Category Archives: photography

New Jersey Photographer

Okay.  Usually I’m not all about promoting myself.  I like to try to let my work speak for itself and not force it on other people. However, I’m about to graduate from Monmouth University in less than three months with a degree that’s concentrated in Photography and I feel it’s about time to expand my audience.  If I don’t proudly promote myself I can not expect others to do so.  I take so much pride in what I do…it is my life’s passion.  For me, taking a photo goes so much deeper than just taking the photo.  The feeling I get from making images is one I equate with being in love, because that’s how it truly feels.

I am keeping this post short and sweet in the hopes that whoever comes across it can get a sense for the love I have for my art and will move along to the link I am providing and be able to then see that love. Enjoy!

As always, I am RJ and here is a link to my photography page: RJLennon Photography

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Filed under Just a thought, Just because, Just for fun, photography, Uncategorized

Here we go.

I keep trashing every blog I begin tonight.  I don’t know what it is.  Nothing sounds right, nothing is flowing properly, and I’ve backspaced the end of this sentence a solid five times already trying to come up with a third sentence closer.  Why do I need a third anyway?  I feel like I learned that in grammar school…if you’re writing an essay always have three ideas to touch on such as, “this, this and the other thing.”  Whatever, this isn’t an essay.  I’m writing a blog for the sake of writing a blog right now…and I know you guys have heard my “forced writing is bad writing” line before, so I’ll save it.

Lately, I’ve been turning to my dreams as my artistic inspiration.  The things I’ve written, the things I’ve shot, and the things I plan to shoot were and are all memories of thoughts that sped through my unconscious mind as I slept.  Dreams that I can’t get out of my head.  They’re imprinted there, stuck, as if they’re supposed to be there.

Remember our dancer friend from Language?  If not, go check it out…I’ll wait here…Okay, great.  Now that we’re all caught up, she began as a daydream and has followed me day in and day out, while I’m awake, while I sleep, my mind’s creative representation of what I long for.  These dreams, sometimes so real  I wake to a bitter disappointment that everything happened in my head.

Maybe someday I’ll be able to make it all real.

As always, I’m RJ and hey, a girl can dream right…?

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“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

That’s the question they asked me in preschool right before my graduation so they could put it on my diploma. Without hesitation I proudly said, “I want to be an artist.” Seventeen years later, I am studying to be a photographer, a visual artist, if you will. I’ve been through hell and back to figure out that this is what I want to do and now that I’m finally here, I’ve never felt more in the right.

Initially, I was a Psychology major who adored everything Psych related. I love sleep and dreams, I love the brain, I love Freudian theories, Pavlov, Maslow and his hierarchy of needs, Erikson’s stages of development. I knew more about ole’ Siggy Freud, his family and home life than any one person would ever care to know. I love it all, but as much as I wish it could be, the passion just isn’t there. I could talk about nature vs. nurture for hours, but where is my creative stimulation? I would sit in my dorm room with my books spread out in front of me and I would think about my future in the field of Psychology and know in the pit of my stomach that something big was missing.

“Writing,” I said, “that’s what’s missing. Writing.” I’d blog to release my pent up creative energy, with RJtalks as my outlet. But it wasn’t enough. I knew I had to break away from the only thing I had ever fought for and try something new. So I went for it, and Public Relations and Journalism with a double minor in Psych and Creative writing was where I ended up. “I LOVE this! I love my professors, I love my classes, I love writing all the time! This is perfect.” Wrong. Being forced to write on a deadline killed me, I was miserable and my GPA reflected that. “Is this how it is going to be all the time?” That’s my problem, I love writing, I’m so passionate about it that it becomes this touchy subject where I all of a sudden turn into this overprotective mother, and beware to all those who try to pick apart my child.

Another minor switch came around (literally) when I dropped creative writing and picked up Photography as a minor. One photo class was all it took. I was hooked and it was obvious. My mind would reel with thoughts of photo project ideas and proposals. If I wasn’t in photo class, I was thinking about photo class. All writing ceased as I let photo hit me in waves, taking me under the surface, and like someone with a death wish, I did absolutely nothing to pull myself back up. Photography makes me sick. It makes me sick in the most incredible way. You know that feeling you get when you look at the person you love? That feeling of butterflies in your stomach, the nervous excitement, always on your mind and able to brighten up your darkest days? Yea, that’s what photo does for me. I knew I needed to know more about photo the moment I began learning about it. So after some begging and pleading in vain, I took it upon myself to just do it. I was told it was going to add possibly a whole year’s worth of studying to my schooling, my parents were not at all thrilled at first but I didn’t care. I took a leap of faith into the most subjective but freeing and creative major I’ve ever encountered and kept myself grounded with the Psych minor.

One of my friends recently said to another, “You know what you want to do, it’s just a matter of actually doing it.” I supported her claim by mentioning that I somehow knew what I wanted to do with my life from the time I was 4 years old, but by the time I was an adult, it seemed like such a fantasy. But maybe our farfetched, fantastic childhood job ideas aren’t so farfetched. Maybe it’s fear that’s holding us back from actually achieving our goals. Fear of failing. Fear of criticism. Fear of someone always being better, smarter, more creative. But we need to stop fearing and start achieving. Parents need to start embracing their kids’ fantastic ideas. If your kid says to you, “mommy, I want to be an astronaut.” Buy that kid a model rocket ship and a book on the stars. They say, “daddy, I want to be a doctor.” Break out the stethoscope and the tongue depressors. If you’re steering them in a different direction from what they are telling you they want to do because you want to protect them from rejection, I promise you, you’re doing them more harm than good in the long run. Eventually your kid is going to grow up and know for a fact what he or she wants to do, wouldn’t you love to know that you supported them in their decision from the very first moment the idea was born?

As always I am RJ, and I am thankful for my incredibly supportive parents.

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Dorothea Lange

If you type the name “Dorothea Lange” into Google, before you even reach the “g”, the phrase “Dorothea Lange migrant mother” will appear.

Photo by Dorothea Lange. Presented by photo student.

This epic photo is the one for which Lange is best known, however, in her book I found this to be only the tip of the iceberg.

The first photo I liked in Lange’s collection was that of a Californian woman standing amongst tall grass and flowers.  She is smiling, and has her hand outstretched ready for a handshake.  The blurred background behind her is a beautiful landscape of trees and mountains.  Lange accomplishes this look by using a shallow depth of field, an element that is repeated not exceedingly often in her work, but definitely in the few photos I’ve already deemed my favorites.

The next photo, I’ve literally fallen in love with and unless my internet searching skills are just lacking, I can not find it anywhere though I would have loved to share it.  The caption under the photo reads “Gertrude Clausen holding Nancy”.  It’s strange.  The angle at which you view the photo completely changes the expression on this little girl’s (Nancy’s) angelic face.  The photo is of a woman’s (Gertrude Clausen’s) back and she is holding a bright eyed toddler with light hair and depending on how you look at the photo the expression on the child’s face can either be taken as jubilance or catching her in the middle of some baby talk.  I’m going with jubilance.

I guess I seem to like the same type of photographers, because much like Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Lange gets close to her subjects, she focuses in and I like that, it’s more personal.  I feel that the more personal a photograph, the better story you can tell or take away from it.  I feel you get stronger detail from faces (especially eyes), bodies, an embrace between two people, when they are up close and personal.  Shots of groups can be powerful as well, but the reason I photograph people the way I do, one on one, is because of creating connections, rarely is there a third party, no interruptions, just a dialogue between my subject and I and a camera between us.  I think that’s why I’m so drawn to artists such as Lange.

The final photo of Lange’s I will describe is a photograph of a grandfather and his two grandsons.  What I find special about this photo is that the only thing present are their hands.  It’s funny to think that a photo that shows no emotion or expression can evoke both.  The act of the grandfather holding the small hands of his grandsons is so touching, so full of love, and I’d almost go as far to say pride.  Lange captured simplicities that some people take for granted and presents them in a way that they can not be ignored.

 

Book information: Oversize TR 140 L3 D67 1994 – Dorothea Lange.

 

As always I’m RJ and I’m going to enjoy the simple things in life…like, you know, more photo class blogging…yea.

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Robert Capa – Photographs

It would be my good fortune to come across a book of photographs by a man who was once labeled “The Greatest War-Photographer in the World”.  Robert Capa is credited with photographing a number of wars, both in the heat of battle and all aspects of life that surround it.  In a book of 241 pages of black and white photos, my first instinct of course was to search for blood.  I found it without even trying.  Page 192 presented me with a full page photo of an American soldier who had been firing his gun from a balcony and was shot by a German sniper.  The man was on the ground, his head had hit the door and was propped up as if he’d just taken to laying low or simply laying down, but pooling just in the foreground of his body was a dark liquid I know well from other war photos I’ve seen before, the man’s own blood.  To me, these types of photos are intoxicating.  In a way, it’s sick to want to look at them, but I can’t look away.  There’s something so fake, yet so real and the black and white element makes them less shocking, and more thought provoking.  Being in black and white, you lose the gross, special effect look and are left with real, raw life…or lifeless stills.  Sometimes when I look at an image, I just know it will be my favorite of the collection, even if I have yet to look at any of the others.  That is the case with this photo.

The next photo I found is one of a woman and her dog in Barcelona.  They are running, from what, I am unsure or to what, I don’t know.  But what I like about it is that at first glance they seem to be the only two present and it wasn’t until further inspection that I could make out other people in the background.  This is because Capa used a quick shutter speed.  He froze the woman and her dog in time and the rest of the background is a blur.

Capa managed to capture worry and fright, sickening sadness, confusion and shame as well as excitement and a touch of love.  He included a photo of an older woman and a child I am taking to be her granddaughter.  The photo is up close and simply heartbreaking.  The people depicted in this particular section of the collection were left homeless due to a bombing.  The woman is crying, the anguish on her face is blatant, one arm is crossed across her body while the other is curled up into her face.  The child, holding onto the skirt of her elder, peers out from behind the woman with an innocent expression.  You can’t pose a shot like this and expect it to yield the same emotion.  Capa also managed to capture a moment of goodbye shared between a young soldier who is about to depart and the woman I take to be his love.  The two are lost in their own world, he has his hand around her back securely, the other on her cheek, she is holding onto his arm, both are smiling, both are gazing admiringly at one another.  I see time and opportunities as things that come and go far too quickly.  Capa seems to make the most of each second in time and every opportunity with which he is presented.  I suppose this is why he earned the title that he did, simply because the moments he captures are breathtaking, some in a good sense as in the photo I just described of the couple, and others in a bad sense, for example a photo of a man running while holding his child.  The way the photo is laid out, the man holding the child is in the center and it appears that there is another man running at him, the first man’s expression is one that says “I need to get out of his way”; in the background there are people moving swiftly in the same direction as the men in the foreground.  This is apparent because all of them seem to have been stopped in the same stance, sort of a jogging motion.

You wouldn’t think that war photos could be so beautiful, but that is what I honestly think of Capa’s work.

 

Book information: Oversize TR 820.4 C354 1985 – Robert Capa – Photographs

 

As always I am RJ and if you’re reading this line, you’re going to be disappointed when you reach the end of it…see?  Told you.

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Henry Wolf – Visual Thinking

Henry Wolf’s book entitled “Visual Thinking: Methods for Making Images Memorable” is filled to the absolute brim with photos to the point that the pages themselves are almost overwhelming.  Not only does he include his work, but unlike any other artist I’ve reviewed before, he explains what is going on in each and every single photo and sometimes, how he achieved the photo he was hoping to capture.  Some of the photos are not Wolf’s own, but ones from which he either draws inspiration for his own work or ones that aided him in presenting a certain subtopic in photography (ie. perspective, motion, etc).  Many of the photos Wolf chose to put in his book have this way about them that tricked my mind and more often than not I found myself doing a double take trying to make sense in my mind of what my eyes were seeing.  So there are three levels of understanding these photographs, first glance, a closer look and Wolf’s explanation.  For example, upon first thumbing through the book I came across a photo that Wolf took for Money Magazine; the photo showed a martini complete with an olive and two men seemingly sitting inside the glass.  Upon a second look, a better explanation would be that the men are just reflected in the glass and upon reading Wolf’s explanation I came to find that he wanted the viewer to see two men sitting inside a glass at lunch.

As a whole, I enjoyed the photos in the book that were clearly edited, for example there was a closeup of a woman’s face, and placed over the left half is the left half of a clock.  The face is flawless, perfect complexion, bright blue eyes, perfect hairline, subtle makeup; the clock contains Roman numerals and is see-through, leaving only a slight difference by way of color on the left side of the face.  This photo, Wolf explains, is an ad for a type of makeup that claims to slow down the effects of time.  I enjoyed that the element that was edited in did not take away from the photo as a whole.  It’s not that it wasn’t blatantly apparent that the photo was edited, but this photo in particular was one that I could easily take in as a whole, instead of edited versus unedited content, even though the edited content is not something one would usually find on a face.

Another section of Wolf’s book that I enjoyed was the section entitled “Strange Perspective”.  Again, something I can relate to with my own work.  This is an element I rarely use in class but when I’m shooting for my non-school related projects I use angles I didn’t even know were conquerable.  Some of the photos Wolf presents are simple, a shot of a pair of legs from the perspective of the model, others not as much.  For example he included a photo of six members of a dance group all intertwined and looking like two strange headless bodies.  The photo is a straight shot, no angles and the perspective of a simple onlooker, and the “strange perspective” is found only in the positioning of the models.  This is what I find to be so successful with this section.  It’s not just about what’s in the photo and it’s not just about camera angle, but it’s how the two work together to create an image that I enjoy so much.

 

Book information: Oversize TR 179 W65 1988; Henry Wolf – Visual Thinking.

 

As always, I am RJ and I really need to get a new tagline…

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Mark Slankard Photography

Mark Slankard’s collections beg the phrase “expect the unexpected”.  The first collection I looked at was entitled “Minor Invasions” and included photos of the rooms in a dollhouse with some type of curveball thrown into them.  At first I found them somewhat humorous, and then upon reading his artist statement I noticed the underlying themes of human fears and desires that he was attempting to represent.  Upon looking through the collection again, I found much deeper meaning in each photograph, even if the meaning I came up with was solely my mind’s interpretation.  I feel that his goal is to make the viewer think about what they are looking at, and to make them question what lies beneath the surface instead of keeping their thoughts and opinions at a superficial level.

Photo by Mark Slankard. Presented by photo student.

Photo by Mark Slankard. Presented by photo student.

The themes of domestic violence and natural disaster are represented in the above photos.  Both are human fears, though one is made possible by the hand of man, and the other is the hand of nature.  I made a connection between the two photos by way of the word “chance” and the thought that no man or woman enters into a relationship knowing for a fact that the person they are with is not a violent person.  When you take a chance on someone, you hope for the best.  As with natural disasters, no one buys a home knowing full well that will never experience a flood, a tornado or an earthquake.  Life is a game of chance and I think both of these photos depict that idea.

The next collection I looked at was entitled “curb appeal” and upon first viewing the images I believed them all to be miniature versions of houses and am still not fully convinced that they are not.  I first assumed this because while they look like miniatures, Slankard’s first collection was one of a dollhouse, and my assumptions got the best of me.

Photo by Mark Slankard. Presented by photo student.

Photo by Mark Slankard. Presented by photo student.

Photo by Mark Slankard. Presented by photo student.

For more of Slankard’s work visit: http://www.markslankard.com/portfolios.html

As always I am RJ, and this is just something to think about…

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