I have never considered myself an artistic person. No – that was my sister. Even to my friends, I was always the “sister to the artist.” All my life, it’s all I remember her being. Her talent seemed to me out of this world, mostly because of how innate it really was to her. It was like she was born to do just that. It never felt second nature. The brush, the pencils, they all just floated on top of her canvas almost as if independent from mind and thought. The results were always, and still are, a true expression of her self. Her most beautiful, true self.
I saw this in many family members, in fact. Art was very much part of my environment growing up, whether it was music, paintings, and yes, even photography.
I just never saw it in me.
I was always the science girl. The facts girl. The rational mind, follow the rules, a problem always has a specific formula to find the answer and all you had to do is follow the steps kind of girl.
It’s no surprise that when I found photography I tried to apply these exact same principles. And when I say “I found photography,” I mean photography as an art form. I always carried a point and shoot with me, ever since I was a little girl. And I took it everywhere, through my young adult life. Like most of us, I relished in looking through the albums of my childhood, and there were plenty of them. But I never really knew what all went into creating those memories. Never really knew that they are as much the photographer’s intent, emotions, life experiences, as much as what the viewer sees and interprets. The person behind the camera for some reason never seemed like an important player to me. It was always all about the subjects and the subject matter. While these were always interesting in and of themselves, the art of photography was about to sweep me off my feet in a way I never saw coming.
With this understanding, came of course a lot of practice and technicalities, all of which I was good at. I was good at following rules, and devising a formula. A button that I press for this, and a number that I set for that. My photographs started to look good. I was capturing my life around me, the most important days of my family as I lived them, and I was proud to show them to friends and family. “Look what my boys have been up to!”
It was not long until I started to realize, however, that maybe something was missing. Maybe that my photographs were pretty, but not moving as others I saw.
I struggled with the word “artist.” Frankly, most of the time I still do. And I struggled – struggled – with how much of a part that should play as I document my life and the life of my family. What I think it comes down to is the photographs I make are as much a part of me as the maker as it is of them as my subjects and subject matter. And even though I never saw myself as a creator of art, I am, and this I have always been sure of, a thinker and a feeler. Not a talker – an observer. The written word was always my preferred way of self-expression. But even writers have to know that sometimes words just fail. Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe writers always find the words. But I am not a poet. So how do I really tell them how much I love them? I cannot rhyme or write a verse with rhythm.
For the first time in my life I have learned to break the rules. I have learned to let go. I have come to fully grasp and understand the concept that emotions and feelings, they are unbound by formulas. And when you are transferring those emotions into the making of a photograph, you should be at your most vulnerable. Most people think it’s those in front of the camera who are most vulnerable, when truly, the most vulnerable part of the equation is the artist. The creator. He who is channeling, through a device, his inner most self. Every bit of what makes them who they are. In my case, it is my inner most self as a mother. As their mother. What do I see in them? How do I see them? How do I translate their personalities into a two dimensional representation? As David Duchemin says, “Photographs are just a bidimensional array of lines, color and texture… how exactly do I show you who they are and what I feel when I look at them?”
Dettaching the lens from the camera certainly adds elements that can be neither expected nor predicted. The deep bokeh, light leaks and dramatic blur I feel enhance the magical feeling of childhood. It’s very raw nature speaks to our core as human beings. Imperfections are the essence of life. A blurred out photograph feels more like a memory, rather than an instant in time. A blurred out photograph brings art into a moment, much like a sharp photograph does, but with different intent on the part of the maker.
The freelensed photographs I make of my family feel to me like a memory. And nothing is more personal and touching than a memory. Ultimately how I feel when I look at them comes through whenever I press the shutter. Dreamlike, imperfect, almost a blur. It’s unique, emotional element is undeniable.
Tips on freelensing
- Take advantage of the live view feature of your camera. It is easier sometimes, especially when starting, to more clearly visualize where exactly your plane of focus is. It may also be helpful to start practicing with still life. As you practice, you will continue to improve and be able to even capture movement.
- Always always set your settings – in this case your shutter speed and ISO – before detaching the lens.
- When you first detach your lens, hold it a short distance away – a few mm – right in front of the camera body, and continue to move ever so slightly – left, right, up, down – depending on where your desired plane of focus is. This is where your creativity will kick in, where excitement will abound with all the endless possibilities on what the final image could look like. Move farther or closer away from your subject as you need to help you focus. Keep in mind the further away you move from your subject, the less focus you will achieve.
- The more you twist your lens, the more pronounced the change in focal plane. If you are looking for a more subtle change in focal plane, the more subtle you will want to be with your movement, and the closer to your sensor your will want to keep your lens.
- To achieve focus camera right, tilt your lens to the right. To achieve focus camera left, tilt your lens to the left. To achieve focus on the bottom part of the frame, tilt your lens down, and vice versa to achieve focus on the upper part of the frame.
- Light leaks and flare are a wonderful way to add your artistic vision to your freelensed images. To achieve these, use backlight and tilt your lens towards the light. Your desired final effect depends on how much light you allow in (i.e. how much you tilt the lens). Be careful not to allow too much light in though.
- Always exercise common sense. Dropping equipment and exposing your sensor to the elements can be potentially damaging.
- Let go of all expectations, have fun, and let your creativity guide you. The possibilities in freelensing are endless – it lets you dream a different world.
Janielle is a natural light hobbyist photographer enamored with capturing the fleeting moments of childhood. By using light and details she strives to find beauty in the everyday. Through her photography she wishes to express her feelings as a mother, how she views childhood, and most importantly the things she notices in boyhood that make it special to her. Her belief that the present time should be acknowledged pushes her to use photography as a means to prove the existence and importance of those little moments that make up our daily lives.