Building an image: from prop construction to fine art print
"I have always loved puzzles. I like to sift through all the pieces, analyzing their parts, and take immense satisfaction in seeing how they all fit together. For me, a photograph and a concept is an elaborate puzzle--a puzzle that takes me to beautiful landscapes, wandering through antique stores, building in the wood shop, sewing a new costume, assembling props by hand, and painting both traditionally and digitally. In short, photography lets me have it all."
This piece was inspired by the now extinct large white madeira butterfly as well as the endangered monarch butterfly. I grew up in the Willamette Valley in Salem, Oregon and have vivid memories of the giant swarms of monarchs as they migrated through the valley. It's been a very long time since I have seen a single monarch let alone thousands. So plant your native Milkweed flower and help these little guys along on their journeys, because I for one would love to once again stand among thousands of monarch butterflies in the late summer as they migrate through the valley. I tell you, it is a wonderous thing.
I'm still working on the piece and there are currently two versions of it in progress. What you see here is a composite of acrylic paint on high density fiber board, digital illustrations and photographs from both a DSLR and a smartphone. The hardboard is about 48"x48" and painted with a sculpting gesso which is how I got the texture. I thinned some acrylic paint and allowed it to drip down the board to accentuate the texture created by the gesso. I outlined the butterfly with acrylic paints then photographed the whole piece with a DSLR under flat light and imported the image into Photoshop. I digitally painted the butterfly and the rest of the imagery is photographic. The doors are from a trip to New Orleans. I fell in love with the architecture there and strolled through the neighborhood early one morning with coffee and an iPhone. I'm not satisfied with the quality of the monarchs and am looking for an opportunity to photograph some local monarchs. Unfortunately since they're now endangered they're not as easy to find.
I wanted to create a piece that honored what we've lost but also create a sort of cautionary tale of what we have yet to lose. You can purchase Milkweed seeds from Save Our Monarchs or send them a self-addressed stamped envelope for a packet of free seeds.
Teresa Meier is exhibited alongside 50 other images selected from across the globe in "A Show of Hands," by Don't Take Pictures
Grab a beverage and join me for the final Picture, Picture photo talk series with Photo Club PDX for a night of magic and wonder. I will share the secrets behind my artistic practice and how creating work has helped me navigate this tumultuous and crazy year. I believe photography and art are powerful tools for healing as well as a cathartic means of expression, and the impetus for much of my work stems from that belief. I'll discuss why and how I create work as well as how I use art to work through painful experiences, connect with others, and build community. If you're struggling and looking for an outlet for stress or anxiety, please join us.
The talk is open to everyone and free, but you must register first. Visit PCPDX's event page to learn more.
Or register directly here
I'm excited to receive an Honorable Mention from Px3 Paris Photography Prize for "The Lost Woman," as a single image (to read further about The Lost Woman, scroll down to see an interview from Pro Photo Daily), and for the series "There's No Place Like Home," taken during the Covid-19 lockdown in King County, Seattle last spring.
As I write this, we are once again advised to stay indoors due to the low air quality from fires raging across the entire west coast. My heart goes out to all those affected. May we find a more sustainable way to live and restore our connection to the natural world. Stay safe and hopeful.
Are you a professional photographer? A serious enthusiast?
I am a professional in the early stages of my career, but my work has been recognized across the globe, as I have received both domestic and international awards and mentions. My profession is consuming and can only be described as serious and enthusiastic, which I believe is evident in my work.
How did photography become part of your life?
I have always been obsessed with photos. When I was ten, I dug through a big box of old family photos and meticulously selected the most intriguing photos to cover my bedroom walls. My parents divorced around this time and I think I was looking for documentation; proof of a loving family. Photography holds this perception of truth and fact; a grounding to place and time that I find infinitely interesting. I discovered the darkroom as a teenager and continued to take photography and other art courses in college, but ultimately ended up pursuing a degree in neuropsychology, though I never stopped making art. It was always an outlet for me and brought about the deepest and most meaningful connections to people. I ended up working mostly with children during my psychology studies and always gravitated to making art with them. I loved the therapeutic power of it and found that to be the most fulfilling for me. Around the age of 27, I decided I wanted to give a go at being an artist. I returned to school and got a Masters in Fine Art in photography. I have been joyfully grinding away at it ever since.
How did you come to make the picture?
There are two components to this image - my personal experience and my artistic influences. First, photography is my way of processing what I am going through in my personal life. This image is from an ongoing series that, in large part, investigates how our past experiences shape and dictate our present selves and relationships. I have struggled in romantic relationships my entire life, as I grew up with inadequate models for healthy, romantic relationships. In the past, I had the tendency to drift along with my partner’s priorities. I did not know how to self-prioritize me and what I wanted from my life. This image is a bit about that struggle. My current partner is incredibly supportive, but we have different things happening in our lives resulting in different priorities. Relationships are a balancing act of one another’s needs and desires and it can be difficult to maintain that balance. Culturally, we seem to be questioning and fighting against how historically we have viewed gender roles. We are in a time where women are really trying to reclaim, or maybe just claim, their power. For me, this image represents this intense desire to live while being bound to someone else’s agenda; which I think many people, women in particular, can identify within themselves the same desire.
Artistically, the image is a reboot of Rene Magritte’s The Lost Jockey. He was commenting on the Industrial Revolution and the replacement of the horse with motor vehicles. Eadweard Muybridge is an influence here too, as the horse study comes from his experiments in movement. It is a nod to the fast rate at which technology evolves and how it transforms our lives for better or worse.
Where and when was it made?
I created the photo in January, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. The car was photographed in Portland, Oregon many years ago, but everything else in the image was shot in Seattle in late 2019 or January 2020. I have a custom-built PC that I use to create my composites. The printed image is quite large at 48”x72” and the computer is necessary to stitch together and composite the many photos that make up the image. Because I have an older model camera with a smaller sensor, I stitch together multiple photos to create the large-scale panoramas so that I can get the resolution needed to create a beautiful large print.
The horse is hand-painted with traditional acrylics on a high-density board or melamine. I am working on painting five shots from the Muybridge galloping horse sequence on a single board, which I intend to exhibit alongside the image. I have been contemplating recreating Muybridge’s trip-wire camera technique as part of an interactive exhibition, as I like to create exhibitions that are inclusive and interactive for the viewer. I am not a look-but-don’t-touch person and neither is my art. Play is a transformative experience that many people let go from their lives as they get older. I want my art to be an opportunity for people to engage in and experience play no matter their age.
Who is the model in the photo?
I am a self-portrait photographer, so the woman is me, and the man is my life partner.
Was the photo published anywhere? Was this a personal project?
It was published in the Spring 2020 edition of West Trade Review.
Yes, it is from a personal project. It is a part of the series, Collective Inventions, which began as my Masters thesis project and is ongoing.
What kinds of creative challenges did you face in making the image?
This was one of those images that came together relatively effortlessly; a rare and welcome event. I take daily walks in my neighborhood which comes with stunning views of the Olympic Mountains. I often visit a park up on a bluff at sunset and the backdrop in the image is of the Olympics from one of those visits. The blue wall sits across the street from the bluff and I noticed it for its lovely blue color. When I had the idea for the photo I knew the blue wall would be perfect for the image. I waited for an overcast day (not hard in the Pacific Northwest) and walked up and took the photograph.
I work alone, so setting up the Shop-Vac to get the dress to blow into the exact right shape was the biggest challenge. Because I work digitally, I am able to get instant feedback, and situations like this require a procession of shooting and adjusting until everything falls into place. And the horse is hand-painted so that took some time. The horse being painted always seems to surprise people and the question ‘why not photograph the horse like everything else,’ always follows. The answer is, because I want the horse to be mine, entirely of my own making. I wanted the process of making the image to reinforce the idea that I am creating a life of my own making in the image.
Honestly, it is difficult to view any of this as a challenge, as I love doing it all so much.
Finally, what camera/lens did you use?
Nikon D700 and 85mm and 50mm lenses. It has served me well, but I do wish it were a medium-format Hasselblad.
"On April 23, 2020, HCP launched Togethering, an open call for photographs from anyone around the world picturing life during the COVID-19 Pandemic. At the time, Houston, Texas had been on “lockdown” for five weeks, and for others around the world, it had been much longer. The New York Times called this an “act of solidarity” that was critical to controlling the virus, which began in December 2019 and has since expanded to every corner of the globe. We found ourselves alone together, and this permanent, virtual exhibition intended to provide a community platform for us to connect with one another during this time of great distance.
We were astounded with the response. Over 3,000 images were submitted from photographers from all over the world, from Italy to India to Brazil to right here in Houston, from high school students to practicing artists to coping parents. Among the submissions were photographs of military changes of command, bedrooms-turned camera obscuras, and elaborate, staged photos of family members, who whether by choice or circumstance were quarantining together. Yet, some of the most poignant images were of the intimate moments of our daily lives – cutting a loved one’s hair, waving out the window to a neighbor, looking at ourselves in a mirror. There is humor, there is deeply-felt isolation, and there are many moments of self-reflection in Togethering.
Yet, as I write this, the world does not seem the same. Houston is leading the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. As one of the first states to ease lockdown restrictions on May 1st, we just passed the 13th consecutive daily record for hospitalizations. That sense of solidarity has changed dramatically. The issue of mask-wearing has become political rather than one about shared public safety and responsibility while cleaning supplies continue to fly off the shelf. Protests to further open up more cities happen around the country, while many of us march masked demanding human dignity for our BIPOC community in the wake of the racist killings of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Antwon Rose among many others.
Togethering has taken on new meaning in just a little over two months, and it is clear, once again, that there is still a lot of work to be done on all fronts. If you’d like to support some of that work, I urge you to consider participating in one of these online photography fundraisers benefiting racial justice."
- Ashlyn Davis, Executive Director & Curator
Juror: Hannah Frieser
Early seafaring diaries tell of endless adventures while exploring the vast oceans. They reminisce about the abundance of fish, the mystery, the beauty, but also the dangers and hardships of taking to the sea. Across time and civilizations, water has lost little of its mesmerizing hold on us, inspiring countless paintings, novels and accounts of daring action. The photographers in this exhibition marvel at the magnificence of water in its many manifestations from microscopic ice crystal to endless expanse beyond the horizon, life-sustaining or threatening, gentle and generous, or savagely volatile. When people are present, they are usually submerged for a refreshing swim, as if mere observation from the shores is not enough. Water calls to us with a sweet and irresistible siren’s call. In most image water and nature are shown in harmony, though there are also suggestions of civilization encroaching. Humans, it seems, are called to nature to take in its grandeur, while also becoming its greatest threat.
The exhibition drew an abundance of images that stretched to far corners of the world, yet also discovered adventures in photographers’ backyards. The images celebrate, glorify, immerse and connect. Image after image, we are enticed by nature’s wholesome beauty. While styles and viewpoints stretch the full gamut of highest quality, it is worthwhile to highlight a few of the submissions. The photographs by Juror’s Award recipient Carlos Causo are breathtakingly beautiful. Image after image, the perfect place coincides with the perfect breeze, the perfect sun and the most dramatic sky pattern. The photographs convey a freshness in perspective combined with an overall sense of discovery. It is all too easy to imagine that we too could frolic at these beaches, lazily drift on our floating cushions in the pool, or take our raft into these gentle waves. On the other hand, the photograph by Director’s Award recipient Teresa Meier is one of the few constructed images that has created rather than discovered its vista. This fantastical interpretation suggests mankind’s fraught relationship to nature. A man lies submerged on a scaly seabed, seemingly enjoying the view through a stereo viewfinder. A goldfish, freshly escaped from its glass cage, is compelled toward the lure of another one of steel, suspended tantalizingly by a woman. A storm is brewing, human civilization may be at its end, and yet the sun breaks through the clouds promising a continuation of life.