Advice to Artists - thought must come first!

"What kind of advice would you give to artists who want to develop their skills in digital photography in order to be considered fine art?" 

The great Norwegian painter Odd Nerdrum said that "thought has to come first" and I wholeheartedly agree. 
You can imitate whatever is currently popular or even the Old Masters and you will still be missing something vital in your art. 

Being an artist means that you are using a medium to express something that is essentially inexpressible through language, something that enters the realm of archetypes and spirit. I feel that the more acquainted you are with the history of art, literature and human thought - the more concepts you will have to draw from and learn from and filter into your work.

And perhaps most important of all, I think anyone who wants to create "art" should listen to their inner voice, pay attention to their dreams and deepest thoughts. Draw your inspiration from within you and you will never be in danger of being a copycat or imitator of someone else's vision.. 

Odd Nerdrum.jpg

How to Make Your Photos Look Painterly (part 1)

A large part of the painterly look I get in my work is achieved BEFORE the image ever makes it to my computer. 

It helps to have an extensive visual vocabulary and a knowledge of classic paintings and the techniques and lighting styles that artists used (and still use) so you know exactly what it is that you are trying to achieve (for instance  - study the paintings of Caravaggio for lighting effects or look at how Rembrandt rendered skin tones and facial expressions).

“Narcissus” by Caravaggio

“Narcissus” by Caravaggio

Selecting the right model, wardrobe and set is also crucial. (i.e.- a glamour model with a fake tan and enhanced breasts is never going to look like she stepped out of a PreRaphaelite painting..sorry!!) 

Helmut Newton.jpg

And perhaps most important is the lighting. Flat studio lighting is seldom conducive for painting. The play between light and shadow is something that most master paintings depict in minute detail. 

“Sisters in the Light” by Thomas Dodd

“Sisters in the Light” by Thomas Dodd

Everything done in post should be merely an enhancement and rendering of what you captured at the time of principal photography (and all of this is coming from someone who is known primarily for "post-processing", but I always set things up in such a way that my post work will be seamless and organic...) 

“Nocturne” by Thomas Dodd

“Nocturne” by Thomas Dodd

My Manifesto (kind of!) for the Digital Age..

I have never been a purist and in fact, no one really is,. 
It is only through bastardization and hybridization that innovation takes place and the digital revolution has swung the door open for late bloomers (and young bloomers as well) like me to start making images and breathe new life into the art of Photography..

Yes, there are millions of people calling themselves photographers now and photo-sharing sites have exploded with tons of images creating a lot of visual noise and competition for the jaded eye to sift through in search of the latest masterworks.

But like any revolution in art, the dabblers and the dilettantes will fade away eventually and those who are truly passionate about their craft, innovative in their creations and persistent in their self promotion will have their work admired and appreciated by a future generation of aspiring photographers.

We can't all be Man Ray or Diane Arbus, but there is a place for everyone in this popular and populist art form of Photography, from the hobbyists who like to document the minutiae of their daily lives. to the jaded pros who have spent more on their latest lens than you did on your last car, to the Photoshop-reliant imageshifters of the Digital age...

Me and Joel Grimes at Imaging USA 2018 in Nashville Tennessee

Me and Joel Grimes at Imaging USA 2018 in Nashville Tennessee