Friday, January 20, 2012

{in the picture} an interview with patty maher

I am thrilled to bring you our first {In The Picture} interview today with Patty Maher, or as some of you may recognize her, Picture This / Patty on flickr. Patty's work is evocative, emotional, and always inspiring. I hope you will read on about her self-portrait work and then go visit her to check out more of her amazing images...you will not be disappointed.

1.  Was there ever a time when you couldn't imagine taking self-portraits or have you always been comfortable in front of the camera? Do you remember when the self-portrait "bug" bit you? 

It’s funny because when I was a kid I was always the one jumping in front of the camera.  But as I grew older I became quite a bit less comfortable having my picture taken. Even now I’m usually the person with my eyes closed and some weird camera smile going on.  However as a photographer, it’s kind of inevitable that at some point you’ll want to turn the camera on yourself to see what will happen.  But for a long time I felt self conscious to say the least.


Face it

I started the group Me Again Monday to help myself move past this stage because I really saw the potential of what you could do with self-portraits and I wanted to challenge myself to keep working on it at least once a week. I would say the self-portrait bug really bit me when I finally started treating myself simply as a prop, in service to the photo and its mood or story.  After breaking that barrier, self-portraits became 1000 times more interesting and fun.

This Space

2.  Many of your self-portraits really tell the viewer a story. How much planning goes in to your shots--the setting, your clothing, your hair, etc? Where does your inspiration come from?

I’m definitely not a detailed planner when it comes to my shots.  For me what seems to work best is getting a shot’s basic idea, but nothing too concrete.  Usually one piece of it gets in my head – a prop, a dress, a location, a title – and while I’ll think about it for a little while, I usually just jump in, and work the rest on the fly – and it either works or it doesn’t. For example, with this shot below I was driving home from the grocery store, under an amazingly foreboding sky.  I knew I had to get out there for a shot, so I got home, threw the groceries at my husband, put on that dress and drove around until I found those train tracks.

Follow your heart

Or another time I wanted to do some shots depicting “Ophelia" as you can find in pre-Raphaelite paintings. One day I was at a thrift store and found the perfect dress for it. The great thing about photography is that the dress I’m wearing in this shot below is about 2 sizes two small, so it doesn’t actually zip up in the back…so I had to be facing the camera in some way. 

Ophelia Wanders

And for this next shot I didn’t have an idea but decided to just throw a bunch of props in the back of the car and drive around until a location struck me. Then I noticed there was this wind….

My soul can breathe

3.  Do you have a favorite self-portrait or series of self-portraits?

Honestly I get “favorites of the moment”, but I can’t seem to stay with one for long.  If I had to choose a favorite today, it would be one of the photos featuring this $6 red wig I found last Halloween. There’s just something about red hair that looks great in a photo…and if you saw what that wig actually looks like in real life you’d realize how magic the camera really is.


4.  Do you feel that you have discovered anything new about yourself through your self-portraiture?

I think the best thing I’ve discovered through self-portraiture is that my inner 5 year old is alive and well and still loves dressing up in costumes!  However the most rewarding discovery has been the process itself – spending time with myself creating something. It’s very quiet and almost meditative, and I find no matter what kind of day I’ve had I emerge feeling calm and centered.

5. What advice do you have for someone who is just beginning their journey into self-portraiture?

Start with what you are comfortable with--whether it's just using a part of you in a photo (your feet, your hands, etc.). Remember that there are so many ways to include yourself in a photo, so have a look at what other self-portrait artists do and you will find a whole universe of ways to do this. Above all don't be too self critical--photography can be magic, but it can also be unforgiving, especially when you can't see what you are taking while you are taking it, as is the case in self-portraiture. I have deleted hundreds and hundreds of shots of myself while doing this (which is absolutely the beauty of digital photography)! The key is to enjoy the process, and with some practice you will start to get the results you want.

Chrysalis

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Patty Maher lives near Toronto, Canada, not far from the forest which provides the magical backdrop to many of her exquisite self-portraits. You can see more of Patty and her work in her flickr stream and on facebook.

Thank you Patty for agreeing to be the subject of my first interview at {In The Picture}! I have been enamored by your work since the first time I stumbled across one of your self-portraits on flickr. It was great to learn a little more about you and your artistic process.

* * * * * *
Hey all ~ don't forget to stop back here next Friday, January 27 for our first self-portrait linky party of the year! Come ready to link back to your self-portrait blog posts and flickr images. 
I can't wait to see you {In The Picture}.


In The Picture
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41 comments:

Pam said...

These are incredible. I would have never guessed that they were self portraits!

LeAnne said...

This was an inspiring interview. I definitely have some new ideas for this year now.

seabluelee said...

Wow, I am indeed inspired! These are all so beautiful. It never occurred to me that I could play dress up, wear a wig, etc. I see a trip to Goodwill in my near future!

Jess said...

I am blown away... completely. So inspiring! I want to take my selfies to this level of art.

Katiebee said...

wow! i loved this post! her self portraits are so inspiring~

deb did it said...

Thanks for posting this interview with someone I admire so much. And especially thanks to Patty for sharing herself with us here and thru her beautiful photos. She is such an inspiration to me, and I am loving the Me Again Monday project. That group is so lively, active and supportive.

Becs said...

Wow, what an inspiring interview. I love Patty's photography - her story telling is amazing. The 'unforgiving' aspect of self portraiture has almost defeated me on several occasions but Patty's words and images will stay with me as I learn to enjoy the process.

RainCityGirl said...

Great interview! Really inspiring. Makes me want to be a little more adventurous with self portraiture.

this is Belgium said...

how wonderful, truly exceptional self portraits !

Caroline said...

So flipping awesome...wow.

shirley said...

Wow, how inspiring! Great interview, wonderful self portraits that are works of art.

Kathy said...

I find it so interesting the concept of using yourself as a prop in a photograph. Puts the whole concept into a new light for me. Thank you.

Kathy

gina said...

Dress up! I love her playful attitude in doing self portraits...gave me so new ideas. Thanks!

Catherine Denton said...

Wonderful interview!! Who would've thought a $6 wig could add so much? I like the concept of seeing herself as a prop. Inspiring! Thank you.
Catherine Denton

Mom Photographer said...

great interview! very inspiring. her pictures are amazing! there is so much to learn about self-portraits!!! I'm so excited for this project!

Jo Murray said...

Such a talent... and all round down to earth person. Loved the interview. I'm inspired!

Linda said...

This is a good interview! Her work is inspiring! Thanks for sharing this with us. I never would have thought these pictures were self portraits. She is very talented.

Kimberly June said...

I've followed and been inspired by her work on Flickr. Great insight and suggestions. Thank you!

Patty said...

Thank you all for posting such great comments - so very much appreciated! And thanks again to Urban Muser for the opportunity to do this.

Summer said...

This was wonderfully inspiring. Thank you so much!

Cheryl said...

If I looked as good as she does I'd be taking self portraits too. Oh wait, I am. She's right, it's about allowing.

Leanne said...

These photos are amazing, I love them- very inspiring.

esra said...

Loved this post! Great interview. Thanks for sharing with us.
Her pictures are just so beautiful and inspiring. I had never thought about 'using yourself as a prop in a photograph'. It's an inspiring concept.

Robyn said...

Loved this post! LOVED it!! Very very inspiring!! Such gorgeous work she does

Becky Sue said...

Great interview! I had just discovered Patty a couple weeks ago when I joined Me Again Monday.

Bella said...

Oh my god. I am so happy I clicked over to read this interview.
Because.. hello?! Amazing!!

Dorian Susan said...

I loved reading this-thank you. That RR tracks shot blows my mind. I wonder how the focus is so spot on. It is great to see these creative takes. I need some "model" ideas to get me to think outside the box.
Great photos, great inspiration.

DK Miller said...

Wonderful interview and what amazing photography.

Andy said...

Excellent interview with great tips for an old guy like me. I have been doing 365 daily self photos since June 2011. Patty's interview has inspired me to really start to think. Just don't expect to see any photos of me wear a dress :-)

Nancy @ A Rural Journal said...

Lovely self-portraiture. She has a real gift. :)

Kat Sloma said...

Her work is so gorgeous! Thank you for sharing this.

Liz said...

First of all I think it's wonderful that you are including interviews as part of this project! Second what a fantastic person to use first! My god her images are astounding! The staging, color, lights, props and imagination - just incredible! Truly inspiring. I think it was also very nice of her to say look at other photographers self-portraits. Unfortunately as we are learning sometimes we go blank and it is only from the "Vision" of others that we get our "Inspiration". It isn't that we mean to "Rob" just to "Grow"! Thank you again!!! This is such an exciting project!

georgia b. said...

yikes! i can't even think of a word that is suitable enough to describe how awesomely inspiring these self portraits are. her work is amazing! a bit intimidating, too... for someone like me who has only dabbled in the art of self-portraits. but inspiring beyond words!

great interview!

amberlee said...

Wowzers! This lady is amazing. P.s love your new blog look x

justine said...

wonderful! she makes it all look so easy!

SpilledInkGuy said...

Awesome interview, U.M...
thanks so much for doing this
(I'm really looking forward to checking out more of Ms. M's work)!
:)

Cheryl Flatt said...

This was inspiring and freeing...Thank you!

Jennifer DeVille said...

What a fabulous interview. So incredibly inspiring! Thank you for sharing this!

Faith Hope and a whole lotta Love said...

a m a z i n g !!

Kirstin said...

Such inspiring pictures and so lovely to meet Patty. I love this post, Christy!

ZeldaMom said...

Beautiful, makes me want to make a thrift store run for some props and grab my camera. Very inspiring.