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Photographer of the Week:
Korri Leigh Crowley and self-portraiture

Posted by Teresa Hanafin  June 21, 2010 09:15 PM

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By Korri Leigh Crowley

I can comfortably say that my life would be much different, and less full, were it not for my self-portraiture photography.

I have always been a creative person, but I would often flit from medium to medium. Drawing was first, painting entertained me for a while, jewelry-making was next, but it wasn't until I picked up my first camera, a Pentax ZXM, that I knew I had found my tool and my passion.

While I adore analog and still often take out one of my eight film cameras (a few antiques - a Kodak Duaflex, an ancient Polaroid, etc. - and five toy cameras with plastic lenses for playing around, and finally my beloved Holga) for fine-art shooting, it was the acquisition of my Nikon D80 that allowed me to advance rapidly in my shooting. I was able to set my camera up and take hundreds of photos until I got it just right -- and I still believe that is the key to becoming a better photographer: shooting. Yes, classes and books may help, but the best thing anyone can do is to shoot, review, adjust, and shoot again.

At the end of the day, while I have learned so much during the years I have been taking self-portraits and grown as an artist, the more important thing is how much I have grown as a person. Like many others, art is my therapy. When I feel upset, despondent, anxious, uncertain, or any other host of emotions, I work through them with my camera.

Taking self-portraits means I always have a willing model while allowing me to completely control the styling and ultimate look of my images. I post-process using Adobe Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4 and unabashedly believe that the editing of the images, sometimes significantly, is as integral a part of the creation as the initial capture.

I recently lived in Maine for a few months and the snow and cold were oppressive. In order to prevent some intense cabin fever, I trekked outside in an attempt to work with my barren surroundings.

Winter of Discontent
Winter of Discontent
1/250 sec. at f/7, ISO 320, focal length 22mm

I applied a texture layer in Photoshop and blended it to "darken only." I also used Lightroom to split-tone the photo -- a technique I use very often, as in the photo below.

Snow Slumber
Snow Slumber
1/320 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 200, focal length 19mm

Split-toning an image allows you to dictate the color tone of both the high lights and low lights in the image. When used effectively, it can produce beautiful and completely unique color profiles for your images. I almost always adjust the color in my images in an effort to better convey the mood I was hoping to achieve.

Queen of Hearts
Queen of Hearts
1/25 sec. at f/4.5, ISO 125, focal length 24mm

The use of hearts become a theme in my work recently as I experienced the loss and introduction of love in my life. Working with a theme or within guidelines has been very helpful for me, especially when I hit a creative slump. Fun photography challenges like those featured on RAW or Flickr are good ways to challenge yourself and re-examine your art.

Pour Love on the Broken Places
Pour Love on the Broken Places
1/40 sec. at f/4.5, ISO 100, focal length 18mm

This photo was inspired by a line in a Jonathan Lethem novel. One of the characters saw a bumper sticker that said, "Pour love on the broken places". Inspiration can come from anywhere if you're open to it. The hearts in the image are actually Christmas lights that I photographed with my selective focus lensbaby lens that I custom fitted with a heart-shaped aperture ring. In Photoshop, I colorized the hearts and layered them onto the original image of myself with empty arms.

Make Your Day Break
Make Your Day Break
1/40 sec. at f/6.3, ISO 125, focal length 24mm

This photo was inspired by a song, Jonsi's "Go Do," and I again used Photoshop to layer the same photo onto itself.

Zurich Reflections
Zurich Reflections
1/60 sec. at f/4.8, ISO 400, focal length 90mm

Self-portraits don't always have to be planned; I took this photo in the window of an art studio in Switzerland.

1/13 sec. at f/3.2, ISO 800, focal length 50mm

I also try to vary my self-portraits and get away from taking photo after photo of my face. I tried to invoke a sense of nostalgia here with the square framing and slightly antiqued colors.

1/6 sec. at f/4.5, ISO 500, focal length 32mm

The use of negative space is important and I love the mystery that is added when you don't know what the subject is looking at.

John F. Kennedy once said, "We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth." My self-portraits show my truth at the moment they were taken, and when I look back at them, I am able to see myself and who I want to be more clearly.



Korri Leigh Crowley
Korri Leigh Crowley resides in Hanover but misses living in Boston as she has for the past five years. After working in local politics and receiving her masters' degree in journalism, she finds herself returning to her camera more and more and can be found shooting weddings and lifestyle portraits on the weekends. More of her work can be seen on her website. Korri Leigh recently returned from a life-changing trip working with former slaves in India and Nepal, and is about to have her life changed again when she welcomes her first child in July.

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