Karin Elizabeth | Fine art photography & blog
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Back in the saddle

Another two months have gone by; I keep finding my way back to my website though, so I suppose that’s something. My ties with Karin Elizabeth, photographer, are never severed even though I often (unwillingly) distance myself from it all. Life gets in the way of things, but in the past few months it’s been good: I’ve been experiencing things, getting out more, traveling, and gaining perspective on a lot of things, all of which will only benefit me in getting back in the saddle.

Wil and I just got back from traveling around Norway. We took our own car, Lola, and made our way up via Germany and Denmark. We traveled for two weeks, combining a few city stops (Bergen, Oslo) with a whole lot of nature. We took moments to relax (at a cabin in Geiranger for 3 days with a stunning view of the fjord) while also working in a fair amount of activity (several long, and even intense hiking trails, including Kjeragbolten and of course Preikestolen). We ate good food and tried some typical Norwegian things, such as Brunost and Aquavit.

Getting away from your own routine is a great way to look at things a little differently, and for me this trip has been extremely refreshing. For my photography, it’s also been great: while I used to balk at Instagram, for the past few months (since getting my new phone) I’ve been using it a lot (@kaatzoetekouw) and I also took tons of photos in Norway. I started using it as a quick tool to capture whims of creativity and now I’m really liking it. An appreciation for the little things, like how the light hits something, or how colorful the scenery is, or even just holding on to a memory, is exactly how I started taking photos back in 2004. A decent phone camera is whipped out in a second; an image processed in a jiffy. It’s more effortless in a sense to capture what I see, and that is the pay off for me. I’m not in it for followers, I’m in it for myself: I quickly get to see my own results and it’s been motivating me to see that with a simple phone camera, I can take photos that I fall in love with. (Imagine what I can do with other tools?)

It’s been good to start over in that sense. I credit both Instagram and my very different surroundings for this. I felt something open up in my soul, and I have hope that my long creative block is coming to an end.

I’ll share some Norway/Instagram favorites here as soon as I have my stream up to date. And after that I’ll get to work on my plentiful DSLR shots, which will take me a while because I took many, but I should have something to share in a couple of weeks.

Working on it!

Not yet two months, that’s not too bad. Somehow I got it in my head that I’d neglected this site for a lot longer. One of the reasons why I still haven’t really gotten this site off the ground is that my grandmother passed away last month. Her death in a way closed, book-ended, a very bad time in my life. It was the last bad thing that could happen, and it then did, and in a way it set me free. I will love her, always, and I miss her. But I’m also ready to move forward with living. My grandmother’s passing sort of brought me into a new reality.

I am ready for a life overhaul. That sounds serious, and to me it is. I am working very hard on myself at the moment. I’m re-framing thought processes. I’m teaching myself new coping strategies. I’m working through some issues. All this serves to clear up my head space and allow room for creativity and inspiration.

I’m also clearing my literal space, here at home. Re-organizing my house is a big part of what I’m doing now. I’m aiming for simplicity in my living space, with more structure. And the attic – that is my new haven.

The attic is where I’ve had my office space for the past few years. It was supposed to be a place of productivity, and I went about it all wrong. It is the least inspiring place to be, which isn’t good for a work place if you are in the creative branch. It’s all wires, computers, binders, printers, post-its… and part storage for the house. It’s become a joyless place and it has stagnated me. No wonder I was usually downstairs, where I keep my travel mementos, photographs and knick knacks that inspire me… Downstairs, where I never do any work because it’s where I live instead.

Part of developing yourself is to evaluate and make changes, so that’s what I’m doing. It helped that I started seeing myself differently around the time I started redoing this website. I don’t want to look at myself as a small business owner. That is something that I technically am, yes. But again, it sounds joyless. I want to fully embrace being an artist. I used to draw and paint all the time. I used to express myself so much better – and it’s not about end results. When did I make everything about end results? I miss the process. I miss making mistakes, the stains on my fingers from drawing, paint spatter on my clothes.

The attic will be my true studio space. It feels good to have a designation for that space that will work for me. A few things to do: work through storage items. Personalize my work desk so that it at least looks alive when I’m doing small business stuff. There will be one corner that will ooze quiet and peacefulness, and that is the seating area I will create when I can. The rest will be clutter upon clutter – on the condition that everything inspires me. If it doesn’t inspire me, it goes.

And downstairs will be the place where Wil and I can properly relax and entertain friends and family (without having everyone trip over clutter).

So no, I’m not online much at the moment. Offline, behind the scenes, things are set in motion that will help bring me back to where I want to be.

Botany

Stock photography is something I still feel relatively new at. I’d been with Getty Images for several years: work I’d made earlier got curated, and, mehhh, it was easy this way. Step one was taking photos, step 2 was “Oh Getty wants this one. Eh, sure”. I didn’t really give it much thought in that sense. But now that it’s become a more important part of my photography, I have to turn it around by first asking myself, “What do stock buyers generally want? In what way can I contribute to stock photography?” and following that up by taking photos to suit these needs.

At first I struggled with this, because I focused almost too much on the question, “What do stock buyers want?” Yes, it’s good to look at current trends, but it’s very easy to try to emulate What’s Out There too much in order to fit in with What’s Hot Now. It results in trying too hard, and it shows in images. I want to avoid that. Like the writer’s mantra “write what you know”, for me in Stock there’s a mantra: “photograph what you love”. And that’s what makes for good stock because that’s what brings the extra flavor, the answer to the question “in what way can I contribute?” By staying true to myself as an artist, first. By photographing what I am actually passionate about, first. I get to combine at least two passions by working this way.

One of the things I feel deep appreciation for is nature. I enjoy hiking in national parks, and find equal enjoyment in taking care of, and being surrounded by plants.

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So this is one of my newer series that I’m doing for Stocksy. I wanted to photograph a subject I enjoyed myself, but it wasn’t until I looked through the viewfinder and my macro lens that a whole world opened up for me. (Yes, that song from Alladin kind of whole new world.) There were textures, colors, shapes, glitters (!), patterns, mixed and matched. And so my first actual series-for-stock was born!

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More leaves will be posted in the forthcoming portfolio section (I felt it was more important to first get the blog properly established, so the portfolio will have to wait a while longer).

It feels pretty awesome to have something that I can continue to work on… In a way I always have something to photograph and it helps against the stagnation I felt for a long time before now. And what’s even better, is that as a result of these photos, I have another idea brewing… for self-portraiture. I’m excited about this change in my creative process where I can build upon my own work and inspire myself in that way.

Alright, time to enjoy the evening. I need me some coffee and TV time. Wil and I are binge-re-watching Friends at the moment. Still one of the funniest feelgood shows everrr!

Get with the instagram

In all honesty, I’ve never been a huge fan of mobile photography. Not because I don’t think it’s good: photography is always about the person behind the lens. A good photographer can use anything and make it work. But despite feeling that way, for my own work I do have certain technological standards.

But there’s no denying it: mobile cameras are improving constantly. Photo quality isn’t as bad as it used to be. My iPhone 3gs, which I used for 5 1/2 years (NO JOKE), had such a shitty camera, I was always automatically turned off by the idea of using Instagram of VSCOcam. The amount of noise alone. Brrrr. And of course an old phone couldn’t possibly keep up with app improvements: the phone got too slow, the software it could handle too old.

But then I got a new phone, with a great camera, and it opened up a world of possibilities. I have to get used to it, but so far it’s quite nice to share bits of my life without taking out either the DSLR or my Panasonic point-and-shoot. My Panasonic is completely lovely, and in certain situations – when I feel a photo could be useful as a stock photo – I will prefer it to my cellphone camera. But for those quick moments, the “this is me, currently” moments, I sure do appreciate having the option of whipping out my cellphone.

Instagram (just cellphone) | VSCOcam (I edit Instagram shots with it, and bonus – I also share Panasonic shots)

Reforming

Towards the end of 2014, I realized for myself that my priorities as a photographer had changed. I’m still in business, still working, but what I want to accomplish in photography is very different now than it was when I first started. Like musicians and bands constantly trying to challenge themselves by reforming their sound, I’ve come to the conclusion that I as a photographer also need to reshape.

This mostly stems from having a dual role as a photographer the past few years: I do client work, and I’m doing stock photography, which also veers off in two branches: lifestyle stock on the one hand, and conceptual portraiture photography on the other hand. Stock photography, which is based on my fine art photography and independent work, has a bigger role in my life since 2014. That role will only grow bigger.

1. Do what I love

I have to divide my professional time in two now: client shoots and stock photography. Now that my time as a client photographer is limited, I want to specialize and go back to doing what I love to do. I don’t want to take on any kind of photography job, but I want to offer only the photography jobs that I excel at and love to do, such as boudoir. I want to have more focus and be more selective in my business regarding client shoots.

My business website will be redone and will function as a hub with links to anything to do with my photography. It will redirect clients to my Boudoir business website, which is almost finished. It will have an info page for the only sessions I’m still offering apart from boudoir: portraits. It will also have an info page for models.

2. Constantly flowing fine art photography

The second goal is based on the understanding that I tried, but I am not at heart a full-time commercial portraiture photographer. I am too introverted, and I always seek more meaning: I fear becoming too generic and losing my own vision and voice. The moment when I was approached to photograph bicycle parts for an online shop is when it dawned on me: that is not what I want to be doing. I am a working artist and I need to begin to identify as such. I want to focus on what I want to supply (because that makes me happy as a person), and not what others demand. I want to supply what I find valuable.

And on that, I want to be Always Working. I want to always have projects to work on, ongoing ones but also ones with a beginning and an end – and always having new photos available for stock. And if they’re not suitable for stock, I will at least be able to tell my story, to express myself. I need to have an outlet first, and earn money off it second.

This website that you’re on right now served as a blog that constantly failed. It failed, because I stagnate whenever I try to express myself verbally. I now realize I don’t need for you to know me through my words, and vice versa. If you’ve found this place, you’re most likely not here to read about my insecurities, or about my hopes and dreams for the future. You’re here to see who I am as a photographer. That’s always been what Karin Elizabeth – the identity – was all about. The simple love of photography.

So, I’m nixing the idea of being a blogger. I love my life and my lifestyle choices, but I don’t think it warrants a blog. So what I want to do with this website, is just share my work with you guys, and let you get to know me that way. My insecurities, hopes and dreams won’t disappear, but they’ll be expressed differently. The best way I know how, and the only way for me to go from here on out.

I’ve given it some thought. Karin-Elizabeth.com will be a blog about my photography and projects and a place to share photos I’m proud of. I want to hold myself accountable and keep a journal of my processes as I strive to Always Work. It will be a selective but (I love this term) constantly flowing portfolio of ten year-old body of work. It will have a print shop attached to it containing limited edition signed prints; I used to love Etsy, but I want to sell prints on my own terms. And it will offer any information on the licensing of my photos – where to find photos that are available for licensing with agencies and a gallery of photos that are available for licensing with me directly as well as information relevant to licensing.

Karin-Elizabeth.com is where I want people to go when they ask me, “What do you do?”
Karinelizabethfotografie.nl is where I want people to go when they ask me, “I’m interested in having my photo taken by you.”

This is the beginning of a transition: from being a commercial portraiture photographer who dabbled in stock photography and made no time for independent projects… to becoming (or reverting back to being) a perpetually working artist who sells fine art photography and bonus – also specializes in boudoir and takes people’s portraits.

(I am getting my boudoir website ready first. Karinelizabethfotografie.nl is next. Karin-Elizabeth.com is third. But I will start using this site as intended in the meantime.)