Kevin Ames – Perfectly Imperfect

Kevin Ames found that perfect wasn’t and imperfect was, while he was a special guest during a special session of my Fine Digital Print workshops this week. After years of doing top notch commercial photography, to get the most expressive results from a developing body of work, he first had to follow the lead of a very happy accident. Replicating the look and feel of a color crossed, soft focus, grainy original from pristine originals challenged him to be clear about every move he made. Ultimately, he found that rather than going back to lesser tools to distress his images he had much more flexibility and freedom when simulating the look using high quality originals. The results became perfectly imperfect. In the end, given the subject matter and his treatment of it, a perfectly lit, perfectly processed original was just too perfect – and far less emotive. It wasn’t easy to go in the opposite direction years of good habits had taken him. He had to give himself permission to do so – and was encouraged unanimously by the other participants to pursue his unconventional results. Even then, it took repeating the results with several images to get the final confirmation he needed. The results were undeniably strong.
Here’s what Kevin shared about his experience. “Breaking rules is part of being artistic. This odalisk was made during the very early days of digital portraiture with a three chip camera the when given enough light was really quite good. I broke the flash sync socket at the beginning of the shoot forcing me to use the
modeling lights in the soft box as the sole and dim source of illumination. That camera shot at ISO 40 and the exposures were quite long adding a lot of noise to the image.  During portfolio reviews at
John Paul’s Digital Print II workshop last spring it was the pick of my work by the group. I added it to my print portfolio for last week’s workshop and again it was the unanimous favorite of my submissions.
Understand that at the beginning of the workshop it was not the direction that I thought I wanted to follow. The breakthrough came when it was printed out to a large scale–forty by forty inches. Up
close it looks impressionistic. From ten feet it becomes painterly. Using the odalisque as a touchstone I am adding grain, noise and color washes to current high resolution work that is very sharp and well
lit. Printed larger than life the figures take on a whole new aspect. I can control the size of the grain in the subsequent photographs as part of the visual vocabulary. When the body of work is finished this
touchstone image will be the one that doesn’t truly fit. Breaking the rule of “noise free is better” has led me to seeing my work in a whole new way–all due to collaborating with the participants of the
workshop and of course John Paul’s guidance.”
Tell him what you think! Comment here!
Check out Kevin’s website here.
Check out my Fine Digital Print workshops here.

Justin Hartford – Distinctive Printing Style

Justin Hartford perfected his black and white palette during a special session of my Fine Digital Print workshops this week. He’s printing his high contrast landscapes right to the ragged edge. Deep blacks with very faint traces of detail and very bright highlights with only traces of detail. He’s using those in localized planes not in the same object. This makes extreme dynamic range a visual code for space (recession/progression). This distinctive palette combined with a larger than classic scale gives his work a very contemporary look to a classic subject (the American southwest).
Tell him what you think! Comment here!
Check out my Fine Digital Print workshops here.

Charlotte Rush Bailey – Appropriate Scale

Charlotte Rush Bailey printed her African portraits at a variety of scales in a special session of my Fine Digital Print workshops this week. It took physically experiencing them with her own body to find out how they were working. She held them up to her face. When the portraits are larger than life they take on a more graphic quality evoking mass media presentations. When they’re life size the representational quality of them is heightened. When they’re small the intimate quality of them is emphasized. Scale had a big impact on her subject. Only certain subjects function this way. Making life-size or larger than life-sized representations of vistas (landscape, cityscape, seascape) is often impractical if not impossible.
To a limited degree you can preview scale by projecting an image before printing. But nothing is a substitute for actually experiencing the final print. In addition to evaluating technical aspects of a print, it’s important to identify associative qualities as well. They can make a big difference.
Tell her what you think! Comment here!
Check out my Fine Digital Print workshops here.

Don Ross – Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Don Ross knows that little things can make a big difference.  He brought many beautiful prints to a special session of my Fine Digital Print workshops this week. He was looking for “that extra something”. We identified one of the strongest images/prints that would give us a lot of information relevant to the rest of his body of work. Further resolving this one image would unlock the keys to how most of the other images need to be handled. How much saturation? How much contrast? How much sharpening? What kind of sharpening? Applied selectively? What paper? How big? He spent the better part of two days fine-tuning the image. At the end of it, he turned a good print into a great print. It was time well spent. “It’s a strange thing. When it comes to making really good work. It’s almost as if, little things make all the difference.”
Now that he knows how to resolve this one image, he knows how to resolve similar images. I’ll bet the next great print comes in a matter of hours. It was time really well spent.
Tell him what you think! Comment here!
Check out my Fine Digital Print workshops here.

Harry Sandler – The Fine Digital Print Expert Workshop Finding Your Voice

(The above images are after and before.)
This is just one of the many reasons to teach. You make a real difference for some really great people. Harry Sandler had a breakthrough last week. He connected emotionally and intellectually to the work he was doing with a level of clarity he hadn’t achieved before. It’s given him a better sense of himself, the reasons he does the work he does, and how to approach both his old and new work. Mastering any tool (especially Photoshop) means more than knowing how to use it; it means knowing how to apply it to achieve specific results. To achieve those, you first have to know what you want to achieve – and why.
Here’s the letter Harry sent me after he left the workshop.
“John Paul,
First of all many thanks for a wonderful experience at your Fine Digital Print Expert workshop – it far outweighed my expectations. I am most appreciative of how technical information was balanced with the idea of discovering one’s artistic voice.
Having dabbled in imagery for most of my life without ever fully realizing what moved and in turn motivated me I enjoyed being pushed a bit toward finding a technical solution to being able to express myself physically, a breakthrough, albeit just a start, that happened on the third day of the workshop.
When asked to stretch the limits of one image (an image that we felt to be a cornerstone for a body of work) by taking it in various directions I had an epiphany of expression within myself. In particular it would appear that I connected this photo (and the way it was printed) with some inner turmoil from my childhood that opened during this exercise, and, that sense of discovery continued after working on another file from the same body of work. The instant feedback from the print resonated deeply and appears to be the catalyst for moving farther down the road to more self-discovery.
A quote came to mind that evening while viewing the image: “Be still with yourself until the object of your attention affirms your presence” – Minor White
PS: On my drive back on Saturday I also noticed myself drifting off into the cloudy sky noticing small shifts of saturation and color so maybe there is hope for this old time black and white brain of mine.
Harry Sandler”

Download my PDF Portfolio Review here.

Download my PDF Aesthetics of Printing here.
Find out about my Fine Digital Print workshop series here.
Find out about The Fine Digital Print Expert workshop here.