Sunday, October 14, 2007

My World: A Portfolio

Along with my husband, I belong to the Houston Photographic Society. Originally, I began attending because I wanted to see the judging on competition nights when Michael entered work. I became an actual member because I wanted to accompany Michael on an excursion with the club. But the oddest thing happened. The more I went to meetings and activities, the more interested I became in the topic of photography.

The competitions especially intrigued me. People entered photographs in five categories: Color A (for advanced), Black and White A, Color B (for beginner), Black and White B, and Special Category. The special categories referred to thematic assignments that changed each month. A judge from outside the club looked at each photograph and commented on it, highlighting its strong points and its weaknesses. After reviewing each group of photographs, the judge would award ribbons to the best of them.

Aside: All new club members start out in the beginner group and only move up to advanced if they win five or more first, second, or third place ribbons.

The judging commentaries fascinated me. I began to understand the qualities of good photography and found myself better able to appreciate photographs in general. I also began to think that I might be able to take good photographs myself. At the same time, WIVLA (Women in the Visual and Literary Arts) announced its annual print show at the Museum of Printing History. Print show entries could be photographs, lithographs, hand-printed or any other technique that involved the print process in some way.

I decided to enter the WIVLA print show and produced a tableau photograph titled "Frida Paints Herself" that used several of the items I have on my Frida ofrenda or altar. Later, I entered the photograph into a monthly competition at HPS. The judges come from all photographic genres and the judge that night turned out to be an elderly retired architectural photographer. He admitted that he did not understand my photo at all and then said off-handedly that perhaps it was so creative and unique that it might be the wave of the future.

I did not win anything, but also did not mind. I felt proud of myself for entering the photograph and I got a lot of positive feedback from other club members. (Not to mention the positive comments from the WIVLA print show.)

My next foray into an HPS competition occurred when we had "fruit and vegetables" as the special category. I had this great idea for a picture and I tried to get Michael interested in it. He responded by challenging me. "If your idea is so great, why don't you do it yourself. I have my own ideas."

So I did. I produced a photograph titled "Lemon Lime, Too" and entered it into the monthly competition. This time I did win - first place! How exciting. It just thrilled me. That photograph later became my entry into the next year's print show at the Museum of Printing History. This show featured altered prints, so I altered my photograph. I had it made into a jigsaw puzzle and used that in the print. Basically, I "poured" the puzzle pieces into a coloring book version of my original photograph as if I were pouring into a wine glass. To get the right effect, I studied pictures of liquids pouring into vessels. The print turned out very well and again I received positive comments from the print show.

Another artwork I created for a WIVLA show, a photographic illustration titled Cake and Roses, won a first place ribbon at an HPS competition this year. It especially pleased me because I baked the cake, grew the roses, and placed everything on my Grandmother Gustafson's cake plate.

In all, I have won five ribbons since I started showing my work: two first place, one second place, and two honorable mentions. If I ever figure out how to work with Photoshop Web Gallery, I will post them here.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with my title. "My World" is the title of the portfolio I entered into the Portfolio Challenge at HPS this month. It included 15 photographs I took which all explored the theme of my world. I'd like to show you those, too, but I do not know how to yet.