When The Word Artist is Used as an Insult

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The Careless Use of a Beautiful Word

 

Photo by Елена Можвило on Unsplash

As both an artist and a career business professional, I embrace both and switch back and forth in my brain, depending on the situation. One pays the bills, the other pays my soul.

I am currently on a business trip for a fairly important meeting and at these events it is customary to have a group photograph taken by a professional photographer.

To that end, yesterday we were told to gather in the lobby for this year’s group photo. We were told we were going outside where it was a bit cold, so the photographer was going to arrange us inside then we’d head outside for the shots in front of a lovely green space.

Immediately the carping began “Why are we going outside, it’s cold out there!?” The photographer’s answer, “Because it’s very pretty outside and will make for a much nicer photo.”

“Can’t we just do it in here?” The photographer’s answer “Yes, but we want a really good photo and the lobby isn’t very nice.”

Then the photographer began to evaluate the shot and arrange us by height, clothing color, and other aesthetics he wanted to see.

Herding about 20 bossy people is no small task, but this photographer is an old hand and firmly took command.

“You in the blue shirt, would you switch places with this person in the charcoal jacket?” and so we’d switch around, moving forward and back as he studied the pose.

More than once I heard a comment along the lines of “Artists, sheesh! Just take the picture!”

Or “Why all this fuss, let’s get on with it!”

Or “This is an awful lot of trouble for a picture, can’t we just use a cellphone and be done with it?”

With this, my hackles began to rise. You see, a business professional is what I do, an artist is what I am. To hear this kind of careless talk is not unexpected, but fully disheartening. I took it personally.

Maybe people don’t see photographers as “real artists” or maybe because the photographer is employed by our institution and not hired from outside he is subject to coworker’s careless talk, but I found the comments rather tactless.

What stings me the most is when the word “artist” is said in an unkind and sarcastic way. As if being an artist is somehow bad.

It is not the first time I’ve run across this in my work setting, only the most recent.

I have been at my creative work for a long time, and I’ve long since grown past any discomfort or sheepishness I have in calling myself an artist. In other words, I own it and I’m well beyond trying to defend it. It just is.

However, I somehow have not gotten past people going “pfft, sure” when I describe myself that way.

Photo by naeim jafari on Unsplash

I think there is a perception that an artist is a hippy-dippy, flowing skirt, wacky hair, free spirited, out of touch soul. And why not? But in my experience a working artist is also a nuts and bolts, down to earth, hardworking soul with enormous amounts of self-discipline, organization, and drive.

In this instance, I get that people don’t like having their photo taken, but if a photo is taken, people certainly want it to look nice. Good work takes work.

People love to consume art, but for some reason underestimate the work it takes to produce quality art. A few minutes in the Choosing Beggars sub-Reddit offers a few sobering examples.

I do sometimes feel like there are two of me walking around in a one-human unit, and that’s okay. My business side brings some discipline to my art and my artist side brings some creativity to my business work.

So while I grimaced a bit and noted the careless and arguably rude undertone in the use of the word artist, I chose to move past it (under the guise of “pick your battles”), moved where the photographer told me to stand without comment, and thanked him when we were done.

Because artists must support artists, always.

On Hideous Lizards and Good Brown Dogs

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It’s funny the things that stick with you. The seemingly forgettable details or moments that you look back on with fondness.

This past weekend, I returned home to New Mexico after a far too long two-year personal drought. Life, work, whatever, gets in the way (no excuse is good enough).

The occasion of my return was the high school graduation of my oldest goddaughter. At almost 19 she is no longer that curly-haired blonde toddler who captured our hearts. She is a smart, sassy, funny, talented and gorgeous woman and I’m a bit weepy right now just typing that. I’m so proud of her.

I have been working too many hours and it’s fair to say I dragged my ragged self onto a plane, glad to go home. Sometimes I feel like I wander a little too far away from New Mexico. I forget the foundation of my soul and going home never fails to readjust my mind, my very DNA. It gets me back to remembering who I am and what matters.

Plus I eat good when I’m there, and green chile itself will help anyone get right.

Each time I go home, I’m overwhelmed at all of the things that have changed since the last time I was there. El Paso is growing fast. The area around Las Cruces too. More cars, more buildings, more people. It’s crazy.

So then I start to seek the familiar. What hasn’t changed. What is there that I remember so I can have a touchstone. A “hey, there that particular thing is, just where I left it.”

The feedlots in Vado, for example. I was pleased to find them there, cows huddled under the water misters. The inevitable cow scent on the breeze.

The Organ Mountains. Craggy, uneven, and absolutely gorgeous. I see those mountains that once watched over my college education and smile, glad to say hello again.

So today at work when I was homesick, missing my best friend and the peace of her back patio, I started going through the photos on my phone to help me with the pain.

Did I find photographs of vast mountain landscapes? Did I see the faces of my loved ones? Did I have a whimsical photo of a cow?

No I did not.

All of those sorts of photos are on my actual camera. Weirdly, I took very few photos with my phone on this trip.

So I will share with you the two photos I did take. Memories I’m carrying in my pocket to remind me of home. This gives you an awful lot of insight into my muddled mind:

First, a photo of my goddog. I may have taken one or two photos of him in the past.



The gray hair around his eyes and in his muzzle makes my heart hurt, just a little

The second will take a little more explanation.

You see, to get back to Las Cruces, I have to fly into El Paso and while that’s not my town, over the years I’ve even grown a bit fond of that crazy place.

When I stumble off the airplane and into the terminal I find that nothing much has changed. Then my heart softens a little when I see the genuinely godawful carpet in ELP’s main terminal. Seriously, it’s so bad, it makes me sentimental.

Nothing says “welcome home” like lizard carpet. Apparently, I was so overcome I had to take a photo.



Not conducive to overcoming a hangover

And now I’m glad I did, I just found out today that the infamous ELP carpet is due to be replaced, like this month! Yipes.

That means next time, I won’t be greeted at the door by the funky lizards. And as my goddog isn’t getting any younger, one day I’ll roll up to my best friend’s house and won’t get to experience his side-angled lope and velvety soft ears.

That’s too much to consider. Right now, I will rest easy knowing that hideous lizard carpet and beautiful brown dog eyes remain just where I left them. I feel my connection to home, which makes sitting in this dull gray office just a tiny bit easier to take.





Both photos ©2018 Karen Fayeth, taken using the Camera+ app on an iPhone. Don’t steal ’em. Thanks!



From The Department Of Not Sly

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On Saturday the sun shone down so brightly on the Bay Area that it was too hard to stay inside. Roaming and marauding were the order of the day.

Yes, I know as a Californian I am supposed to feel Very Guilty about these sunny winter days we are having. I get it.

But instead of guilt, The Good Man and I went outside and basked in the sun. We decided to wander not our own neighborhood but the one just one city over.

It’s a really fun and funky block of shops and restaurants.

They day started with some chilaquilas that were rated as acceptable to me. You see, I grade Mexican food on a very tight scale. Sadly, most Californian Mexican food fails.

Once we were full to overfilled with good eats, we moved on to a really awesome bookstore that I had never been to before.

I do love bookstores. Especially local bookstores with both new and used books on the shelves. You really get a feel for a town by what is stocked on those used shelves.

As I often do in a bookstore, I wandered over to the art section. I am looking for a used copy of a particular Henri Toulouse-Lautrec book. Hope springs eternal.

This particular art book section was more eclectic than I usually find, which was great. A lot of things I hadn’t seen before.

While perusing, I found one very small section of books under the heading of “Wild, Wacky and Wonderful.”

Boy, this small collection lived up to the billing.

There were just five titles. I can’t quite remember them all. One was Toilets of the World. I recall that. Quite an interesting tome, may I add. One was the Pipe Handbook. One was the Diary of a Sword Swallower or something like that. I can’t seem to recall the other two.

As I browsed I kept walking back to that section and laughing. It was *too* perfect. Just too.

So then I decided to take an iPhone photo so I could remember what five titles were there. But how to snap a photo without incurring the wrath of the storeowners? They are sick, I’m sure, of people finding something in their store then buying it on Amazon. Snap click is a means to that end.

My intentions were good but I didn’t want to be a pain in that charming store.

Then I remembered, oh yes, that you can use the volume buttons on the iPhone to fire the shutter. I decided that I could hold the camera at about waist level and take a surreptitious snap.

I went over to the side of an aisle and thought, “Ok, I better give this a try to make sure I know how it works.”

I pushed the button and then loudly echoing through the store was the shutter sound that iPhone so helpfully adds to camera app.

You see, I always, always, always have the sound off on my phone. Always. I mean seriously, always.

Except on Friday afternoon when I was expecting (and didn’t want to miss) a call from my boss. After the call I then forgot to switch sound back off.

The shutter sound caused three people around me to snap their heads up and give me “grrrr” eyes.

Busted. Flat busted.

So there you go. I have no photo of the crazy fun titles, only my hazy memory.

And this piece of photographic art of the wrong shelves. *sigh*

Enjoy.





Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth






Photo Copyright © 2014, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons License in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5, the onboard camera app, and not a lot of guile.




Hey, Not Too Bad!

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Yesterday, as I blathered on and wrote a blog post and then decided I wanted to nab a selfie that

1) didn’t make me look like an old hag

and

2) showed off a rare day when my hair was rockin’ (sadly, it was a one day only event) I found myself contorting, head tilting, and generally being weird.

And that was before I had the camera turned upon myself.

At the end of the day, I’m pretty happy with the selfie that I captured yesterday. Respectable enough. It took a lot of work to get that one decent photo, however.

In snapping my own self, I remembered a tutorial I put together a few years back. I still use all of these tips and tricks. Even when The Good Man grumbles at me while self photographing. (he’s not a fan of the selfie)

So hey, I figured I would share again. Here it is, for your fabulous selfie-know-how edumacation.

Enjoy.

______________________________

Your Mobile Phone Camera And You
Originally posted December 21, 2011

Ok, look. Facebook finally got me. Like a hungry, persistent mountain lion, it pounced on me, grabbed me by the throat and took me down.

Anyhow.

As I’ve been spending more time in the cavernous Facebook labyrinth, and seeing a lot of pages and a lot of faces, I’m starting to notice a trend.

Remember the infamous MySpace pose? That’s the self-photo taken with the camera above you, eyes looking up but chin down. Sometimes called the Princess Diana pose. Yeah, I think we’ve all seen plenty of that pose.

But that’s so over now.

The pose I’m seeing a lot of these days is the in-the-car self-photo.

Yup. Hold the phone way out to one side and snap a shot of yourself in the driver’s seat.

Post it.

Magic.

Look, I fully understand the need to look good in our Facebook profile. An old boyfriend or girlfriend from college might show up or something. None of us wants to look all haggity.

Believe me, I get it.

So what’s with the in-the-car profile photo and how can we make it better?

I will now dig into my deep and (not so) closely held secrets of the art of photography and perform a public service.

Ya wanna know why you like that photo of yourself in the car?

Two words: Natural light.

We ALL look better in natural light. When you are in your car, good ol’ fashioned sun comes pouring in through all the windows. Real sunlight makes you look hot.

I’m not kidding.

So assuming you want to have a nice photo of yourself on your Facebook page without your steering wheel in the background, and assuming you are all alone or too shy to ask for help, and assuming you want or need some advice on self portraiture…..


Here’s Karen Fayeth’s tips for a smoking hot profile self-photo:


Either get outside or if you have a nice sunny spot in your house filled with natural light, go there.

Next, what would be a nice background? How about a wall with a fun pattern or a wood fence with character? Sit down and lean back against it. Sit up straight! No slouchy here because we’ll all see it.

Make sure the sun isn’t shining directly in your face. That will make you squinty. Then make sure the sun isn’t directly behind you. That will make you halo-y and a dark shadow. It works best if it’s a sunny day but you are in shadow, or the sun isn’t directly on you. An overcast day is even better. That diffused light is majorly hot.

Hold your phone camera out at about eye level and a little off center. If you hold it above your eyes, you’ll get that eyes-up MySpace look. If you hold it below, now you are looking down and no one likes a double chin in their photo.

Seriously, no one.

Keep your chin up but not too high. Keep it at normal level as if you are looking straight forward.

Keep your elbow slightly bent. Don’t straight arm it or you will see your arm in the photo. Here’s an example.

Relax your face. Don’t force the smile. Try thinking about something that makes you laugh or smile naturally. Think about that time your buddy slipped and cartwheeled on the ice. Or think about how much your love your kid/spouse/dog/whatever. Something that tickles your funnybone and makes your eyes twinkle.

Look into the lens. Don’t look at the screen. Don’t look off to the side. Don’t look up. Don’t look down. Locate the actual camera lens on your phone and then look that lens square in its little lens eye and snap the shot.

And then another. And another and another and another and another.

Don’t be shy about taking A LOT of photos. You are looking for one good one among the many that make you go “uh, no”. It’s every photographer’s little secret. Take lots of shots.

Wait! Don’t just upload that one photo you like right from your mobile phone to your Facebook page!!!

Pause.

Look at it on a bigger screen. Download it or email it to yourself and look on a regular monitor.

Check out the photo and crop it down if you want. Look in the background ALL AROUND you in the photo to be sure there isn’t something weird going on back there. (be especially alert for dogs pooping, kids barfing, etc. Check out This is Photobomb for a sense of what I’m putting down here. That site is totally not safe for work.)

Then, if you are happy with the photo, go ahead and make it your profile photo.

And wait for the compliments to roll in.

Oh, and one last piece of advise: Fer chrissakes, no duckface!

No photos in the mirror either.



Sooo many things wrong with this technique. Good light though!




Image found all over the web. If it’s yours I’ll gladly take it down or give credit, at your request. Thanks! I found it here.




I’m So Arty. And Maybe A Little Farty.

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It’s been two months now at the new gig and I’m really getting into it. The job, the management and the culture are all really in my wheelhouse. Even though I’m crazy busy and working hard, I really do like the job.

So I guess at sixty days into this gig I am making plans to hang around a while. When I went through new hire orientation, they talked up their employee activities program and mentioned that there are a lot of strong clubs here at the company. It seems most employees participate in at least one club. It’s not required, people just want to be involved.

Cool!

I took a look at the list of clubs and the one that jumped out at me was the photography group. Rock on! I haven’t been shooting much lately and I certainly need a kick in the butt. I belong to a photographer’s salon group where once a month we meet and critique images, but I felt like this new group would really expand my horizons.

I dropped an email to the co-presidents of the group, two female coworkers, who were listed on the webpage and told them I’d like to be part of the group. They answered pretty quickly and said they were actually the last year’s co-presidents (the webpage is out of date) and handed me off to the new leadership. In closing, one of the women said, “I’m so glad another woman is joining the group. It’s mostly men right now. They are all nice but it’s all men!”

Oh. Well ok! My photography teacher and mentor has spoken about this. She has been a professional photographer for a long time and has dealt with the male dominated world of photography for years. I’m unsure why it’s still so heavily male dominated, but fair enough. I know my work can stack up.

I got an invite to the online user group and to the meeting coming up next week. I also got access to the club’s site where members upload their photos. Each month there is a theme and a contest to pick a winner.

Whooo doggies, the photos on that page are really good but they are all very technical. I don’t feel a lot of emotion in the photos. Then I recalled that I work with mostly engineers and scientists. Yeah. These are the kind of folks who will sniffily say they only shoot in manual and can calculate the exposure triangle in their heads.

I have taken other photography courses, including a class from a well-known and well-respected landscape photographer. That guy wasn’t too uptight about the stuff, but several of the men in the class were. One guy challenged me on the spot to calculate the exposure triangle for a particular photo and I said, “Nope. I don’t need to. I shoot in Aperture mode and am happy there.” He looked like he had bad gas and walked away from me.

Look, I know *how* to calculate the exposure triangle. I just choose not to.

So we’ll see how this group thang goes. I decided I should put together a quick portfolio of photos to show the rest of the group what I’m about.

What do you think?





“Knob” — I feel this piece speaks to the inaccessibility of the world and the challenges of just getting past closed doors. Should you walk away or bang on the door demanding to be heard? That is for you to decide.





“Elusive” — This is a study in hiding behind false coverings, like the fur that covers a Cranky Feline. And the need to hide behind artificiality and illusion. The grain reminds us of the blurry nature that life presents and the need to have better lighting.





“Have A Seat” — The black and white really captures the moodiness that comes with the decision of whether or not to have a seat. The push-pull of subverting yourself to the will of powers greater than you or maybe standing up to fight instead. This thought provoking piece required meticulous set up and lighting.



I think I am a shoo-in for high praises and honor from this new club. I can hardly wait to reel in all my accolades!





All photos Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons in the right column of this page. (why would you steal these masterpieces anyway?). All three taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.




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