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"Outback Portfolio Tutorial #2"

featuring a portfolio by Petra Holmstrom
Part 1: The Portfolio
The full portfolio photos can be found here.

You can comment on the "Outback Portfolio Tutorial" here

Part 2: Artists Statement

To me photography has been something that's been latent in my life. I was 11 years old when I first discovered photography and then I drove my parents nuts before they gave me an used compact 35 mm camera. When I was 16 years old I got my first SLR camera (after my first camera broke down of hard use) and I was a very active young lady.

Years went by and things like making money to pay the bills became more important. The more I worked the less I used my camera. But I've always had photography in the back of my head, working at a newspaper with page layout never let me forget about it.

The last five years I've been very sick and haven't been able to go outside at all, I've been traveling between my home in northern Sweden to a hospital in Gothenburg in the south, for surgeries every 5th week. It's been a tiresome period in my life and I felt that I wasn't going anywhere. All I saw was the four walls of my apartment or the hospital. I looked through the window and saw the seasons change but I couldn't do anything about it.

Last fall I finally saw a break in my health and I was starting to feel stronger. The surgeries came less often and I found myself with a lot of energy. Thanks to generous relatives I was able to buy an used digital camera and it gave me a reason to go outdoors. I was a wonderful feeling and I never put the camera down more than to sleep and eat.

The camera let me rediscover photography all over again. After more than 20 years away from it I felt like I've never done this before. I saw the world through the lens with a grown up woman's eyes and yet my heart still felt like when I was 11 years old and started to photograph my surroundings.

Photography is a way for me to see the world. I might not be able to see the whole wide world, but through the lens my world becomes exciting. The world I have around my block, the world I have around the city, the world I have around my friends and family etc. Photography is also a vitamin injection for me, I become stronger, I become more happy and I get almost consumed with what I do when I have a camera in my hand so I forget my illness.

I'm now on my second digital camera which gives me more freedom and more options to experiment with. My Nikon Coolpix 995 accompanies me anywhere I go (even to hospital). What I hope to learn from my talks with Ben Lifson is to learn to see. To remove all that non important things and concentrate on what is important to me. To sort of develop that uncut eye of mine and perhaps shape it into a priceless gem.

I'm not sure it's possible, I don't even know if I have that talent, but I'm willing to try. I don't think I will have a career in photography but I want the photography to be part of my life and my regular work. I do a lot of graphics design and web design on the side of my regular job so I hope it's possible to implement my own photography into that work. Plus photography is a way to keep me healthy.

Petra Holmström

For information about Ben Lifson, the tutorial, and how to submit a portfolio
Part 3: Ben Lifson's initial Comment

This is good work. On the whole, it illustrates a number of important points about picture making generally. What’s especially interesting is that Ms. Holmstrom doesn’t confuse the picture with its subject. Rather, the portfolio reveals that she knows that the strength of any photograph depends much less on the subject than on 1) the photographer’s sensibilities, emotions, and understanding; 2) the photographer’s relationship to the subject; and 3) the way the photograph is made. This knowledge enables her to make solid, sometimes strong, but always interesting, intelligent and emotionally committed pictures of the commonplace, ordinary, unprepossessing things we see around us during everyday life, which amateur photographers almost never photograph. I look forward to hearing her thoughts, and to exchanging ideas with her about this.

Her ability to see subject matter in the everyday world her should help her now that she’s starting to photograph again after a long illness, even though she’s still house-bound much of the time. But hers is really only an extreme instance of the problem faced by all photographers who, for various reasons, can’t always photograph what, where, or as often as, they wish. The question is always the same: "How can I photograph often enough, and intentionally enough, to…" To improve? To get really good? To find out just how good I could be—which might be better than even I imagine? The last part of the question depends on who’s doing the asking. But the first part, "How?" is universal. I believe that our discussion will lead to useful answers for many committed photographers.

For information about Ben Lifson, the tutorial, and how to submit a portfolio
Part 4: Dialog between the Artist and Ben Lifson
4a: 1st Chat tutorial session between Ben and Petra
The chat session was recorded and can be found here.

You can comment on the "Outback Portfolio Tutorial" here

For information about Ben Lifson, the tutorial, and how to submit a portfolio
4b: Petra's comment about the first tutorial session

After reading about Don Cohen's experience and the tutorial he had with Ben Lifson I was a lot more prepared than perhaps Don was. To me there was no problems with the form, I found it very interesting and since I'm a photography "newbie" I felt that Ben had a lot to teach me. I never felt as if I was interrupting his lecture when I asked a question, but more as we had agreed on things to discuss and then Ben told me what he knew and saw.

To me it was a very interesting experience and if I hadn't been so tired (it was almost 4 am my time when we finished) I would have wanted to talk with Ben for several more hours. Ben did point out things I never even thought about or things that I thought was wrong but in his view was right. He also pointed out my weaknesses very tactfully and I never felt as if I were under attack, just aware of them.

Since I want to learn more about photography and what my weaknesses and strengths are it was very important that the pictures Ben helped me pick out was educational for me. I wouldn't have been helped with a really nice and pretty picture unless I was hoping for only appraisal (which a student also needs of course). So the portfolio isn't the, in my view, best pictures I've made, but they did work wonderfully as a subject for this tutorial.

In my view, Ben is a very good teacher and he tries to put himself on the level of the student. I found that very helpful and even if he sometimes were a bit extra clear on things I realized it was to be sure I did understand his point. Since English is not my native tongue it was extra important that Ben made himself clear to me, which he did.

So I'd like to thank both Uwe Steinmueller for making this possible at Outbackphoto.com and Ben Lifson for allowing me to do this. It was very educational and I hope to see more tutorials since they are very educational even for the ones reading them and not participating themselves. I will also keep in contact with Ben in the future since I feel he has more to teach me.

Thank you!

Petra Holmström

For information about Ben Lifson, the tutorial, and how to submit a portfolio


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