Meeting Lucy O’Donovan

Lucy O'Donovan

Lucy O’Donovan

Over a year ago I met artist Lucy O’Donovan as the art group she had started in the West End of Glasgow where she lives ,met. I was very impressed by the emotional intensity of Lucy’s painting. Lucy’s work is very much about humans, portrait, body,  and seizing the vulnerability of human flesh she achieves through minute precision and tiny detail. Early this year (2013) she exhibited her work in the Agora Gallery in New York. As I got in touch with Lucy recently with the proposal of doing portraits of her as an artist in her environment, she kindly agreed for a photographic session in her home.

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Lucy O’Donovan

Lucy O’Donovan has been influenced in her paintings by the work of Jenny Saville, Lucian Freud, Alyssa Monks and Francis Bacon. In 2008 she was living with her husband in Australia where she was working in field of neuroscience when she had a traumatic brain injury which let her several weeks unconscious.

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We did the photographs on a very autumnal rainy and dark light, something which would have been impossible technically without digital media only a few years back without adding artificial lighting.

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Lucy O’Donovan

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Laryna and the felted Fairies

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One of the reasons I enjoy photography is, it gives me many opportunities to meet interesting and talented people such as artists and craftsmen (and women) and to photograph them in their environment. In August 2010 while doing photos in Milport on the island of Cumbrae at the Sail and Oar Festival, I first met Laryna , a creative textile artist who has been working with natural fibres for many years. She is passionate about needle felting and makes beautiful colourful small creatures such as fairies. She uses sheep’s wool and silk. She sells her creations through the internet on the Craft Scotland  website. She is also running needle felt/wet felt workshops in Galgael, a charity based in Ibrox, Glasgow and in the Albany Center in the woodland area of Glasgow.

Laryna likes creating objects such as scarfs, berets, hats, leaves, fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, but also magic creatures such as dwarfs, mermaids, fairies. Living on the outskirt of Glasgow since 2007 she finds inspiration in the beautiful Scottish countryside.

We first decided this summer to do photographs in a natural environment that would suit her craft nicely. This autumn in her house/studio where she  runs felt workshops for adult and children and teaches meditation.

Laryna writes a blog where she displays most of her creations and uses a Facebook page.

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Laryna and a fairy

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Poets always meet in Callander, Scotland

Joanne McKay, poet, reading

Joanne McKay, poet, reading

It is early September. It seems Summer is quickly becoming a thing of the past (we are in Scotland, glad there has even been a summer this year). But before autumn is untitled to come, Callander Poetry Week-end is the event I like to go to. The Callander poetry week-end started in  2000 and 2001 when poets came to read their poems, booking rooms in the B&Bs and hotels nearby, after Sally Evans and Iain King moved from Edinburgh to Callander.

From Friday afternoon to Sunday, poets gather at the King bookshop and readings starts. They come from Scotland, England and Wales. We listen to Judith Taylor, Sheila Templeton, David Costello, Sally Evans, Iain Blake, Rita Brad (also playing the harp), Colin Will (also playing the saxophone), Brian Johnstone reading poems about war. On Sunday morning the weather allowed readings at the nearby Callander Friendship Garden. About 60 poets came to read their work.

I like catching instants of this friendly meeting. As the weather is autumnal, they take place inside, in the bookshop or in the Kirk. The light is generally low which is something I like, I have to use high sensitivity on the D700. I take most pictures with the 50 mm and the 85 mm, although I find difficult as the space is narrow not to use the 24/70 mm zoom. Fast aperture, high iso (up to 6400), complex light (fluorescent, tungsten, daylight mixed). I rely on my experience of the previous years and Lightroom for post processing and getting the colours right. I like when people are not strongly “camera conscious” and enjoy very much using photography as a mean of telling a story.

David Costello (left) and Colin Will, poets

David Costello (left) and Colin Will, poets

Kemal Houghton, poet

Kemal Houghton, poet

Rita Bradd

Rita Bradd

Judith Taylor, poet

Judith Taylor, poet

Sheila Templeton and Maureen Weldon poets

Sheila Templeton and Maureen Weldon poets

Brian Johnstone, Scottish poet

Brian Johnstone, Scottish poet

Sally Evans poet

Sally Evans poet

Finola Scott, poet

Finola Scott, poet

Martin Bates, poet

Martin Bates, poet

Kevin Cadwallander, poet

Kevin Cadwallander, poet

Iain King checking the founts

Iain King

Second hand Bookshop and first hand poetry in Callander, Scotland

King bookshop in Callander on Main street

King bookshop in Callander

Sally Evans and Iain King in the bookshop

Sally Evans and Iain King in the bookshop

Photography gives opportunity to meet many people. Three years ago I met Sally Evans and Iain King in Callander, a small town in central Scotland on the shores of the river Teith. They run a bookshop filled with lots of literary curiosities from a 1752 French dictionary (gone now) to children’s book, tourists guides from last century, best sellers, dictionaries and of course books of Scottish or British poetry.

They moved to this lovely place about 10 years ago after running a bookshop in Edinburgh. Sally is a well known poet here in Scotland, but also a publisher, she runs Diehard Publishing. She often reads in Edinburgh or St Andrews and is very passionate about her garden, her flowers and her bees. Iain’s passion is bookbinding and he is always working on something interesting.

Every year in September they organise the Callander Poetry Festival, where many poets from Scotland, Wales, Ireland, England, read their work. A very friendly event due to occur next week (6-8 September).

Sally has a Blog

Sally Evans and Iain King in the bookshop

Sally Evans and Iain King

Iain King, bookbinder and bookseller

Iain King, bookbinder and bookseller

Sally Evans, poet and bookseller in the garden

Sally Evans, poet and bookseller in the garden

Sally Evans, poet and librarian

Sally Evans, poet and bookseller with her cat

I love portrait photography in colour but even more in black and white

Regi Claire, poet, portrait, color

Regi Claire, poet, portrait, color

I like portrait photography, whether it is colour or monochrome. In fact all the photographs I do now are in colour but I like to turn some of them into black and white to get the feeling I had when using Kodak Tri-X or Ilford Delta 400. But do meet this I never shoot JPEG but RAW (or NEF as my camera is a Nikon). Then the rest happens in my digital darkroom, my Macbook pro and Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop sometimes.

I started photography in the darkroom, in 1976 and I have used a darkroom until 15 years ago. Then like a lot of photographers I started using a digital camera. No more anxiety wondering if there is something on the film, but until I got my Nikon D700 I felt somewhat unsatisfied. I have never been somebody considering the job was done when I was going back home after a shooting session, but for colour photography as I was only using Colour slide film it was the case, so you really had to get it right.

I really enjoyed spending hours in the dark (less putting my fingers in chemicals and having stains and holes on my shirt !). I learned a lot through the books of Ansel Adams (the Camera, the Negative, The Print ), but also going to exhibitions in Paris in la Maison Européenne de la Photographie.

Digital was not easy, cameras were far from perfect. I found it more difficult to achieve sharpness, avoid noise, and get a good colour balance every time but it came. But I missed the sensual aspect of traditional Black and White photography, especially for portrait. Just felt like I had to learn the technical sides of photography again ! But I did, and soon I’ll propose Black and White prints on sale.

Maggi McGlynn, bard and poet in Callander poetry week-end 2012

Maggi McGlynn, bard and poet in Callander poetry week-end 2012

Sally Evans, poet and bookseller, Black and white

Sally Evans, poet, bookseller, publisher and blogger, Black and white, portrait

Justine taking photographs. Black and white, portrait

Justine taking photographs. Black and white, portrait

Laryna, Black and white portrait

Laryna E Wuperman, Artist, Black and white, portrait

Taking or making a photograph ?

Glen coe, Scotland Seeing so many pictures on the internet you could guess most people can be a photographer. You only need to point your camera or mobile phone at something and press the button. But true love of photography and good skill comes with practice and learning. It’s about understanding the camera but also learning to watch the world around us with a photographic eye. In many ways it is about going through life watching at things, people, places framing, adjusting the focus, willing to make things a bit more permanent ? Observing the light, its colour, its intensity, and observing how it translate in print-or on your screen? Photography is a language. It has its grammar, it’s exceptions, it’s vocabulary. It’s there to tell somebody something. It says this happened at that time that day or I saw this beautiful landscape and loved it. It’s the speach of the photographer striking the mind of the viewer. So instead of “I just took a photograph to show you this place”, you could say “I realised  a photograph, framed this way, decreased the aperture to get more depth of field”. So, you look though the viewfinder (or screen), adjust exposure maybe; you may think of the paper you’d like to use for the print and pre-visualize the result. It’s not just about grabbing, it’s about making, manufacturing something. Yes, seize the moment, the place, but your way, and predict the result. Add something personal to a mechanical process, emotion and technical skill.

Oh! I just wanted to start writing a blog about photography…expensive cameras, f-stops, hue, saturation, gamma, pixels, noise, bokeh…maybe next time.