wife, your anniversary, the newly wed, the sweet sixteen package, the pretty princess package for a five year old…the list goes on.

The moral of the story? Photography prints and/or sessions make the ideal gift and can conform to anyone’s schedule and anyone’s budget. Just ask us about it!

Top 10 Questions to Ask Before your Engagement Session

Many of our clients know that they “should” have an engagement session, but don’t really know what to expect or what to look for. We always recommend starting with a creative brainstorm—and a great place to start is Pinterest. Look at various boards for inspiration and ideas, and don’t be afraid to ask your friends that have gotten married about their experience.

Ultimately, the key to a successful engagement shoot is to be yourself—be comfortable, have fun and don’t be afraid to show your love on camera! Below are the top ten questions our clients ask prior to an engagement shoot:

1.      Where should we take our pictures? Choose one or a few locations that are meaningful to you. We recently had a couple select the high school where they first met, and the movie theater where they had their first date.  This always effects the session in a positive way, not only were they excited to be reliving these meaningful moments, but their energy and passion was caught on camera.

2.      What should we wear? First of all, bring multiple outfits. Depending on the lighting and the creative mood you’re in, you may want to change halfway through the shoot or when you arrive at a different location. Dress to your personality, be fun and creative! If you’re sporty, wear your favorite team shirt, if you have a favorite blouse that just cant stay on the hangar, wear it! Remember to try and color-coordinate, keeping it in the same color family. Some additional tips are:

·         For the ladies:   Wear bright colors for one of your looks, the bright colors will enhance the photo and landscape. Changing into a darker or more neutral color will help bring the focus and attention to your faces.

·          For the gents:  Bring a few different shirts to change into to match your partner. A button down shirt will help to frame your face rather than a t-shirt, and also provides more flexibility with your look (sleeves, buttoned up, tucked in, etc.)

3.      What shouldn’t we wear? Well…most of our clients don’t ask us this…but we sometimes wish we would! Do not wear baggy or loose shirts or pants. The baggy and loose clothing will make you look wider in photos and hide your figure. Do not over tan or start tanning the week of your engagement session—you will look orange in the photos. And finally, do not wear stripes and plaid patterns, they never look good in the final shots.

4.      How long is an engagement session? Depending on travel time to your various locations, an engagement session is typically anywhere between 1-3 hours.

 5.       What is the best time of day to shoot? We will typically schedule an engagement session in the early morning or about 2-3 hours before sunset. The lighting truly makes all the difference in the quality of the photographs, so it’s imperative to BE ON TIME.

6.       Should we use a theme? While you do not have to select a specific “theme,” themes can be fun. We’ve had couples set up scenarios for their engagement sessions that fit their hobbies and interests and were really excited about the unique outcome. Some ideas are: camping, baking, picnic, sailing, staying at home, ice skating, etc.

 7.      Should we bring accessories or props? Absolutely! Your favorite hats, ties, sunglasses or scarf can really help to compliment/accent your outfit. Don’t be afraid to bring “out of the ordinary” props with you also—we’ve used old furniture, instruments, pets, toys, balloons and even masks and not only was it fun to shoot, but the couples had a great time and laughed the most, using the props they brought. Finally, as seen on most of our social media, we’re big fans of chalkboards or poster-boards that we can Photoshop text onto…which is always a good idea for your thank you or save the date cards!

 8.      When will we see our photos? Always ask your photographer how long it will take to see the photos. If you saved your shoot for the last minute and need the images for the save the date, make sure you tell your photographer. Depending on the time of year and how booked they are, it typically takes 2-4 weeks for the final photos to be posted to the gallery. We typically get excited and will post our top 10 within a week to our blog or Instagram so that you can share with your family and friends!

 9.       Should we get our hair/make-up done? The engagement session is a great opportunity to test out your makeup/hair styling by using this as a trial. We typically recommend that the ladies get their makeup done and a manicure—regardless of anything, we will be photographing your ring and the last thing you want is chipped nail polish. For the gents, we recommend getting a haircut prior to the shoot and also making sure their nails are manicured.

10.  How do we make the most of our session? Rely on your photographer’s creative input and don’t be afraid to take risks. This may involve some out of the ordinary concepts—but if you want those unique photos that no one else has, trust in your artist. While the photographer is trying to capture the essence of your relationship, remember to act natural, don’t be afraid to play up your relationship by kissing and embracing for the camera.

 Engagement sessions are a great way to create long-lasting memories to share with your friends, family and future generations.  Do some research before deciding on location and don’t be afraid to ask to meet or Skype with your photographer to come up with some creative ideas! We always enjoy sending our favorite photos from Pinterest and magazines to help spark the creative juices!

Please visit our facebook to view our engagement photos or our website for more information! http://www.carriewestonstudios.com

Studio Walkway

Working on the walkway for the studio entrance. Next project – opening the door with the help of JEG Construction!

New Studio Walkway

New Studio Walkway

Cat – Senior Portraits

Cat was back for the summer from her first year at college. Wanting to document this moment in her life, she called up Carrie Weston Studios to book a shoot, to include make up by Art by Betty Lynn. Here are some shots from that day.

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To view the rest of the album please visit our facebook page, and remember to “like” 🙂