Tag Archives: photography

Why feminist photography?

A woman’s perceived value in society is constantly being underestimated and undermined and this is true too in the world of art. 

‘Shackled’ by Vanessa Thomas First appearance at the ‘No Boundaries’ Art Show hosted by the Dublin Arts Collective at the F. Co Gallery in Dublin, California

My first blog post in 2022 echoed similar sentiments and the loss of economic power and agency for females continues its downward trend.

Societal trauma following the first pandemic in 100 years seems to have resulted in increased misogyny and oppression of women globally in what I surmise is the patriarchy’s attempt to regain some sense of power and control in a world where we have discovered that we have rather little.

The situation has had a profound impact on my art and has ignited the fires of my feminist heart. It has always burned beneath the surface but the cold clutches of fear caged it. Floral photography is my usual playground as a way to find my flow and cope with the increasing pressures of life while offering some respite to the onslaught of negative news and climate change anxiety. So in a dramatic departure from my usual subject matter my muse emboldened me to create two works of feminist photography.

Every creative soul knows the feeling of being imbued with an idea that needs to be brought to life. To take the tacit dream and make it explicit. 

In a creative collaboration with fellow artist May Yin Giang the photographs ‘Shackled’ and ‘A Woman’s Grief’ were  brought into existence representing the anguish, frustration, grief and ire experienced by women following recent events. The images were captured on location at Dublin Pioneer Cemetery in California. 

Overturning Roe vs Wade and the subsequent impact on reproductive rights and a loss of bodily autonomy that has further oppressed the vulnerable and compounded the struggles of those already at the bottom of the economic food chain were the catalysts for creating ‘Shackled’ that provides a window into women’s suffering.  Women’s rights are human rights yet they appear to not carry the same weight as men’s rights. 

In ‘A Woman’s Grief’ the anguish of the losses faced by women is placed in the context of societal structures (including religious structures) built to contain, dominate and exploit the nurturing nature of women who have the power to produce life but are not empowered through it. Her innate strength though is reflected in the green hues of hope representing persistence in the face of horrors of the wounds inflicted by society. 

The responses to this work have been intriguing. Many have been surprised at the level of emotion elicited in response to it but others have been unable to fully allow themselves to uncap the bottle of thoughts and feelings that arise. 

If we can hide a woman’s pain we don’t need to find a remedy. 

‘A Woman’s Grief’ by Vanessa Thomas First appearance at the Pleasanton Art League Fall Members Show at the Harrington Gallery in Pleasanton, California

The feminine form is beguiling in the art world but art produced by females is deemed to have less intrinsic value compared to that produced by males. An interesting glimpse into the stats was recently presented in the Burns Halperin Report and commented on in an article by Katya Kazakina in Art News “Who’s afraid of women of a certain age? The market still dramatically undervalues female artists – but there’s more to the story.” that I saw posted on @artgirlrising. It begs the question – why? 

Women are exploited and preyed upon in their youth and child-bearing years and discarded and made invisible as they age. There was a time not so long ago when it felt like women where claiming their space and owning the incredible power of their bodies and minds. The show on Netflix “Feminists – What were they thinking?” includes the work of photographer Cynthia MacAdams and discusses 1970s portraits of women that reflected a feminist awakening and captures women being who they want to be and the images are both striking and empowering. 

Our art holds a mirror to society and the current reflection is grim. Yet we persist in pursuing the ideal that all women and girls will one day be free to reach their full potential and live without the constant fear of violence. 

There’s so much more to say but I’ll end with a quote from the book “A Radical Awakening” by Dr Shefali (page 173) 

Culture and in particular, the patriarchy are deathly afraid of the awakened and empowered woman. She is a threat to the status quo. A woman who is no longer docile, quiet, servile and dependent? No longer willing to compromise her worth for another’s comfort and well-being? No longer willing to take second place except when she consciously chooses to do so? That woman? Do you know what power she houses within her? She is a force to be reckoned with.

* Footnote ‘Shackled’ will be on show at the Museum on Main in the Imagination Expressed Show of the Pleasanton Art League from January 28 to March 25, 2023. 

Buy Prints of “Shackled” here.

 

I’m a photographer, will AI image generators make me redundant?

Artists are driven to create but also need to make a living – how will AI impact their lives ?

Floral photography is where I dance with my creativity and when planning for 2023 there is one glaring technological advancement that will undeniably alter the trajectory of my art journey – AI image generators (not to mention other AI tools for image enhancement).

Chrysanthemum by Vanessa Thomas

While setting out my list of art shows for the year and reading about current trends and developments, there is an undercurrent of both trepidation and excitement. AI Image Generators are essentially able to generate new images using keywords and reference images. The software learns from the reference image pool and generates faces, places and spaces never seen before and the results are astounding. Examples include DALL-E 2 , Craiyon, Midjourney, Dall-E, Stable Diffusion Online and DALL-E FLOW to name but a few and there are many others on the horizon.

AI image generators are here and they’re here to stay. Trying to deny or downplay the impact they will have on the visual arts community is like trying to deny climate change – the facts are there and the impact will happen whether you choose to acknowledge it or not – in fact the impact has already been felt in the creative industry.

Does AI Art or traditional art have more value? As an exhibiting photographer I have already experienced the ostracization by artists using more traditional media – especially from those who paint – as for some, photography is not considered an art form requiring an equivalent level of skill. It appeared to me that art that took relatively longer to produce held more value. Even certain online platforms I’ve used to sell my work had a separate login for ‘artists’ and ‘photographers’. ‘Art gatekeeping’ is a topic for another post though. Currently the novelty of AI art makes it trendy which means people want to own it – will this shrink opportunities for sale of traditional artwork? On my social media feeds it was evident many were willing to pay to upload reference images of their faces in order to see a stylized AI generated version and they were happy to share them as well. I don’t know when last I’ve seen someone who is not an artist, share a painted portrait of their visages!

Will owning traditional art become an elitist practice with only a niche following? People love making and creating work themselves so they have the option to adorn their walls and spaces with art ‘made by me’.

I’m no AI expert but as an artist I’m already a part of this creative evolutionary step – and my participation was not voluntary- after doing some online reading I came across the following website allowing artists to search the data pool / training data used as source images to teach the AI image generators and low and behold my original photographs (currently for sale) are already included! Images were taken without permission or acknowledgement – so where does this leave me in terms of copyright protection? Yes I can opt out of future internet data scrapes but I have to admit that a part of me was also excited to be included! Want to check if your work is included ? The site is Have I been Trained?

Image: Search Results from Have I been Trained?

It is not unusual for artists using other media to use my images for reference – the main difference is that they ask permission and acknowledge the source. Of course there have always been those unscrupulous types that simply copy images and use them without permission – watermark and all! Digital art and image manipulation opened a new world of opportunity when it was first made available to the public. I recall the early days of creating scientific posters for conferences manually with a printer, scissors and glue and I also recall my jubilation when designing my first poster in CorelDRAW. Systems evolve and we are now in the midst of the AI revolution and as with the industrial revolution – there will be job losses – why would a company pay a graphic artist when they can generate unique, high resolution professional images using AI that will be both cheaper and faster?

There is no doubt in my mind that the world of photography that I currently know is about to change. Questions have already been raised about standards of beauty and perfection in these new images and whether existing biases and forms of discrimination could be altered in the visuals we see. The process of making art however also has intrinsic value – which is why art therapy works. Every revolution brings opportunity. AI art is a new frontier and who better than artists and creative minds to boldly go exploring! It has the power to make the images in your dreams a reality – whether you are able to draw or paint or not – only your imagination is the limit.

Happy World Art Day 2021!

Since it’s World 🌍 Art Day here’s a look into how I created my artwork called “Thankful”.

The title of this image was inspired by a quote by an unknown author that I read on the day I took the original image “I fall, I rise, I make mistakes, I live, I learn, I’ve been hurt but I’m alive. I’m human, I’m not perfect but I’m thankful.”

This image won 1st Place in the Alameda County Fair Fine Art Competition for Alternative Process/ Mixed Media Category in 2021. It was also a featured image in the “Images that Excite” Group and the “A Woman’s Touch” Group on Fine Art America.

Step 1 Original Daffodil Bouquet Photo in Natural light 📸

Daffodil Bouquet by Vanessa Thomas

Step 2 Composite of two photos 🌼 Second photo is of dewdrops on a cobweb

Daffodils and Cobwebs Composite by Vanessa Thomas

Step 3 Digital Watercolor Paint effect in Photoshop 🖼

“Thankful” Digital Watercolor by Vanessa Thomas

Post update August 2022- Delighted to announce that this original image has been SOLD to Scott at my “Colors Inside” show! Congrats and I hope it brings you much joy!

Steps in creating “Thankful”

There is always something to be Thankful for!

A Woman’s Touch – Up Close & Personal

Artists thrive on positive responses to their artwork and I was delighted to receive the following message – “Congratulations, Vanessa! You have been selected as our ‘Up Close & Personal’ featured artist in ‘A Woman’s Touch’!!

Rose Pink Swirl Macro Photography Vanessa Thomas

Later tonight or early tomorrow [Sunday] morning, this gorgeous rose macro swirl & a brief bio will grace our homepage for the week beginning 9.6.20. You are invited to share the homepage featuring your work on Social Media, with family & friends, and in any group discussions thread that fits. Fvl.” Brooks Garten Hauschild

Brooks Garten Hauschild has led a remarkable creative journey and it’s wonderful that she has decided to support other female artists in this way!

You can visit the “A Woman’s Touch” Group here to see more beautiful artworks!

If you’re a female artist – drop your blog link in the comments!

 

 

 

 

A new fur baby leads to ‘Plums A Lot’

Delighted that the “Plums A Lot” photo was featured in the Camera Art Group on Pixels.Com today!

Plums A Lot Photograph by Vanessa Thomas

So what’s the story behind this photo?

Like so many other families we adopted a puppy after the first couple of months of lockdown. Thankfully the Valley Humane Society was still arranging adoptions with special safety measures in place.

Little Archie has been a playful, fun and cute addition to our household and has drawn our attention to certain things that had become part of the background. The ornamental Plum tree in our garden being one of those!

Spring Awakening Photograph by Vanessa Thomas

It’s a tree that produces the prettiest blossoms in Spring and an abundance of tiny plums in Summer so it’s a pleasure to have in the garden. Little Archie was excited to play with the little burgundy fruit balls which of course was a nightmare because plums pits are toxic to dogs!

So on a blistering hot Summer’s day during a Zoom call break my husband took on the task of pruning the tree and I helped to collect some of the fallen fruit. What a task!

It seemed such a waste to simply add them to the garden refuse so of course I set a few aside to photograph first. For those of you who are interested – here is also a pic of little Sir Archie.

Little Sir Archie in the garden

 

Creating an Adirondack Chair to Remember

A Chair to Remember – The journey of an Adirondack Chair as part of a Temporary Public Art Program by the City of Dublin, California https://dublin.ca.gov/. The chair named “Of Poppies and Pollinators” was designed by Vanessa Thomas. Local Artist Teresa Yue assisted with the painting and assembly process.

The design for this Chair is inspired by the flora in Dublin with the added theme of protecting pollinators vital to our planet’s well-being.

This chair design raises awareness of the important work of bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds and others.

The problem of declining populations of native pollinators is complex, and there are multiple factors at work. But population decline can be largely be attributed to habitat loss, diseases and parasites, pollution and pesticide use.

The home gardener can help support native pollinators by creating pollinator-friendly landscapes and gardens.

A total of 20 Chairs were created by local artists and are up for auction via the City of Dublin website until September 2020.

Images used in this design have all been photographed in the Dublin area by Vanessa Thomas and include:

Image 1: Wisteria from Emerald Glen Park

Wisteria

Wisteria in Emerald Glen Park, Dublin, California

Image 2: California Poppies in the Meadow in Scarlett Drive

Orange Poppy Pair Adirondack sml

A pair of Californian wild Poppies

Image 3: Baby Blue Eyes wildflowers photographed in Fallon Sports Park

Baby Blue Eyes Wildflowers Adirondack sml

A collage of Baby Blue Eyes Wildflowers

Beauty in a Single Bloom

There are times when a single bloom in a bouquet captures my attention. A combination of vibrant color and intricate details that shouts out to the universe – isn’t life wonderful!

Its also an opportunity to practice mindfulness, to pause and reflect and appreciate a moment of stillness and the times that bring us joy.

My husband recently gave me a bouquet just before Valentine’s Day and he knows I like a collection of various types of blooms and colors. The one that stood out for me was a yellow Gerbera Daisy, bringing a piece of my African homeland to my home.

This description was taken from the ProFlowers Blog “The Gerbera daisy was discovered in 1884 near Barberton, South Africa, by Scotsman Robert Jameson. While the flower’s scientific name, Gerberajamesonii, recollects the name of its founder, the meaning of its common name draws from German naturalist Traugott Gerber.”

Here are two of the photos I took which are now for sale on my FineArtAmerica site.

Photo 1: Vibrance

Gerbera two tone yellow

Photo 2: Hopes

Gerbera daisy single on sparkle fade

 

1 of 8: Seth Godin’s Publishing Master Class

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while are aware that I am a huge Seth Godin fan. Today on his blog he posted about a Publishing Master Class that would be taking place in his office so of course I applied! Eight people will be selected to participate but I am sure that the reach of this intensive workshop will be far wider than Seth’s office walls!

Photo 1: Unveiling

Sunflower unveiling

My Floral Photography has led me to my current project of the Dublin Art Collective which is about to host its first free Networking Event for Artists and Makers this Sunday, October 22.

The freedom to blog about things we care about is a remarkable opportunity and I’m interested to know from other artists and makers how blogging has influenced their creativity and the impact of being connected to other like-minded creative types. Please leave your comments below.

I will leave you with some food for thought “What’s changed is that more people than ever have a device that connects them to the town square. They have access to information, to courses, to opportunities that weren’t even imagined just twenty years ago. Twenty years! It’s an extraordinary thing to waste. And we’re mostly wasting it. Wasting it by waiting for a guarantee.” Seth Godin

Photo 2: Sunflowers

Sunflower pair bright

 

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