But first, a little about me…

I’ve never blogged before, but since this seems to be the direction the world is moving, I think I need to go along for the ride.  Hopefully, I can manage to find meaningful things to say about photography and the work I do!

I’ve always been a bit of a photo-fossil, preferring the “old way” of doing things to the more modern way. I’ve only recently delved into the world of digital photography. While I prefer film and the more traditional forms of photography, it has become cost prohibitive for me to work that way any more. I still love the way photography chemistry smells. I miss fixer stains on my clothes and the vertigo that comes from going in and out of the dark checking on test prints. I still miss the  excitement of opening the developing tank and squeegie-ing off the wet film for the first time and the thrill of an image coming to life before my eyes. I miss using my lupe to see the treasures I captured that morning. I miss the ART of photography!

I always feel like I am complaining when it comes to the new wave of photography, but that’s because I can’t stand what has happened in the last decade. I hate that any schmo can buy a digital camera and Photochop and take a few online seminars and call him/herself a “Professional Photographer.” I hate that people can now click away a gig or two or three of garbage and “action” it through photochop until it’s no longer an art, it’s a computer skill. I hate that composition doesn’t mean anything any more because of photochop cropping tools. I hate that today’s “professionals” don’t know what the Zone System is and how they don’t care WHY it’s important.

In 1992, I declared Photocommunications as my major at St Edward’s University, and jumped into the darkroom with both feet. I’d already spent four years behind the lens and in the dark in high school, and was eager to take my photography to an entirely new level. When I graduated from high school, I’d been the photo-editor of my high school publications, and I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I’d modeled throughout high school as well, and fashion photography seemed to be where I wanted to go. But then Sybil Miller introduced me to the beauty of documentary photography, and I was smitten. I loved the art of making something beautiful out of what was already there, not having someone else create something beautiful and taking a picture of it. I interned with a fashion/commercial photographer and hated every single solitary second of it. Though during my internship I had the pleasure of photographing wonderful people like Selena Quintanilla Perez, I quickly realized that it was NOT the direction I wanted to take.

So following my graduation from St Edward’s, I took my BA and went straight into the MFA program at the University of Texas at San Antonio. To say it was a mismatch made in Hell is an under statement. When I took my beautiful collection of documentary prints to the Fine Arts Review Committee and saw their puzzled faces, I knew I was in the wrong place. When the consensus of the Committee was that I should “blow my pictures up really big and paint on them,” I decided to quit and pursue other avenues. With all my darkroom gadgets packed neatly into storage boxes, I entered the Communications program at St Mary’s University and began to write. I still photographed a little, and I even did my 50% Master’s thesis in photographs, but photography was on the back burner and my backup camera was in mothballs.

One road led to another, to another, and then another. And eventually, I realized that I hadn’t taken a picture in years. The roll of film in my camera contained images taken so long before that I couldn’t remember what I’d shot. I’d worked in Broadway PR, corporate communications, advertising, built stained glass windows, and decorated my new house, but I hadn’t stepped into a darkroom in years. Meanwhile, the photography digital revolution was gaining steam, and I was oblivious. I even paid my wedding photographer extra to shoot film.

And then I got pregnant. And everything changed. EVERYTHING. I no longer had time to spend in the darkroom. And I no longer had to money to spend on developing roll after roll after roll of pictures. So I bought my first digital camera and I started learning all over again. Eventually I opened Forever Young Images in Pinellas County, FL and began shooting again. I shot families and children and rediscovered my first love. I found that I could take my documentary photography background and apply it to family photography. I documented my daughter’s first months (and later both of my sons’) with a passion, and remembered all the things I’d originally loved about finding the beauty in what was right in front of me.

Since then, I’ve learned a lot. Meaning, I’ve spent a lot of time in front of my computer learning “photography” all over again. I’ve learned that Photochop is a necessary evil, and that there is now a big difference between amateur cameras and professional cameras. I still don’t like all the digital manipulation I see out there. I don’t like 99% of the black and while images I see and I think there is not enough room on this planet for selective color photography. Ever. I have found my place in Photochop though. I’ve found that you can use it to enhance images, not create them. That you can make them better and that you can make them worse. That you can use Photochop for good sometimes, not always evil. And I learned that I can love photography again.

Join me as I journey through the digital world. Sometimes I make mistakes, sometimes I have silent victories. But be forewarned. I never ADMIT to using Photochop. As far as you know, everything I shoot is SOOC. As far as you know, I do not know what actions are, what workflow is or how to make things look all fancified. It’s magic. And it’s art. And it’s my first love, and I can’t wait to share it with the world.

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About juliephelpsphotography

To take photographs means to recognize -- simultaneously and within a fraction of a second -- both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one's head, one's eye and one's heart on the same axis. - Henri Cartier-Bresson View all posts by juliephelpsphotography

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