Art of Observation, Week One

For a couple of months now, I've been in the worst rut with my photography. No creative spark, no energy--mostly because of sheer exhaustion. It's been a rough couple of years, with constant hits and no real support network out here in the Pacific. So, I decided that after the craziness of this year's Forget the Frock Easter campaign (that's the non-profit which I serve as Creative Arts Director), I would take a photography workshop online and focus on picking up the camera again. I chose the Art of Observation, a course via Clickin Moms, which is a photography forum for women. This isn't my first course with this site--in fact, I can credit the courses on Clickin Moms with giving me a solid foundation of knowledge in shooting my camera in manual and learning how to create art rather than pure snapshots. This particular course is all about finding inspiration in the world around you, whether it be from music, art, cinema, etc., and channeling that into strong photographs.

Our first week's assignments were all about observing and studying the paintings of the great masters and using them to inspire a creative photograph. I studied The Grocery Shop by Gerrit Dou.

After spending a long while contemplating this painting, I was very drawn to the woman on the right side of the frame in the background. Her piercing eyes, the ambiguous look--the silent observer intrigued me. I also could "hear" the sound of the items falling into the metal scale, and the framing of the painting with light and shadow and elements of clutter caught my eye.  I created this image as a warm-up, inspired by the sound of the items in the painting clinking in the dish of the metal scale:


After stewing a bit, I came up with this image, which explored the theme of the silent, watchful observer:


And finally, I created this image for my weekly assignment.


After mulling over it a bit, what I ended up doing here was flipping the perspective. In my painting, there is a woman in the background observing the foreground subjects, and almost making eye contact with the viewer. Her gaze calls the viewers eye to the transaction between the two women, and her expression is ambiguous, forcing the eye to examine the painting and try to discern the story from the visible elements. But here, I decided to use the same technique of light to draw the eye through the frame and frame my subject, but I decided to face my subject away from the viewer.  The viewer doesn't know what I (the subject) am looking at--there is a similar sense of ambiguity, but here, the viewer has greater sense of ownership in telling the story as the subject is anonymous.

I was very pleased with how the image turned out and am looking forward to the remaining weeks of the course.  It feels wonderful to be exercising my 'creative muscle' again after so long.