View Artist Statement
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Gallery Direct Interview with NATALIE CHAPMAN|
Natalie goes beyond the normal scope of photography by using specialized equipment and techniques to record an image that isn’t always visible to the naked eye. She believes that “seeing beauty” in ones surroundings is an art in itself, abstracting from the canvass of life and taking that special vision into a photograph.
Was there a person or event that made you decide you wanted to become a photographer?
From my early teens, I always had a camera in my hand taking pictures of my friends. As a young adult I became more interested in documenting family & friends' events, and special occasions in their lives, etc. Most of these photographs have now been passed on to other generations...some people I photographed have passed on, so their families are grateful to have these memories of their loved ones.
It was not until the early 80's when one such friend suddenly passed away and his family thought I should inherit his 35mm Film photography equipment. I was thrilled and honored to have it, and of course felt I had to do this inheritance 'justice"! So I started with a night course for several weeks to learn about SLR cameras and what they could do.
Always up for a new challenge, I found myself 'inspired' and began to learn to "SEE" through the viewfinder in a different way. I was fortunate to have an "artistic bent", and had been working with charcoal, pastels and watercolours around that time. Once I discovered Photography I felt I had found my 'creative' niche, and passion took over! I have never looked back since that first SLR got into my hands!!
What formal or informal education have you found most useful to you as a photographer?
First it was a 6 week evening course to learn about the camera - and from that point, dozens of workshops, seminars, conferences, special presentations, Photo Clubs and whatever Photographic Education I could afford, or get involved in, in both Canada and the U.S.
I also have a huge library of photographic "learn to" books & Videos, and of course dozens of inspirational photographic tomes by world renowned photographers. (you always learn something from the masters). And of course, one cannot forget to mention their best photo buddies or peers, from whom one learns all the time, exchanging ideas and theories. Sometimes those buddies & peers just know more than you do...so you learn from them too!!
Now of course, there is the Internet, with more advanced "teaching" Videos and DVD's. Attending presentations by Experts continue to inspire, because there are always new challenges to master in Photography, which has changed dramatically since the digital age came upon us.
I understand you use both film and digital cameras. Which do you prefer to shoot with and what advantages/disadvantages are there between these different camera formats?
Yes - I have both types of Cameras. I still feel that film produces a better quality image. I have about one hundred thousand original slides which attest to my strong feeling that film is still a superior medium. HOWEVER - like the rest of the world it seems - I have succumbed to the digital camera format, which I approach as a 'different' form of photo documentation.
Every digital image has to go into some form of computerization to be dealt with, so the image now becomes a computer capture... NOT a film photograph. With film, what you see is what you get!! With a digital capture what you see can be changed or manipulated the instant it goes into your computer...even the slightest sharpening tool instantly changes the image from its "original" state that was "shot" in the camera and recorded on your memory card. This is not all bad...it's quick and convenient and certainly provides "instant gratification" to be able to see your images right away. If you don't like it, delete it and start again. To me this is too easy...it was often from those "mistakes" made with the film camera that you learned a lot more about the photographic problem, than you do these days with a digital camera.
The challenges that film photography brought to your attention are gone with the Digital age of cameras...the computer chip inside that little fancy box with a screen on the back of it does all the thinking for you. So you play, have fun, take thousands of pictures, download them into your computer into some sort of filing system in "My Pictures"...make some prints, make some slide shows or send them off to someone in an email. Some of us have websites we can put them into for the world to view.
Yes - you can make digital capturing more challenging if you want to get into the menu of your camera computer and start changing things - but the truth of the matter is, most people don't do that...they just want to "get the picture" - hope it's exposed right - and get on with it!
Serious photographers shoot in RAW because they want to have the control to be able to manipulate, enhance, or correct those images. But I hear grumblings from some of them, that they spend too much time at the computer, rather than out in the field, shooting!
So, there are Pros and Cons to both formats...one has to decide how they're best going to use either of these formats and what they are going to do with the images. That's what it boils down to...what are you going to do with your pictures once you have "made" the images either on film or in your digital camera? Some "Pro's" and "Photo Enthusiasts" still shoot both to use and work with, in their own special ways. Film will become 'history' in the distant future, so find ways to preserve those precious "original slides or negatives", as they will never be again.
You do a lot of specialized work, such as your Black Light photography and Microscopy. Could you tell us what special equipment you use for these shoots?
Both the Blacklight and Microscopy were shot with my Nikon 801S or F90X Film cameras, using Fuji, Provia, or Kodak Elitechrome Slide Film. Blacklight Photography, of course requires the use of Black fluorescent lights (mine are 18" high) and a small three sided table top studio, and your "subjects" must always be fluorescent or you won't get the color. I have written an article elsewhere on this website that goes into complete detail about setting up a black light shoot, but if you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me.
The Microscopy was shot at the University of the Okanagan, in the Geology Dept. using my Nikon 801S SLR Camera and a very high powered microscope shooting down onto laboratory slides, using cross polarized light. The lab slides had been carefully selected from thousands of geologic samples of rock, generally studied by students of geology. I could move the slide around on the microscope plate to achieve different shapes and sizes, almost like a kaleidoscope. I spent a period of about two weeks in the lab selecting and shooting this special collection, which is one of my more unique photographic Challenges.
Could you tell us what types of photography give you the most enjoyment and satisfaction?
Well, I love to travel and I love nature, so this is probably my most 'favorite' of subjects to photograph. But I can't deny that I find the more "creative, off the wall, abstract" work brings about the most challenge and often the greatest satisfaction, because it brings out the "artistic" side of my personality. So often we forget about the "Art" ... we're so busy with the technical aspects...then when something with a "WOW" factor emerges, we remember..."oh yes! I'm an artist, aren't I? not just a technician!"...
I also have to say I am very proud of my 'candid' work with people, recording special times in the lives of friends and family...these photographs have brought much joy to so many, including myself. The memories are priceless.
I understand you have travelled and taken photographs in many countries. Which is your favorite place to shoot and why is it your favorite?
I guess I would have to say Australia is one of my favourite places that I have had the opportunity to photograph. I have shot in all areas of the country except the extreme Southwest corner. This arid country produces some of the most unique geologic formations, natural plant, animal, bird and insect life, and of course the water that surrounds this magical place.
The cities that dominate, Sydney and Melbourne, are also unique and beautiful with main bodies of water that give them a focal point. It helps to have friends there that one can go and visit, but even if I didn't, I'd go again in a heartbeat to see and photograph those corners that I've missed.
By the way – I have found that the closest thing to compare to the Australian environment is the Arizona and Utah desert in the U.S....so if you want to see red rocks, it's much closer than travelling all the way to OZ!
In your opinion, what elements are essential to making a good photograph and what do you consider to be a “Fine Art” photograph?
The image has to "stir your soul" somehow. Many elements make a good photograph, such as, composition, exposure, and technical proficiency...but it still has to "speak" to you. There is 'impact' in a good photograph that instantly elicits an inner response!
As for "Fine Art Photography"? it depends on who's looking at it...if it's an Art Gallery, they will judge it from their standpoint and ask does it fit with our criteria. An 'art critic' will judge all the 'artistic elements' that his/her standard demands. Other photographers will compare it to their own work (fine art or otherwise), or that of their peers. "Art" is in the eye of the beholder...and I will leave it at that!
Who or what would you say has given you the most inspiration during your career as a photographer?
There's nothing like being complemented, admired, positively critiqued, selling some of your work, winning special recognitions and awards that inspire you to indulge yourself further in your passion for photography. These accolades - and sometimes negative critiques too - come mostly from your peers and fellow photographers that you have associated with over the years, so they have been the most influential.
If you are fortunate enough - and I have been - to sell some of your work for publication, then you have reached a certain degree of commercial success, which inspires you again to continually produce better work.
As a photographic artist, do you feel you perceive the world differently from other people?
Yes - I believe I do! I have often said that a 'painter' works with an open canvass and adds to it to make their picture. A Photographer begins with a FULL canvass and must extract from it, that special "piece" that makes it a unique artistic image! Photographers learn to "see" more of the "inner image" the longer they keep looking, and they're looking, and looking, all the time for that 'masterpiece image' !!
What has been the biggest challenge for you during your career as a photographer?
The math! always the calculations it took to figure things out in film photography...now it's the computer challenges.
During the past few years, what have been some of your most meaningful accomplishments?
Selling my work, either privately or to Publishers, of which there have been several and having my work shown and sold in an Art Gallery.
Being honored, at the 10th Anniversary, as the founder of "The Photography Section for Artwalk", an annual event held in Winfield, BC.
Having received the “Maple Leaf Award” from the Canadian Association of Photographic Art in recognition of Photographic Achievement and Service (MCAPA) and receiving numerous ribbons, awards & medals for achievements in photographic competitions.
My time spent serving as an Executive member of several Photography Clubs in BC and also as an Executive officer for the National Association of Photography in Canada.
And most recently - my Donation of 40-50 thousand slides, known as "The BC Collection", accepted into the Archives of the VANCOUVER PUBLIC LIBRARY SPECIAL COLLECTIONS DIVISION. These original slides will be kept in perpetuity and known as "The Natalie Chapman Collection".
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