Minutes March 8, 2016

13 04 2016

Cheryl Hassen at the Bridgewater Photographic Society

Tuesday, March 8, 2016 – The Bridgewater Photographic Society welcomed local photographer Cheryl Hassen to the club, to talk about Sensibility, Series and Signature in photographic art. Cheryl, an award-winning, independent documentary producer and director, has more recently taken to still photography after many years in the Canadian television and film industries. Though her background provided helpful experience, her journey to ‘art through a still camera’ prompted new revelations about art and photography, and about herself. And Cheryl shared some of her insights with the group.

Cheryl’s presentation drew from some of the masters of photography who, in addition to creating important and celebrated photographs, have spoken and written eloquently on the topic of photography. She also drew from philosophers, filmmakers, authors and jazz musicians. She then tied these ideas together through her own experiences and personal growth.

Cheryl spoke about learning to see not with ‘eyes of the intellect’, but with the ‘eye of the heart’. While thought produces opinions, critical judgement and doubt, the eye of the heart – intuition, some would call it – leads to insight, which gives us a deeper perspective.

“So this is another key to your heart: intuitive response to the initial scene. How do you know that you are passionate about something? By your response, your gut, your excitement, adrenaline, feeling alive. By how it defies reason, goes beyond thought. You know how you are on a field trip, and you get there and your mind is busy looking for shots, and then you start shooting and you move to taking photos of things that drew you to them. You stop following anyone else. You start to move out of your head. It’s also how we begin to develop a sensibility.”

Sensibility is the ability to appreciate and respond to complex emotional or aesthetic influences. It’s our responsiveness – our sense of perception through which we gather knowledge about a scene, a subject, an object. Cheryl went on to explain how sensibility ties in to developing one’s own ‘voice’ – a unique style, a signature style.

“It’s fine to study, and we are inevitably influenced. In the end though, who are you, really? Where is your work coming from? What is your initial response to a scene? Sometimes what really interests us, declares itself for just a second. You have to pay attention and listen to your heart very carefully for it talks in a whisper. You can be a highly technical photographer and that’s terrific, but to rise above even this, you have to perceive and feel, to increase the quality of your shots. You have to give something of yourself.”

But it is a body of work – a series of photographs – that most clearly presents a way of seeing, and declares one’s voice. A body of work is a collection that looks like you, that is consistent and memorable and distinguishes you from other photographers. A body of work also tells a story – something that Cheryl is very familiar with from her TV and film days. She talked about how directors pore over every frame, multiple times, visualizing and condensing to make sure everything that remains supports the story. But she also spoke about the importance of leaving room for the audience to participate.

© Cheryl Hassen - Keep Going

© Cheryl Hassen – Keep Going

Cheryl showed the photo club some of her early images, including successes in international photographic competitions using a small point and shoot camera. She also showed some more recent photos from her body of work comprised of photographs of shale. Though she now uses a more sophisticated camera, she doesn’t concentrate on the technology. When asked for details about what lenses she used, she pointed at her camera and said “I have two lenses… this one, and… the other one. It’s in my bag.” Cheryl also does not ‘post process’. She takes what she has seen and captured directly from the camera.

Cheryl’s Presentation Notes in PDF, can be downloaded from the following link: Sensibility Series and Signature2 by Cheryl Hassen

You can learn more about Cheryl and see more of her work at http://www.thisisnovascotiatoo.com/.

A show of photos from the club’s recent field trip to visit an old barn was presented by projectionist Dave Collins. A special thanks to club member Elizabeth Klaas for ‘saving the day’ by providing a solution to a technical difficulty that threatened to postpone our feature presentation.

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