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Interview with Photography Student Elena Petrova

 

Elena Petrova

Photo by Kamil Mrouah

We met with Elena for a final portfolio review after she had finished her Photography Certificate. We loved hearing about her life and work, so asked if she would share some thoughts. Read more to hear her advice to new photographers, and her dream assignment!

Tell us about yourself and how you began your photography practice.

I was born in the historical and cultural city of Leningrad in USSR, now called Saint Petersburg in Russia, so I was surrounded by beauty and artistic inspiration since I was a child: ballet performances in Mariinsky Theater, lectures on Ancient China in Hermitage, photo exhibitions in galleries, theatrical plays, late night summer walks when the sky is still bright…I was always interested in the arts, especially painting, writing, and photography. I remember that I had a camera before that I took with me everywhere. Later I studied journalism in Saint Petersburg State University where not only we learned about writing, but also about how to take photos and develop our film in the dark room.

In 2009 I traveled to Los Angeles and later realized that I’d love to stay here and keep enjoying my life by the ocean and where everyday is full of sunshine. I thought about what could I do here, and photography came to my mind as I really love that art form and communicating with people through it. I found the UCLA Extension Program and it sounded really interesting. That’s how my professional photography practice began. I met many talented and inspiring people at UCLA Extension among my classmates and teachers. I started to study photography in 2013 and there are still many things I need to learn and practice. It’s great to do what you love.

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For someone who is new to photography, what should they know about getting started?

Since I feel pretty new in this industry myself, I’d love to wish everyone and myself to be persistent and believe in yourself, be a better photographer than you were yesterday, keep improving your technique, get out of your comfort zone and explore things that you never thought you might like, smile more, be the light and then every door will be opened.

Know your camera and learn more about lighting. Educate yourself. Watch good movies, read good books, and look at classic paintings. Look at works of other photographers; the masters of back and white days and current notable photographers. That way, you will have a better taste and understand being a photographer.

What was your favorite UCLA Extension class and why.

I really enjoyed every class from Photography 1, taught by George Simian, to the amazing portraiture classes and mentorship taught by the incredible Michael Powers, to Portfolio Workshop with David Daigle and super informative event photography class with Jenna Schoenefeld. My favorite class was the mentorship class. Michael Powers is a very artistic and skilled photographer and in his studio in Pasadena he taught me many things about lighting, using strobes, vision, and shared interesting information on photography books and websites. I have to mention the Event Photography class too, which was the last class I took. It really gave me an understanding of event photography and beyond, and inspired me to start shooting events. I always liked the photojournalism style, and now I’m developing myself as an event photographer with a journalistic approach, focusing on candid moments.

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What would be your dream job in photography?

I really like the amazing Russian actress and director, Renata Litvinova. She is very inspiring. I literally had a dream where she asked me “why you don’t take pictures of me?!” That probably would be my dream job. Also, I would love to meet photographer Paolo Roversi and work with him on a fashion assignment for the W Magazine.

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What are you working on right now?

I’m currently working on my personal project, “Viva La Vita,” about seniors 85 years and older who are still full of life — they travel, work, have hobbies, very active, and enjoys themselves. I shoot it with my grandpa’s old medium format film camera, which gives a special feeling and energy to the images. Also, I just launched my event photography business called Happy Vibes Only (www.happyvibesonly.com), where I shoot small parties to big weddings.

Last year one of my portrait photos won an award in Popular Photography Magazine for “Best Shot” 2014. The photo will be published in a book called “Manual for Portrait Photographers” in January of 2016. Also, recently two of my photos were nominated in ‘Fashion’ and one in the ‘People’ category for the 10th Annual Black and White Spider Awards contest (2015) out of  “7,686 entries received from 74 countries.” The Nominees Issue will be released in January 2016.

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Interview with Felix Ossa on his photography practice


Felix

Since he began the Photography Certificate program, Felix’s work has always stood out. The strong concepts and thoughtful commentary behind his images make for a powerful portfolio. We are thrilled to know that his time here has helped him grow as an artist, and appreciate his many contributions to the program, including several pieces in our 2015 Student Show. We spoke to Felix about his artistic development, his future goals, and why photography excites him.

Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you began your photography practice.

I lived in Colombia until I was 21 years old, when I obtained a 7 month student visa to go to the United Kingdom. After just a few months I realized I had fallen in love with the country and its multicultural and diverse people. In spite of the hard and low-paid work and the fact that I could not afford to continue with my higher education, I had found a new place to call home, where my sexual orientation was not a burden and I decided to stay. Almost ten years later and with a husband, I had the opportunity to come to Los Angeles, California. I started taking photography classes from the Certificate Program at UCLA Extension as a way to meet people and make new friends.

I was lucky to have Gareth Walsh as my first teacher in Photo I. He set my imagination free helping me understand that photography is the means by which I can express myself, but he also made very clear that it was not the only way. For him, the tools we used were not important, he was more interested in the idea behind each photograph. After Gareth, I took Photo II with George Simian, with whom I learnt the technical side of photography, his vast knowledge gave me great foundations. Then I took “History of Photography” with Richard Langendorf, where I got hooked into YouTube Photoshop tutorials to be able to render self-portraits that looked like the photographs taken by the masters. My imagination went wild and I realized I really enjoy the creative process.

I only have one class left to finish my Photography Certificate; however I will be taking more classes as UCLA develops the program. I have learnt many tools from each teacher I have had and I am grateful to each one of them. I am also thinking of taking a few classes for a second time as I am sure new teachers will give me more ideas. Most recently, I had an electronics class with Pete Hawkes; which although it is not featured as part of the program, it is accepted as part of the necessary credits for graduation. I also took Mentorship with Scott Hutchinson, the Program Director of the Visual Arts. Scott and Pete have helped me reshape my portfolio and have a clearer vision of what I would like my future to be.

Felix and participants interact with his installation piece at It's Your Show 2015

Felix and participants interact with his installation piece at It’s Your Show 2015

 

Where does the inspiration for your projects come from?

What inspires me to produce work is a strange mixture between personal experiences and the social perception of popular issues. While talking about a topic or following news on social media outlets, an idea or question comes to mind. Getting ideas is not difficult, I am quite sociable by nature (thanks to my being Colombian), so I am in constant contact with people from many different places and backgrounds, who fill me with lots of questions and ideas. My challenge always is how to articulate those ideas, how to answer a question or interpret an argument visually. My advantage (if you can call it that) is that I do not have any formal art training, apart from the “Fine Art Photography” class I took from the certificate program. The execution of every idea is a possibility to learn something new; to explore identity; a way to create a performance to understand, for instance, why we act selfishly; to tell my relatives where I come from and a chance to acknowledge basic human shame and acceptance feelings.

For someone who is new to photography, what should they know about getting started?

I did not know much about any technical or artistic aspects of photography when I took my first class. I would not even say I had a passion for photography, but I had an open mind and the disposition to learn and work hard… I would suggest you take your first photography class with the same spirit. You will probably feel as lost as I did, but fear not as the program is structured to help you find your way, either commercial or artistic.

Is it important for you to have your work seen and shared by others? If so, how do you manage that?

It is very important indeed! My goal from very early in the program is to exhibit, to show my photographs, videos and installations to people. My website www.felixossa.com was crucial, although I only have a mobile version at the moment. It acts as my portfolio, thanks to it I can get in touch with people from different countries and try to arrange shows.

What are you working on now, and what are your long-term goals as an artist?

I am currently working on a three piece project exploring shame called “Hypersexuality”. It is a series of performances and installations that I am taking back to the city I was born in, Medellin, in Colombia. It is very personal but at the same time it is kind of universal since we all deal with shame at some point in our lives.

  • The series start with a performance called “Closeness” which I created in “Wearable Computing”, the electronics class I took with Pete Hawkes.
  • The second part. “Hypersexuality”, will be presented as an installation some months later. It was inspired by the “Portraiture” class I took with Van Ditthavong.
  • The series will finish some time later with “Let Go!”, a performance inspired by the electronics class with Pete Hawkes.

It might sound ambitious, but my long term goal is to create pieces for galleries and public spaces, works that people can interact with.

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Felix Ossa ‘Newsfeed’

View on Felix’s site

View on Felix’s site

View on Felix’s site

View on Felix’s site

The Business of Photography

Instructor Todd Bigelow

Instructor Todd Bigelow

This photo workshop was named by Photoshelter as one of fifty awesome photo workshops worldwide in 2014 and is highly rated by students who have attended. The two-day course is currently scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, January 24-25, 2015 from 9:30am-5pm (break for lunch).  For a full course description or to register, click here.

Los Angeles based award winning freelance photographer Todd Bigelow designed the course for those interested in pursuing careers working with editorial publications, non-profits, foundations and corporations. It provides practical advice and information on the business of photography derived from photographer Todd Bigelow’s two decades of shooting assignments for TIME, Sports Illustrated, Smithsonian, Newsweek, National Geographic Traveler, People, James Irvine Foundation, Costco, Target and many others. Todd presents real experiences and scenarios as the basis for discussions regarding copyright, licensing for revenue, contracts, rate and term negotiations, client development techniques, social media integration, portfolio considerations, legal & tax issues, agency representation, digital asset management and more. Basically, the topics that freelancers face on a daily basis are addressed from a practical, modern standpoint. It’s his goal to have students leave the workshop with a sound understanding to successfully handle the significant business matters they will face on a daily basis as a professional freelance photographer.

Student testimonials, course topics, locations and registration links at http://thebigphotoblog.com/the-business-of-photography-workshop/

 

Upcoming Lecture: Practical Legal Knowledge for Photographers and Artists

As you enter the professional world as an artist, legal questions and concerns begin to present themselves. You’ve mainly been photographing friends – will you begin to present them with model releases? How will you protect your work as you try to market it on the web? It can be overwhelming, and difficult to get good information as you build your business.

To address these issues, we are pleased to present a lecture by John Baldrica, MFA, JD, and assistant General Counsel for SAG-AFTRA. Tailored to the concerns of photographers and artists both starting out in the business or deep in their career, this three-hour talk will present a streamlined overview of the laws most relevant to their calling, from contract basics to intellectual property. Participants will discover common misconceptions about the law and glean powerful, practical lessons from other creators’ hard-fought legal battles.

The talk will be held on Thursday, Sept. 25 from 6-9pm. To learn more and enroll, click here.

We spoke to John about his background, and the world of arts and the law. Please note: John Baldrica is Assistant General Counsel for SAG-AFTRA;  the opinions expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of his employer.

John Baldrica

John Baldrica

What are some of the unique legal challenges faced by artists that others might not be aware of?

There are certainly legal issues that artists face more frequently. For example, a lot of the basic rights and obligations related to creative works–things like the ability to use or sell a particular image–turn on who is the legally recognized owner.  This may be addressed by a contract, but might also be affected by the circumstances surrounding a particular work’s creation.  Does an existing contract make it a work for hire, owned by an employer?  Could someone else’s involvement mean they might be considered a co-creator?  Did the people in the photograph give consent?  Consider all of the academic questions that surrounded the Ellen-Oscar-Selfie, and imagine what a mess it would be if a creative business relied on using images like that but didn’t think through those issues ahead of time.

Another challenge–and this is not unique to artists–is that legal disputes can often follow financial success.  One of the intentional features of our court system is that it is designed, in part, to be burdensome and expensive, with the hope that people will try to resolve their disputes and only fight it out when the underlying issues are really worth it.  You can argue whether the system has the intended effect, but as a practical matter it means that if you’ve just made a million dollars selling the Oscar-Selfie, those questions are no longer just academic.

Is there a common mistake or oversight you see artists make that can have serious consequences?

Again, it’s not unique to artists, but one of the most serious risks anyone can take is signing a contract that they don’t fully understand.  This is not to say that artists should avoid formal contracts.  They exist because they are very useful for handling anticipated problems that might not be addressed by the “default” laws in effect.  And artists, by the nature of their work, are often pushing boundaries of technology or expression where the law is not entirely settled.

But the flip side is that, in most cases, the law will treat a contract that two parties have willingly entered as the starting and ending point of the inquiry, even if it gives a clear advantage to one side.  That could mean anything from being obligated to pay the other party’s legal bills in a lawsuit, to giving up all of your rights in your work.  And, because individual artists are often dealing with large companies, there is already an imbalance of negotiating power, so it’s even more important that artists understand all the obligations they are agreeing to.

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Pondering the legal ramifications of displaying work at our student show.

What in your background led you to this area of the law, or why did you chose to focus on issues of law in media?

Before law, one of the things I worked in (and taught) was web and Flash design.   At real risk of dating myself, this was in the Wild-West days of unique, subversive, creative work being done for the Internet, before even the advent of YouTube.  Think “email link to a GeoCities page.”   As a result, I was inevitably fielding questions about the legal ramifications of various projects, to which, at the time, I could basically say just “try not to get sued.”

Now, a decade or so later, I can give basically the same advice, but with lots of Latin words.  I’m (probably) joking, but the exciting and occasionally nerve-wracking thing about the edges of any developing medium is that the law takes time to catch up with the culture.  So often the best you can do is to try to anticipate what might be issues in the future.

What do you hope students will gain from the lecture?

There’s a natural tension between the arts and the law, because, in part, one is focused on taking risks and the other on avoiding them.  But, when they are working best, both the law and the arts are about solving problems and finding balance.  It’s certainly a matter of debate where that balance should be, particularly in terms of allowing creative expression.  But, ideally, we probably want a legal system that is flexible enough to encourage innovation and risk taking, but protective enough that creators can benefit from their innovations.  Through this lecture, I’d hope to chip away at least a little of the perceived complexity surrounding the law and give students concrete ideas of how they can use
it to help themselves.

Introducing Photo Instructor Parker Steele

Parker Steele bio imageThis upcoming spring quarter, we’re excited to welcome Parker Steele as our new instructor for Shoot & Critique.  From his work as a photojournalist and writer with the Ohio Army National Guard to his assignments for clients such as Bicycling Magazine, L’Officiel, Lucky Brand Clothing, Marie Claire, and Nordstrom’s HauteLook, Steele brings a diverse range of experience to the classroom.  We took a moment to ask him a few questions about his work, career, and what students can expect from his Spring course.

What drew you to photography and how did you get started?

I took a few photography classes in high school and was fortunate enough to have a teacher who was extremely supportive. At first, I was drawn by the technical aspects and how that could be translated into a meaningful image. My teacher encouraged me to apply for a scholarship to attend the Columbus College of Art and Design, to study commercial photography. Around the same time, I also decided to enlist in the National Guard as a photojournalist and writer. Luckily, both worked out and I was able to study and work as a photographer at the same time.

Bicycing in LA

Image courtesy of Parker Steele

Certain aspects of what I learned as a photojournalist have been translated into my commercial work. However, one of the best lessons I’ve learned is that as a photographer there is an innate feeling to project yourself into your work. It becomes more of an internalized projection than simply a documentation.  That’s why a photographer’s approach or process is considered somewhat sacred — it’s revealing and says a lot about what they value.

Tell us about an especially rewarding project you’ve worked on and why you enjoyed it so much.

portrait with old painting in dark room

Image courtesy of Parker Steele

It was October ’11, I was living in NYC at the time. A photographer friend of mine invited me to the Navajo Nation while he was working on a long-term project. I took some basic stuff, my camera equipment and an audio recorder.  There was no internet, so I ended up having to post flyers around town in order to find people to photograph.  The entire project was about documenting the people of Tuba City, AZ.  As an outsider, being dropped into a somewhat marginalized culture left me with some larger questions to explore. My subjects included a young high school couple, a boy who had dreams of becoming a male model, a single mother and her child, one of the last remaining Navajo Code talkers of WWII, a children’s Navajo rodeo, a Navajo language teacher who was out of a job because they’re not teaching the Navajo Language to students anymore, plus various landscapes. There’s actually a behind the scenes video, which gives you a sense of what went into the making of the project. It was by far, the most rewarding project I’ve worked on. It was a project that I was truly passionate about and it refueled my desire to create, explore and it reminded me why I fell in love with photography in the first place.

What can students expect from your approach to Shoot & Critique this spring?

My goal for the class is to improve students’ understanding of photography and to explore their own creative process. Through talks, practical exercises, planned shoots and critiques I ultimately want them to have the tools to become stronger photographers in whatever field they’re interested.

woman and daughter

Image courtesy of Parker Steele

Any advice for budding photographers just starting out?

Be persistent, build your visual language, perfect your craft, and learn from mistakes. In a handful of cases, careers have started over night, but most successful photographers have worked really hard for at least 10 years to get where the are now. Figure out a way to support your photography. The experiences you have outside of photography will influence your perspective and you’ll become a better photographer for it.

Visualizing the Urban Landscape

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‘Untitled’ by Francis Reilly, Los Angeles River Renovation Study

This spring course approaches photography as a disciplined way of seeing, investigating, and interpreting the urban landscape.  It is intended for those interested in photography, landscape, architecture, the built environment, and art history in the context of the city.

Each student selects a site for the focus of his or her work in the course. The place may be anywhere in the Los Angeles region — urban, suburban, or rural. It may be a work of architecture, a garden, an urban space, a neighborhood, the urban edge, or the like. Work will be submitted in digital format. Images are projected for class discussion and posted in an online gallery. This work will proceed in stages, examining the site from varying perspectives, including light, detail, documentary, and poetic interpretation, and ending as a portfolio of photographs that express the qualities of a particular place, sequenced as a story or stories.

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“Sunday is my day with you” by Georgia Sheridan, Linear Park, Santa Monica

Each class is divided between presentation and discussion of student work and a lecture providing context and critical understanding for this work The lectures provide an historical and critical understanding of the evolution of photography of the natural and built environments. The lectures provide an historical and critical framework for informing one’s photographic efforts and, through the many examples, educate the eye to the variety of ways of seeing and interpreting the urban landscape..  Thus students are expected to evolve  their abilities to see and interpret the urban environment by understanding how others throughout the history of photography have done so, by experimenting with their own photographic project, and by discussing how other students have approached their work..

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‘Untitled’ by Camille Fink, Union Station

The course is led by Richard Langendorf.  He is uniquely prepared to teach this course as he has degrees in Architecture and Urban Planning from MIT, has experience in both fields abroad and in the United States, and has more than 50 years of experience photographing the urban landscape.  UCLA Extension recognized his teaching excellence by giving him the Distinguished Instructor Award in 2013.

Feb. 15th | Amanda Keller Konya @ West Gallery

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Amanda Keller Konya, Federal Building, Downtown Los Angeles

Heist, an exhibition of new work by photographer and instructor Amanda Keller Konya opens Saturday, Feb. 15th at the West Gallery, Cal State Northridge.  Taking Millard Sheets’ commissioned mosaics for Southern California banks from 1954 to 1975 as her subject, Heist “offers viewers a selective and cropped view of the subject matter represented within these tiles, such as: depictions of power, labor, manifest destiny, the nuclear family, scientific and technological progress and the California Dream.”

The titles locate each work, positioning the exhibition within the Southern California landscape as well as pointing to the repurposed buildings “prettified by each mosaic.”   As writer Michelle Weiner explains, a viewer “considers the formal attributes, the location, the socio-economical history and significance of the subject matter.  However, it is within this subject matter, specifically its making a spectacle of the other, which leads the viewer to conclude Keller Konya is not only depicting but deconstructing the myth of the Southern California landscape through these various architectural, ornamental mosaics.”  Keller Konya has digitally captured the images, which are then printed at 7″ x 5″ size on fiber based silver gelatin paper.

Heist
February 15 – March 6
Opening Reception | Saturday, Feb. 15th 4 – 7pm

West Gallery
Cal State Northridge
18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, CA, 91330-8299

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Amanda Keller Konya, Police Department, Culver City, CA

 

For more information, please visit the Cal State Northridge Galleries website.

Business of Photography in Photoshelter’s Top 50

Bigelow_Business of Photography Top 50_Portrait of Basketball Player Shabazz Muhammad for Sports Illustrated

Todd Bigelow, Portrait of Shabazz Muhammad for Sports Illustrated

Photoshelter, a worldwide leader in photography portfolio websites, photo sales, marketing and archiving tools for photographers just listed our very own Todd Bigelow and his Business of Photography course as one of their 50 Awesome Photo Workshops from Around the World.  Judging from student feedback and our insight into Todd’s extensive knowledge and expertise, we couldn’t agree more.  Currently offering the workshop at Otis, it will return to UCLA Extension in our upcoming Summer quarter on July 12th & 13th.

Student Work by Jay Carlyle

Student Jay Carlyle recent shared a fascinating project he completed, incorporating photography as well as something that will be familiar to many students – the Braille wall in the entrance to the 1010 Westwood Center.

Check out Jay’s project below, as well as an explanation of his inspiration and process.

 

Jay Carlyle artwork

“A friend of mine (a real life individual, a CSUN student, who is in the composite, with permission), is deaf-blind, with low vision, and has had a Cochlear implant for most of his life.  I talked with him about my photography and the projects I was doing here at Extension.  The whole vision of it all sort of came to me spontaneously; I was taking a set of courses that quarter, including one with Michael Powers.  I think I mentioned in passing my concept and Powers had encouraged me as well.

For various years and times, having attended a variety of courses at 1010 Westwood, I passed by the plexiglass installation which to most just appears as an architectural part of the stairwell near the entrance of the building.  But, upon closer examination, it is in fact in Braille.

It is untitled, and a complete Google and otherwise mystery to me as to who created, authorized, the whole installation process for 1010 and for UCLA Extension.   My friend, though Braille is not his primary method of visual-like communication (a CCTV enlarger, Computer Assistive technology, and other magnifications are), can read some Braille.

The 10-15 ft fall installation there appears to be in both simple and complex Braille, and I had him read some of it, which appears to make some references possibly to the Greeks and such, and learning, and mathematics. The whole statement, I do not know.

I photographed him there, as well as shots of him signing and other photographic elements and blended it all into an idea of what was a fantasy composite for class, but as well, a cover jacket for an actual autobiography that I am aware of, he may finish writing at some point.

With the exception of the feather, the brain image scan, and some freely available braille and finger-sign fonts, the entire work used personally photographed elements and created artwork.

As Powers has noted of myself, I have a documentary style of photography, and that is perhaps the inspiration for the project, as well as just personal beliefs about helping, and depicting in a good light, those who are marginalized in society.   I have had some interaction with the deaf community before personally, but only more recently became aware of someone who was deaf-blind (as Helen Keller was and other noted individuals).”

 

 

Upcoming APA LA Events

 creative relationships APA LA event image

Two great events from APA Los Angeles are coming up this month.   A free panel discussion on October 22nd will host three pairs of photographers/clients who have collaborated over the years on various projects.  And on October 12th APA Members can register to have your work and website reviewed by top industry professionals: art buyers, photo editors, in-house creatives and entertainment companies.

For more information and to register, please visit APA LA’s website.

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