Interview with Jeanine Boutiere: Photographer

Interview with Jeanine Boutiere: Photographer

Jeanine Boutiere is an art teacher at the Ursuline Academy in Cincinnatii, Ohio. Her hobby is photographing musicians and live concerts, as well as nature, and wildlife.

Describe briefly what you do as a photographer and the role it plays in your everyday life.

Mainly I photograph local musicians in various venues in the Cincinnati/Northern KY area. For the most part, I take photos at no charge so that bands who don't have images of themselves for their websites, cds, and other media needs can afford to have them. In my daily life I try to carry my camera with me whenever I can in case I come across something that I want to capture. My other interests include nature/wildlife, portraiture, and general use of natural light to create fine art and at times abstract prints.

How did you discover your talent as a photographer?

I think I've always had an interest in capturing a moment on film. As far back as I can remember I've been taking photos on family vacations and in my spare time. When I began to become involved in the local music community in Cincinnati, I was immediately interested in taking photos of performers, in freezing a moment of artistic, emotional expression. When I first began I was pretty green and it wasn't until I purchased a digital camera that I became able to freely experiment with photography and begin to develop my own personal style.

What initially attracted you to live music performance as a photographic subject? When did you start?

The initial attraction was the energy of live performance and the visual spectacle that some bands and venues put on during performances. These aspects were so intriguing and engaging that I quickly felt that each event was special in its own way and deserved to be documented as a part of my life and (after being involved for a couple of years) the cultural/artistic history of Cincinnati. After my first local music show in 2000, I was completely hooked on using my camera to document and further enjoy it.

On a basic level, what kind of skill-set does being a live music photographer typically demand?

For my particular style, which involves minimal use of the camera's flash, there needs to be a good understanding of f-stops and exposure times as well as a steady hand for extended exposures and the patience to wait for the decisive moment. As with many types of photography, the better understanding there is of the subject and the more familiarity there is with their mannerisms, the more successful the photo will be.

What other subjects have you worked with? What subjects do you hope to capture in the future?

I've just returned from a trip to the continent of Africa where I explored my love of nature and wildlife photography on several safari ventures. I've also photographed nature and architecture throughout parts of Europe. I hope to return to Africa and travel to India someday to photograph the culture and natural beauty of the places as well as further push myself in portraiture.

In your opinion, what is good photography? What makes bad photography?

Photography can be so subjective since many consider it a fine art, so what I can offer is only my personal opinion or philosophy. For my personal taste there has to be a strong understanding of composition and cropping, an interesting use of color (or contrast with black and white), and a subject that is captured in a way that makes it worth capturing. There are a ton of different rules for making a good photo, but it's really just trial and error. With my fine arts background I've had an accelerated trial and error process and a lot of critique on my own composition, color usage and subject choices. But that is not the route for everyone. I suggest finding photographers or even other fine artists like painters and printmakers and studying their work. What makes it interesting in terms of subject matter? Composition? Color? Size? In the end though, it's in the eye of the beholder. Experiment and see what happens.

What can you tell us about your camera? What kind do you use and why? Do you have any advice on choosing a camera?

I shoot using a 3.3 Megapixel Sony Cybershot (DSC-S70). I have experimented with this camera for years. It's the only digital camera I've ever owned personally, but I have had chances of borrowing Canons and other Sonys. In my experience, for the work I do in low-light conditions, Sonys have seemed to perform the best. For choosing a camera, I would suggest going for something simple in the beginning. Cameras these days come with so many bells and whistles that it can make it confusing and impede the learning process. Start out with something low end so it's not too large of a commitment. Try out friends' cameras. Find one that feels good in the hand and has the appropriate specs.

What about photographic accessories and facilities? What does a photographer need, and how expensive is it?

I don't use many accessories. I've thought about investing in zoom lenses and special effect lenses, but I haven't found enough of a need for them in what I do to invest in them. I don't do studio work because I love to use natural light and my interests haven't taken me there yet, so I don't have much insight into the costs of lighting setups, but I hope to get into that area someday. The only accessories I have found necessary are spare batteries, memory cards and a USB device through which to transfer photos to my computer. As for facilities, since I shoot 100% digital, I don't usually have prints. When I want them, I use Kinko's and in-store kiosks for printing photos from cds and memory sticks. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but the quality seems to be comparable. I suggest checking prices and paper qualities before printing large quantities or important prints.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a digital camera vs. using film?

Digital has a lot of advantages, which is why it seems everyone is rushing to that technology. It's cheaper for those who take a lot of photos. It's also convenient, quick and captures almost as much detail as 35mm without the fear of mistakes. Film still has its advantages as well from a fine arts perspective. There's a lot of manipulation that can be done in the darkroom that just can't be done on a computer or in a camera. For those with an interest, I would suggest learning how to develop and print film in defiance of the technological revolution.

How important of a role does the computer play in your work?

The computer plays a large role in where I end up using my photography. However, as far as photo manipulation, it plays a fairly small roll. I don't do a lot of manipulation to my photos once I upload them to my hard drive. It's been my goal to push myself as a photographer to take a better photo each time and use as little post-production as possible.

How important is it for upcoming photographers to be well-versed with computer technology?

I think it's important to be well-versed in computers in just about any field, but it's also very important as a photographer. A lot of what a photographer does feeds into graphic design, a field that has become dominated by computers. Computers are a key promotional tool, whether that be self-promotion or use of one's photos to promote a product, company, or another person. Even from a fine arts standpoint, computers are needed to make flyers for a photo show opening or to create an online gallery. The applications are endless.

Is there any special Photo software that you would recommend one should have on their computer?

I use Adobe Photoshop pretty much 100% of the time. I find it fits every need I have when it comes to editing and web-formatting my photos.

What are some of your proudest accomplishments and favorite projects?

Proudest accomplishments would include getting my first photo published in a local magazine and having my first solo photo show. Favorite projects would be covering large local events like the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards and my recent photo excursion to Tanzania.

Where could one see more examples of your work?

A lot of my work with local musicians can be found in the Local Music Gallery on Cincymusic.com, a local music web-community where I am a staff member.

What are the greatest stresses and anxieties in your life as both a photographer and a daytime job holder? What are the greatest rewards?

As a photographer my stresses include the study of the cloning process to enable me to be everywhere at once; the ever changing technology and realization that I will have to replace my camera and learn a new one some day soon; and the line photographers always have to draw to say what we will experience and what we will just be witnesses of. I also worry about how I can integrate my fine arts experience into the job market. However, I plan on going to graduate school to become a teacher to try to help solve that problem.

Have you considered making photography a full-time endeavor and a main source of income?

I've considered turning my local music photography into a business because I have seen others do the same. However, at this point I want my photography to remain a passion and hobby that I might occasionally bring in a couple of bucks. If I attempt to make it a profession, I stand the chance of losing the joy I get from it.

How advantageous do you think an institutional education would be in achieving this?

I think education from an institution or mentoring from someone who is an established photographer would be very helpful in teaching the ins and outs of lighting, pricing of services, etc.

What are the professional options for someone without an institutional photography education?

I think we live in an age where, especially in an art associated field, one can make a career for themselves by starting their own small business. With some determination, possibly some business education, and experience in photography, I think someone could prove very successful in photography without an institutional education.

What factors would you consider when/if choosing a photography school or program?

Just as in any other field, I would want diversity in the subjects covered, freedom to experiment with nontraditional techniques (with both digital and traditional cameras), computer facilities at my disposal, and faculty that have a lot of experience, not just book knowledge.

How would you define "success" in what you do as a photographer?

If I can capture a moment, the motion, the energy and the feeling, then I think it is successful. I want something that documents the evening but is above all else, visually exciting.

What advice can you give to aspiring photographers (whether they aspire to be hobbyists, artists or professionals)?

Experiment with cameras and techniques and give it time. It took me almost 4 years of taking at least 100 shots every weekend to develop a style that is uniquely my own and work out all the kinks with my timing and overall composition. And that was just in one unique type of setting, so I know that I still have a lot more experimentation on the horizon and more to learn.

Do you have any predictions for the future of photography? What are some of the recent trends that you see in the field of photography which could help aspiring photographers plan for the future?

For most intensive purposes, it is going and has gone digital. But that's no reason to let go of the beauty and versatility of film. In some ways it will always be superior, we just need to recognize what situations are appropriate for film and which are best suited for digital.

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