Guest blog with Torsten Kieslich
I'm very pleased to welcome Torsten to my blog. Torsten is another of my friends who I am privileged to have met through my photography journey. His control of light is amazing and I am just in awe of the images he creates.
Here is what Torsten had to say....grab a cuppa and a biscuit and enjoy!
The strange guy on the other side of the screen
A few days ago Fiona asked me to write a blog post about your style of photography and who inspires me. I feel honoured Fiona thinks me and my art interesting enough to tell people about it so I’ll try and start with an introduction. Who am I (as if I would know)?
First of all you might want to know that I’m pretty fond of old Hollywood movies, so of course the easiest way to describe myself would be to use a good old Hollywood cliché: I’m the guy with the big cigar, rolled up shirt sleeves and braces, yelling at the poor sods working for me, always running for the big story. I’m the boss, the editor in chief of a photo magazine.
Well, this doesn’t match the scene exactly - Although I’ve been the editor of a photo magazine once, I’m not wearing braces and I don’t smoke cigars. I do smoke a pipe though, so I might fit in the cliché a tiny bit and at least I’m a freelance journalist writing about photography and image processing.
I’m not a pro photographer nor am I an outstanding Photoshop artist. Compared to some artists I admire I’m only shooting on a fairly amateur level, still learning about all the stuff. But I can say I love photography, I enjoy seeing stories being told and depicted in an inspiring way. That’s what I’d like to achieve too and that’s what got me writing about photography. In a way I also feel myself situated on the other side of the fence (or rather the screen), as I’m not only Torsten, the amateur photographer but also the one chasing stories and images for our readers. Thus I usually describe myself as both a journalist and photography enthusiast.
A bit of history
The love for images goes back quite a long way. I loved to draw when I was a kid and then got hooked on photography when my dad gave me a Nikon FM. During school I’ve photographed a lot, developing and enlarging the photos in our own darkroom. I still remember the magic, when an image suddenly appeared on the paper.
Later, when I’ve moved into "real life“ and had a regular job I had to put the camera aside, as I had no darkroom and, even worse, no time anymore. It’s been a sad time as I’ve missed the creativity. I tried to find some of it by going from a IT job into PR, but it’s not been the same. In my spare time I started to learn Photoshop and tried to get as close to photography. This was long before Adobe even published CS, to buy a Mac was far out of my reach and to have a color 14“ screen was considered luxury.
When the first usable digital cameras appeared I had to get one – I think it was an Olympus. Then, as Nikon came up with the D100, I was back on the track and started shooting again. Soon after I’ve quit my job and started to work as a freelance writer and photographer, giving me the freedom to work on the things I really enjoy. Would I pursue this line of career again? Well, today I’d probably would be less scared and immediately get into photography; even it’s a hard market.
To me Photography is about the passion to tell stories, the passion to show new, inspiring and touching views. That’s what makes the difference between a snapshot of uncle Bert’s last birthday party and a photograph as a piece of art. This does not mean the snapshot is less or bad, it simply is different. I use snapshot and photograph as terms here in lack of better words to draw a line. Please read them as very general tags for two genres of photography, not as a quality marker. While a snapshot can have a very special meaning to the person who took it, it might not have a similar value to a viewer not involved in the situation. A photograph on the other hand forces the viewer to think, to compare his view of the world to the one the photographer is showing him. It does not mean the viewer has to like a photograph, but he has to recognize a certain “value” in terms of a story or style.
Photographers I admire
There are of course a lot of photographers and Photoshop artists I admire and draw inspiration from. I’ve had the pleasure to meet some of them in person and I’ve to say that I’ve never me a nicer bunch of people. I found that the really cool artists are down to earth people, they don’t to put up the ‘Look at me, I’m a great artist’ show. I’ve written about some great artists in my blog at http://www.facesofvegas.com/category/sunday-inspiration.
So here are some of my favourites, in no particular order:
Frank Doorhof (www.frankdoorhof.com): Frank is a genius when it comes to strobes and creative angles in photography. He made me use a lightmeter and inflicted the love to use a Deep Octa in me.
Glyn Dewis (www.glyndewis.com): Glyn is a bit of a role model when you want to know how to start a career. He’s a hard working guy with massive talent and a great sense of humour. I love Glyn’s way of retouching his images and his stunning Photoshop tricks. He’s also responsible for one of the best magazine covers I’ve ever had the pleasure to approve as editor.
Peter Kemp (www.peterkemp.nl): Peter is an amazingly nice guy and a creative mastermind. His head must be buzzing with tons of surreal ideas and it’s unbelievable what he comes up with on a set. From him I’ve learned a lot about creating stories.
Vernon Trent (www.vernontrent.com): Vernon is probably the exact opposite of Photoshop and digital – he’s a master in old photography techniques and creates wonderful wet plates and prints. You can really learn a lot about photography essentials from him. All of his images seem to have something special, a certain vibe or feel.
Do I have a style?
You might have noticed I’ve avoided to answer the question about my style of photography. That’s because I can’t really say if I have a style. Some people say i do, but I find it very hard to describe how a typical image would look like. There’s one obvious thing, though - theme of my website which also doubles as my artist name. The idea for Faces of Vegas was born in April 2010, when I attended a photo shoot in Las Vegas intended to recreate DaVinci's famous Last supper with a bunch of fantastic retro models in an amazing diner in 50s style.
The side shots I've taken there and at the famous Viva Las Vegas rockabilly weekend formed the base material for a more serious approach to artistic photography. I found that I love to shoot people, and enjoy to team up to work on a decent image.
Being impressed by Las Vegas and the strange retro appeal of pin-up images I’ve started off shooting pin-ups - usually pretty brightly lit in classic poses. But seeing more and more images of really cool artists I found my images often were missing some essential element of storytelling. At this point I’ve started experimenting more and since then I’m trying to incorporate some story telling element or edge in my images. Don’t get me wrong: I still love to photograph a beautiful girl or an edgy looking guy just so, but I think it’s working out better if there’s more to it. This doesn’t have to be an elaborated set or an expensive outfit, but at least there should be a plan (read as an idea what story you want to tell).
My favourite to achieve this is to use light in a bit more dramatic way - I like shadows in my images. They transport drama and mood and are a key element to create a story in the viewer’s mind. I guess that’s why I’m drawn to black & white images with a touch of Film Noir lately. Also poses and of course shooting angles can help to incorporate a touch of story or a surreal element in the image, driving the viewers slightly off track and - if I’m successful - making them look twice.
Is there a downside? Of course there is. First of all you need to work harder to get an image living up to your self-set standards. If you’re happy to just put a beautiful girl in front of some light you get the job successfully done as soon as you know your gear. If you try to create a story you have a bit more thinking to do and to look out for interesting sets, matching dresses etc. Also you might be a bit more disappointed when the images just don’t look as you’ve imagined them. Then there’s also your audience. If you post in photo groups or on Facebook (or just watch a lot of images there) you’ll find that the nice-and-shiny images generally find more applause or „likes“. For most people they look just as good and are easy to take in. And what’s not to like at a nice smile or an appealing bum? So your stuff might not necessarily match the point of highest mass appeal and you probably will get less likes. It needs a bit of confidence to just put this aside and not to think that your images suck of a sudden. But on the other hand it just is more fun to create just the images you like - and basically that’s what I do.
Torsten usually spends his days creating articles and tutorials and the occasional book and shooting the images for these articles. Most of his stuff deals with Photoshop, Lightroom and of course plug-ins like onOne’s Perfect Photo Suite, Topaz or Macphun.
His articles can be found in magazines like „camera“ and of course on his website www.facesofvegas.com. He tries to put out at least one weekly tip in his on YouTube channel and to present articles and tips on his blog.
http://www.sixty5.org (if you want to go directly to the blog posts).
So, you have met my amazing friend....and I'm sure you will agree he is fabulous! To me he is far more than a photography enthusiast - the way he masters light and composition inspires me to do better, to keep learning! AND as with Morgana yesterday, I know, they are both there for me to help me in my journey.
Thank you for being part of my blog and you guys....thank you for reading.
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