twenty stories by twenty people
a unique portrait study in human emotions
Sharing emotions and troubling stories with family members or close friends is difficult for many people. We are afraid of what another will think of us. Society tells us not to burden another with our troubles.
Instead, many of us internalize them, blow them off when we need to share them, even tell them to an inappropriate person. It affects our moods, our outlook, our day to day life, and our relationships. Some swear they will take these feelings and stories to their grave. Unfortunately, some do sooner than later.
People tell me their personal stories and I listen to them without judgment. In telling their stories, I use unique images. My work shows sharing personal, emotional stories can be safe. Yours can be too.
Michael Austin Stevens
Mr. Stevens, who used his middle name, at least with me, contacted me to photograph his business headshot for LinkedIn and other social media. At the time, Austin was a lifelong Military transitioning into the Civilian work world.
The photo session was very straight forward. Austin knew what he wanted, and the session was completed within 10 minutes of the first pose. During Austin’s time on the posing stool, he was able to see his image right after I took each shot. I have a large monitor in my studio. Not only do I see the images right after each shot; so do my clients. After a few shots, Austin and I agreed we had the right image.
After each session ends, the client pays for the service by check or credit. If not for a quirk of faith would the image that became the genesis for My Picture Tells A Story be taken.
One day later, I started the post photo session work in Photoshop. The business shot of Austin was a straightforward, classic business image. The second shot was a very different story. I stared at it for 15 minutes. In front of me was an image that as a business portrait photographer, I had not photographed before. It was a spontaneous, emotional response for me to capture in a portrait setting. Long ago, my beginning days as an artist were using charcoal and pastels, not a camera. I let the emotion of the image carry my artistic instincts.
Along with a note, I sent the finished images to Austin. In the note, I mentioned that I had never finished an image the way I did with his second portrait. I also let him know that if he did not like the way I did it, I’d do it over.
His response was “Don’t you dare touch it.”
Including the back story, I posted the image on a photography Facebook page. I was expecting feedback on the quality and technical side of Austin’s picture, but that didn’t happen. Instead, I got a string of personal comments. Some by people that were in the same situation, had been in that situation, or were close to someone going through it.
I continued to receive emotional responses to Austin’s image and the story it told. Before I showed the image to someone, I always told the story behind it. The story was simple, “This is Austin. He’s a lifelong Military transitioning into the Civilian world.” The most compelling reaction came from an acquaintance and fellow photographer. I didn’t know he was ex-Military prior to showing him the image. When Dan saw the image, his response was emphatic. “I know exactly how he feels. That was me.”
Although I continued the business portraits, I soon started doing street photography, but the desire to photograph spontaneous human emotion in a portrait setting stayed with me. It would become a driving passion to create human images that people could form an emotional connection with.
I was photographing randomly throughout when I noticed my cousin Bunny starting to tell a story. She was telling it to a few cousins across and slightly to the right of me. Bunny was seated directly across from me. She is very animated when she talks, especially when she is relaying a tale. I started shooting and captured about a dozen images. The thought was that I would have one or two images out of this group that I really liked. When I put the images up on my editing viewer, my reaction was something entirely different. What I saw was an old-time film strip or story board. What would it look like if I took five of the images and put them together on a single canvas or print? I let my creative instincts take over; I created a complete story on a single print using multiple images.
Over a period of time, I showed the print to a few fellow photographers. Their responses were positive and encouraging.
Towards the end of September, I was struck with an idea that would later turn out to be the centerpiece for the upcoming exhibit and go on to become My Picture Tells A Story. What if I had six people tell me their story, using six images on each canvas? Six people, telling six stories, with six images on six prints, the ideal Seeing in Sixes project.
The finished photo strip will be in black & white and will be 6 shots instead of the 5 you see above.
The finished photo strips will be part of my first solo exhibit that will be in October 2018 at the Artist & Makers II Gallery in Rockville. All the photographs that will be exhibited will be in black & white – The Exhibit Is Titled The Color in Black & White.
Please don’t hesitate to talk with me before you volunteer if you need more info.
This should be a lot fun for those that do volunteer. 😊
I received more than six than volunteers. I took the first six, Johanna, Skyla, Erinn, Bill, Fekadu, and Tim. My Picture Tells A Story came to life.
My Picture Tells A Story
… are six volunteers, telling six stories, on six separate canvases, with six images on each canvas. Each print tells a complete story.
Over a period of seven months, Billy, Tim, Skyla, Erinn, Fekadu, and Johanna each told me their very personal story. For the story sessions, each dressed, sat, spoke, and moved as they chose. They were never rehearsed, prompted, or interrupted. I never spoke. Each story took 30 to 90 minutes to tell. For each story, I took 500 to 1,500 images. From those images, I chose six in chronological order to tell you their story.
I am eternally grateful to Billy, Tim, Skyla, Erinn, Fekadu, and Johanna for their trust in me, and their support and love in this endeavor. None of this is possible without their willingness to bring My Picture Tells A Story to life.
Music has been an essential part of my life, and it entered the creative process in an unexpected way. Looking at one of my fine art images, a large delicate white flower with linen like petals, my dear friend Gail, said it reminded her of a beautiful wedding dress. The moment she made that comment, Billy Idol’s White Wedding played in my head. Since then, all my images are named after a song title, an album title, or a band name.
Neal Schlosburg, photo artist: The mood of an image is a shared experience between artist and viewer.
I explore energy, emotion, and sensibilities with my images and their titles. My goal is to have an expressive exchange; one soul directly to another. I converse with light, shades, tones, textures, shapes, and words to tell a story and to convey my feelings. Life is diverse, so too are the moods.
On Friday October 5th, 2018, the original six images (stories) debuted as part of my first solo exhibit, The Color in Black & White. It was the center piece of the thirty-six prints on exhibit. Because of the reactions to the stories, there was incredible interest in having an expanded exhibit.
Along with the original six, there will be fourteen new stories for this exhibit. Twenty stories, told by twenty different people, with six images that tell each story. During 2019, the fourteen new stories were created.
2020 Schedule Exhibits for My Picture Tells A Story
The Gallery Hall at the Artist & Makers Studios, 11810 Parklawn Drive, Rockville, MD 20852.
The exhibit opening date to be determined.
please fill all requested info
Music and photographs were the two passions that inspired my formative years. I first experienced photography through my father’s family photos. I especially was intrigued with the development and outcome of images with the early Polaroid cameras. It’s one thing to see the images when my father showed them to us, quite another to watch them develop.
My first involvement with photography wasn’t with a camera; it was in a developing lab at summer camp. There was a darkroom where we made contact sheets. While that experience was limited, it was a springboard into a creative future.
My artistic creativity blossomed during my final two years of high school. In my family, voicing feelings was not welcomed, and certainly not encouraged. Through charcoal and pastels I started to express my feelings. Looking back, my strongest expressions were in the form of sharp contrasts when using charcoal. The more complex ones seemed to emerge when I used pastels. There was something very cathartic about getting my fingers into the pastels as I blended and formed the textures and colors. At 19, not long after high school, my hands weren’t as cooperative as they had been. It became difficult to continue using charcoal and pastels. I bought a camera.
During the time I progressed as a photographer, two major influences impacted me as an artist and my trust in sharing emotions. The first was a group of close friends that helped me believe it was safe to share my feelings without being judged. The second was my introduction to the work of Alfred Stieglitz. In the early 1900’s, Stieglitz was one of the first, if not the first photographer to declare that photography was art. I was taken with his images of the human face, and to me, some of his photographs were reminiscent of works in charcoal.
Through those growth years, my interest in portrait photography evolved. Originally it was business portraits, but along the way I gravitated towards candid images of people. Along with Stieglitz, two other photographers influenced my work. The first was Herman Leonard, legendary jazz photographer. I loved the real time feelings that his images conveyed. I got the vibe of being right there in the room, front row center, watching, hearing, and feeling Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and many others create music magic. The other was brilliant photographerJimi Giannatti. Jimi’s iconic work on Through These Eyes, portraits of seven iconic African American artists living and working in Los Angeles, gave me a window into their souls through his masterful lens art. The inspiration that these three photographers gave me are my artistic building blocks for My Picture Tells A Story.
I chose to not retouch my bio portrait. If the story tellers can show you who they are, so should I.