Carol Fletcher has a vague childhood memory of someone trying to show her how to use a Twin Lens camera. She couldn’t understand why, when you look down into the box to focus, that you had to angle the camera to the right in order to get more of the scene on the left. Since then, she has progressed to owning a Rolleicord TLR now, but admits that it still confounds her.
carol fletcher – iceland farmhouse
carol fletcher icelandic sheep in the wind
Over the last 30 years, Carol has travelled the world to such exotic destinations as Cuba and Iceland (they are both SO on my list to get to!), and has collected massive amounts of images and stories and mementos. I asked her how she came to the business side of image-making.
carol fletcher – antartica iceberg and waves
“The photos and all the travel momentos from each trip sit in my bookcase and I treasure the time to sit down and relive the trips. A good friend of mine suggested one day that I print my favorites and sell them at an Art Fair. At that first fair I got a great response and sold many more than I expected. After a year or two of Art Fairs, I opened my Etsy shop. I’ve also done portrait sessions, weddings, and have been working on 3 documentary projects about the changes in Cuba, a family of 9 living in a tin house in Guatemala, and closer to home–the people who rescue dogs from shelters.”
carol fletcher – vinales dog
Always conscious of the “one that got away”, Carol says that missing a shot (because she didn’t have a camera, or was too slow, or didn’t think it was appropriate to capture) has to be the bane of every photographer. “Sometimes I see these photos in my mind, like they rotate in a slide tray. But I wish that I could stop the tray and examine a photo to remember the details and enjoy the memories again.”
carol fletcher – havana chandeliers 1 – cuba
carol fletcher – locked – havana cuba
Despite the fact that many of her images are of places in icy temperatures, they somehow still manage to exude the warmth and familiarity of memory. Perhaps it’s the influence of her photographic heroes – Steve McCurry, David Alan Harvey, Sam Abell and Nevada Weir — “all the National Geographic photographers who practice filling the frame with goodness. They are also good people who share their knowledge and experiences with heart-felt passion and gusto.”
She also loves “all the old colored travel slides of Burton Holmes, the surprising contact sheets of Henri Cartier-Bresson and the beauty of the sepia-tinted Indians in Edward S. Curtis’ prints.”
carol fletcher – red tail light – havana cuba
With all the thousands of photographs she has taken over the years, her favourite one is surprisingly close to home. It was taken on her Grandmother’s back porch one Mother’s Day Sunday before they all went to a fancy brunch. “My boyfriend (now husband) took the shot of my mother, step-father, grandmother and me, just as my grandmother made a quiet joke. She and I are laughing as we often did when together. I cherish that photograph and that memory. She passed away in 1999.
carol fletcher – a quiet joke with grandmother
Her best advice?
“Best Life advice: My mother always told me not to worry about what other people think. So I try not to…and just do what I feel is good and right.
Best Photography advice: Linger longer.”
You can find more of Carol’s photography on her website, www.carolfletcher.com.
r alexander trejo – rain song
He’s been snapping images since he was a teen, but decided to train as an architect. It was only after substantial encouragement from his photographer-wife that Philadelphia-based R Alexander Trejo started taking his photography more seriously.
His compositions are sparse, yet deeply romantic and slightly surreal, and demonstrate his major influences – the atmospheric paintings of JMW Turner, and the drama of Ansel Adams’ landscapes. Alexander says he is also influenced by the rich colour of Caravaggio’s paintings and the architectural photography of Julius Shulman, and he listens to Radiohead whenever he is working on his images.
“I was never great at art, at least that’s what I thought. Couldn’t draw a straight line to save my life. But with camera in hand, the vision in my head, it could now be recorded with a click.”
“Things I only dreamed I could put on paper with a pencil, was now on paper by using the camera. Once I realized the possibilities I couldn’t stop shooting everything around me.”
r alexander trejo – pieces of your dream
r alexander trejo – eas solas
While working as an architect, Alex travelled extensively, eventually coming to the conclusion that his hobby was becoming a major passion. Wanting to move beyond ‘point and click’, he undertook a course at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. It was when he was studying that he discovered his photographic heroes – Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and Adams.
With the help of a friend, he began showing his work in public. The final push in turning his hobby into a business came through the economic downturn, when he lost his job. Now photography is his career, and it has been a personal high point to publicly show his work. “Showing my work in public, especially (for a time) in my own gallery space gave me the opportunity to talk directly with viewers about different facets of my work.” It has been a great learning and growing experience.
r alexander trejo – ancient glory 2
r alexander trejo – sentinels
Alex uses a combination of modern technology, including various lens filters and post-production in Photoshop, as well as printing on different types of paper to achieve the look of old world photography techniques. “One image that stands out to me is the photo “Lights Above”. I did not know it at the time but it was the beginning of a series that became very popular. It was influenced by the paintings of J.M.W Turner. His amazing landscapes and seascapes featured enormous clouds and skies that dwarfed cities, people and other subjects in his work.”
r alexander trejo – lights above
Alex’s favourite quote comes from iconic photographer, Ansel Adams.
“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions”
You can find more of Alex’s work in his Etsy store, RAlexanderTrejo, and on his own website, www.ralexandertrejo.com
John Shepherd grew up with Life magazine in the house. “Sometime in high school, I saw depression era (1930s) Farm Securities Adm. photos in a museum. I somehow recognized that the compositions were beautiful but the people and their belongings were fascinating but not beautiful. Walker Evans has been my guide ever since.”
John started taking photographs in the late 60s, mostly black and white “street photography”, and has been travelling the globe since, as observer to places such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kazakhstan, and events such as Hurricane Katrina.
john shepherd – woman with a red wheelbarrow – Quetzeltenango. “What I am seeing is the bright red of the wheel barrow surrounded by every shade of green imaginable. And clearly, there is tension between us.”
There is a story to each and every one of his photographs. When I was choosing images from his portfolio, every time I was drawn to one for its strong composition, sense of tonal contrast, great textures and colour, I would read his description and fall into another world. Other lives lived, with other rules to live by; other friendships and other enemies; other ways of remembering and dealing with the world.
john shepherd – steps pink and blue – guatemala
The Shark Vendor is a case in point. I was drawn to it for the intent gaze on the face of the shopkeeper with his huge knife, and John told me it has also been his favourite image since he took it in 1977 in the Mercado in Merida, Mexico. “It was a nerve-racking place to be with a camera with so many people and nowhere to escape, and I knew next to no Spanish then. In 2006 I returned to Merida to find the man with the machete, to give him a print and to thank him. Unfortunately, he had died a couple of months before I got there. Clearly he was loved. I was taken by a small crowd from stall to stall where the man’s life was remembered and celebrated once again. Awesome. I learned a great lesson. People are often symbols or characters in my street photo tableaux. The shark vendor reminds me that people in photographs are real with actual lives of their own.”
john shepherd – the shark vendor – merida – 1977
john shepherd – walking in light – guanajuato. 1995. “Clearly, this is a photo of people walking on a steep, narrow street in Guanajuato. But it is also a picture of what you can’t see around the corner. And I appreciate the electric meter on the wall.”
Collecting stories via the photographic process is at the core of John’s life, but it is not his career. Firstly working in Adult Protective Services in a rural mountain area, then as a carpenter and contractor in late 80s, and more recently working in planning and zoning for 15 years, John says of these positions that at all times he was paying attention to what people think about and what they do. “I am also interested in architecture, buildings and cities. All that has been in my mind when I was making photographs.”
Given that his working life took him elsewhere, I asked him what he hoped to do with his photography. “I used to imagine I would publish a book with my photos. Now I am happy to put my archive on the internet. I occasionally sell photos, but am more driven by the photographic process.”
john shepherd – mariano weaving – salcaja guatemala. 2012
john shepherd – gate and earthen steps – san cristobal mexico. 1975
His favourite thing?
“The world now regularly organizes itself into photographic compositions for me.”
john shepherd – covered door – guatemala. 2011.
john shepherd – bernard’s memory tree with a shoe. 1979. “Bernard did not read or write but he remembered all the important events of Brown’s Cove. Each birth, death, hospitalization, marriage, fight, you name it, was memorialized by a can, bottle or even a shoe hung on the tree. The tree helped Bernard keep his world straight.”
And the best bit of advice? “I have never been good at taking advice.”
You can find more of John’s photography in his Etsy shop, JohnShepherdPhotos, and on his own site, johnshepherdphotography.com.
Next month marks the two year anniversary for this blog. It has been SUCH wonderful fun to scour the interwebs for the visually stunning AND be rewarded with such great stories from the artists as well.
That’s why I’ve decided to collect up the very best of the stories from tractorgirl.com.au, and put them together into a sweet magazine-style book, to present to you. These stories are so worth telling again, and here’s why.
Artists are people first and foremost, they have lived lives, and their own world of experience from childhood on feeds into what they do and how they do it. Sometimes their path is obvious, but most end up following a meandering route that often doesn’t make sense until it is illuminated with hindsight.
I love asking people about their paths; what were their early experiences of art and making, and how did they end up an artist as an adult? Especially in light of the fact that our society has tended to devalue art in favour of more “practical” work (oh, don’t get me started!).
I’ve selected these 12 artists for their intriguing stories, the quality of work, for their innovation and their promise – surface designers, contemporary crafters and photographers, from all over the globe. Each of their stories and their images has stayed with me, through the hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of artists that I’ve featured on the blog so far. I’m sure you’ll find them wonderful too.
Why call it this.? It’s because I’m always saying, “Look at this. And this. And this!”
I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
Margaux Kent is a free soul, open to many things : journeys by boat, adventures in foreign lands, investigating the abandoned buildings of others, and the sea. It seems she travels through life with one eye roving the past for lost treasures, the other seeking out what fresh beauty and strangeness the world has to offer.
black spot books – somewhere something
Margaux loves the sea. Once in an old Danish pirate ship, she travelled to the Galapagos Islands. Another time she traversed the inner coast of Greece and Turkey in a small boat of 12 people. She has also spent time travelling through Israel and Jordan, riding horseback in Petra with her son who was not even a year old at the time.
black spot books – the endlessness of the leaving
Margaux’s images are wild and free, yet somehow detached and contained; they have a sense of the dangerous and the disturbing, yet they are quite beautiful. Her preference for subdued colour, underpinned by the grainy texture of the paper they are printed on contributes to their ethereal, dreamlike sense of elsewhereness.
When she was asked in her Etsy Featured Seller interview, “What first made you want to become an artist?” she replied “It was never a consideration. I just started to make things early in my life and have never stopped… I used to wake up before the sun did and knock on my brother’s door, “Do you want to make stuff?” I’d ask.”
black spot books – iceland no 3 2010
black spot books – iceland no 1 2009
Now she lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two sons, in an old 1800s home that used to belong to a bootlegger, and makes frequent trips to the seashore.
black spot books – we were victorious often
You can find more of Margaux’s photography in her Etsy shop, TheBlackSpotBooks. She is also currently running a Kickstarter campaign for a new book of photographs, which you can check out here.