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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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.

The New High School Senior Portrait

We had the pleasure of photographing 17 year old Sydney, both on location and in our studio. With make up by BettyLynn, and custom jewlery by Calli, Sydney was on her way to a true fashion shoot, capturing both her inner artist and her playful personalities. Be on the look out for this up and coming artist!

To view the full albums click here – Sydney On Location or Sydney in the Studio

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