Clumsy Beginnings

What constitutes a series in photography?

In a nutshell, a series is a collection of images linked together in some way. Gallery owners prefer series because they appeal to collectors and are more likely to result in sales of multiple images.

How many images are in a series?

A series may be as small as three images or include many dozens. For a solo show, gallery owners generally prefer 24 or more photographs.

My upcoming solo exhibition at the SMA Photographic Gallery on August 20 includes three series. The first series, Resilience, is romantic in the 19th-century manner. In October, nine of these images will be in a show in Trieste, Italy.

The second series in the SMA show explores various feminine archetypes like Warrior, Peacemaker, Fortune Teller, Empath, Prophet, Vessel, Succubus, and Assassin. Some of these images are pretty disturbing. The third series is made up of three photographs. This series in progress is called “Earth Weeps.”

How can photos be linked together in a series?

The linkages are many. Some photographers, like Cindy Sherman in her Noir series, focus on self-portraits. In Holland, Jeroen Wolf began roaming the streets of Amsterdam, collecting images of 100 people at every age between 1 and 100. Susan Meiselas, the curator of the show in Italy, is known for her documentary images of Carnival Strippers. Simple subjects like chairs, shoes, and umbrellas can also be used to create a series. A design-based series can be based on colors, time of day — your imagination is the only limit.

I’m especially interested in creating a series with a vital narrative component that spans one photograph to the next. This is not without limitations; for example, the images must remain in order on the gallery walls, or the story breaks down.

When I began shooting the series in 2020, my model was young, barely more than a girl. During the shoot, she became pregnant, then lost her newborn two days after giving birth. When we resumed work in 2022, my model was pregnant again. There was a depth in the woman that the girl did not have.

I’m also interested in combining text and images. Included here is the text accompanying “In the Blink of an Eye.”

“Unexpected losses can be like a train wreck, a derailment in a life expecting to reach a planned destination on time. In the blink of an eye, everything is turned upside down and inside out.

Significant losses like death, illness, or betrayal can wake us up. We begin to ask ourselves what is important and what we want out of life. When this happens, loss becomes a gateway to transformation.”

A woman bought three of “In the Blink of an Eye” because of the text. She had lost her brother to a hit-and-run driver and purchased one for herself and her two siblings.

My Creative Process in Creating a Narrative Series

• Do I have a deep connection with the topic?

• Why is it important to me?

• What is the story I want to tell?

• How much of myself am I willing to share?

• Every aspect of the process must serve to tell the story: lighting, composition, props, hair, makeup, lens, set location, etc.

Questions

BEHIND THE SCENES WITH CHUY AND RITHA, PLUS A FEW QUESTIONS FOR YOU.

Questions: Have you ever had a mentor who made a difference in your life? Do you think mentors can be helpful at any age? What are the qualities you would look for in a mentor? Do you mentor anyone now?

Chuy’s daughters, Gaby and Joselyn, shot and edited this video. Chuy has been working as my photography assistant since 2019. She’s a clever, hard-working, wise-cracking, steady-as-she-goes, no-drama mama. When Chuy asked me to mentor her in February, I said yes. We found a beat-up computer for her, bought one of the oldest second-hand Canon Rebel EOS cameras on the market, a good 70 – 300 mm lens (Date your camera, marry your lenses), and various other pieces of equipment to round out her kit. She has two sponsors. Peter Altmann covers basic costs like books, and I cover the cost of the internet at her house and have given her a gallery on my photography website rithaphotos.com. It has been the photographer’s version of the children’s book, Stone Soup. Everybody, including her family, is helping. Chuy just finished her artist’s statement and has submitted work to a gallery in California.

Go, Chuy, go!

Excellent CreativeLive Instructor Brooke Shaden

Javier Barras recommended that I buy the Creator’s Pass at CreativeLive. It’s less than 20 bucks a month and worth every penny. Funny, kind, successful, and an excellent teacher, Brooke teaches both creative idea generation AND business skills for making it in the Fine Arts world. There are 138 video classes ranging from 20-30 minutes, plus a boatload of handout materials. It took me about a month to do. Now I’m working my way through a compositing class taught by Brooke. Thank you, Javier!

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