Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I went to a four-hour mini-workshop on portrait photography tonight, and it was really enjoyable. Bambi Cantrell, 2003 photographer of the year for the United Nations and winner of a lifetime achievement award from the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International, taught the class. She's a great speaker, and had lots of interesting little tips on how to deal with lighting, posing, and communication in portrait photography—a lot of tricks on how to make large and elderly people look more flattering, for example. Toward the end, she grabbed her cameras and set up a makeshift studio, and showed us all how she'd photograph a model on the job. The quality of the photos she put out so effortlessly was breathtaking—we saw the pictures on the big screen a few minutes later, and each one was like a "best of" that a normal person would put in their portfolio. She quickly turned the most boring, poorly-lit corners of a drab building into beautiful backdrops.

It's just amazing and humbling to see someone who's so, so much better than you will ever be working and explaining what they're doing as if it were the most simple, obvious thing in the world.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like it was a very interesting workshop. Do you know how long she has been doing this? And how do you know that you will never be able to produce works on her level? Never say never!

Of course, with a mindset like that - you will never achieve that level, because you have already defeated yourself before you have even tried. I'm not putting you down Travis, since I say the same things at times. I think you have some real talent when it comes to photography and taking pictures of people.

Getting off my soap box now.

Travis said...

She's been doing it for 25 years.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I'm not being too annoying am I?

Travis said...

Not annoying. You speak your mind; I speak mine.

I think it's unrealistic to assume that I will ever achieve the level of photographic skill of a person who has made it their LIFE for a quarter century, and won awards, in an area in which I have a light hobby. (Hmm, pun not intended.) I've never understood the mindset that to do well at something you have to pretend that you're going to someday be the greatest at it. That's ridiculous, not inspiring. High expectations are depressing.

Anonymous said...

I guess in my mind there is a difference between setting unrealistic expectations and high expectations. You are right - you are talking about a woman who has made this her life. She has dedicated herself to being a great photographer - which is different than something you do as a hobby. However, I know people who just do photography as a hobby and have reached an amazing level even though it isn't what they spend their lives doing. Plus, I really do think you have some real talent. I've seen some of your pictures and what I have seen has really impressed me. I know I am not an art critic or anything major like that - but I don't say those kind of things lightly to people. After spending roughly a quarter of my life taking private art lessions, I have seen people with absolutely no talent. What they create (whether it be a drawing, a painting, or a photo) shows no je ne sais quoi. I can't put it into words, but seriously, there is a certain feeling you get from people which have a spark of talent.

Plus, I do believe people can create self-fulling prophecies by telling themselves they can't achieve something. But again, it all depends on your own exectations.