We’re three quarters of the way through our Mind of the Artist series here on the blog, and what better way to celebrate than with Rindy–inimitable CHAL chairperson and CHAW fixture! Her story is one of creative evolution, and we are so excited to bring you a little insight into the art and lens of Rindy O’Brien.
Framing the World, by Rindy O’Brien
Ten years ago, I stepped away from my frenetic life as an environmental lobbyist. Digital photography was just coming into its own, so it seemed to be a logical step in restarting my art.
The digital camera functions were similar to the film camera, but the post-production was a whole different experience. No longer did you have to be cloistered in a dark basement room, breathing in toxic chemicals and swearing under your breath when film tore or paper spotted.
Suddenly, you could shoot as many frames as you wanted to, unlike film, where the cost of film, paper, and development limited the photographer. The software to take the digital files from camera to paper, Photoshop, opened up all kinds of tricks of the trade to improve a photograph. And over the past ten years, the technology of printers has vastly improved to where now an inkjet print is considered museum quality.
When the world is your oyster (what an odd saying, but so true), photographers explore everything. I shudder to think of the thousands of poor frames I have taken over the years. Photographing for the Hill Rag as part of my monthly gardening column began to focus me on a body of work: photographing Capitol Hill throughout the seasons. It was a labor of love to produce a photographic book, @Home on the Hill, in 2011. The project had taken two and a half years to produce 50+ photographs.
In the course of the book, I switched back to a basic manual camera, the digital Leica M 8. The camera, a throwback to the old days, requires each frame to be set manually. The depth of field is set, no automatic focusing. Instead of being limiting, my creative life exploded.
I had to focus – choose how each frame looked through the small viewfinder. The world was now framed for me. I still could shoot as many photographs as I wanted, but by being forced to slow down, hand-focusing and setting the speed and light, I also began to choose my subjects more selectively, putting more creative intention into my work.
I also began to think about what caught my eye as I raised the camera to take a picture. Color! My frames are full of intense color. It has become an important key to my successful images. Of course, light is the ingredient that makes the colors work and I have to work with the camera’s settings to capture it the way I want the photo to be seen. I also began to be bolder in making sure the person or object in my frame was positioned to be captured at its best.
It was returning to the more traditional photographic methods that helped me move from a person shooting photographs to an artist creating pieces of art by selecting just the right frame.