Monday, March 9, 2009

my new website is up!

I've lost count of how many websites and blogs I've had over the years, but my brand new one--Patricia Lay-Dorsey, photography--feels like the most significant yet. Of course I always say that, being one who is prone to hyperbole. But it really feels like the start of a new level of commitment to my work, work that I adore.

Actually I have my life as a blogger to thank for introducing me to digital cameras.

It was December 2000 and I had been keeping a daily blog for ten months. Someone-I don't remember who--said I should add photos to my daily ramblings, so I bought a Hewlett Packard point-and-shoot digital camera and that was the start. I soon moved up to a Fuji FinePix with a powerful zoom. It served me well until July 2006. That was when I decided to get serious about my photography. On July 4th, a couple of professional photographers I encountered at one of Detroit's many street festivals, advised me to buy the Canon Rebel XT. The next day I did and I've been hooked ever since.

As a single-minded passionate person who throws herself full force into every moment of life, it was no surprise that photography soon became an obsession. When I started I didn't know an f stop from an aperture but that soon changed. In October 2006 I took a "Fundamentals of Photography" course at a local community college and that--plus shooting every day--gave me what I needed to use my camera on settings other than Automatic. The following spring I took a series of classes called "Photoshop for Photographers" at the art college where I'd studied painting, life drawing and sculpture back in the 1970s...and I was off and running!

Oh yes, four months after buying my Canon Rebel I joined, an international photo sharing website. The photographers I met there inspired, supported, educated and expanded my vision of what photography was and how I could express my own unique way of seeing and being in the world. I am especially indebted to Phil Douglis who mentored me for months in the principles and nuances of what he calls "expressive photography." Phil's online cyberbook, Expressive Travel Photography: communicating with pictures, is an excellent resource for all levels of photographers.

In April 2008 I made a life-changing connection and that was with the Brooklyn-based Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey. At that time David was scheduled to offer a six-day workshop called "The Photographic Essay" to be held as part of LOOK 3: the Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, Virgina in June. I signed up for his workshop and, in doing so, learned about his interactive blog called "Road Trips." I quickly became a regular poster there. But, as it happened, my plans to attend David's workshop had to be scrapped. My dear Ed's back sent him to the hospital in May and then onto a months-long journey of pain and limited physical abilities. I needed to stay home with him. But that didn't keep me from pursuing my photography and, in fact, it allowed time for a brand new series to emerge, one that used self portraits to show my world view as a woman with a disability. When David saw the first twelve photos posted online he declared it to be a book-in-the making and offered to mentor me. We've been working together ever since.

On the first day of 2009, David Alan Harvey published a tight edit of my "Falling Into Place" self portrait essay on his brand new online magazine called BURN. I continue to take photos for this project and plan to do so through the spring. In early April David and I will meet in NYC and do a final edit for the self-published Blurb book I'll be creating to show to publishers.

By the way, this will not be the first time David and I have met in person. In late July he and his assistant, Mike Courvoisier, went hours out of their way to drive to our home outside Detroit. At that time, DAH did the first tight edit of my work. He also took a portrait of Ed and me for his "off on a family drive" photo project. Then in October 2008 my friend Pat Kolon and I drove to Brooklyn to attend a Slideshow/Fiesta that marked the end of one of David's week-long workshops in his loft. I was also able to sit in on the final day of that workshop.

One last note about persons who have been significant in my photographic life. In August 2008 I took a weekend workshop at the Center of Photography in Woodstock, NY with the world-respected social documentary photographer Mary Ellen Mark. The first day was devoted to a portfolio review. When I laid out ten large prints from my "Falling Into Place" self portrait project, Mary Ellen just smiled and said softly to herself, "These are excellent, really excellent." Mary Ellen and I spent over an hour together the next day talking and walking around the Ulster, NY County Fair where we'd gone for a photo shoot. That was when I took the photo posted above. It's probably the first time most folks have ever seen MEM with her hair unbraided! Mary Ellen has continued to support me by email, and for that I am deeply grateful.

Whew! I didn't know I was going to go all these places when I started this entry, but, hey, that's what being a blogger is all about! So now I'm going to stop this historical essay and get back to work on preparing for the gallery exhibit of my "Active Elders" photo essay that's opening in less than two weeks. I shall return...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

you know, i often think about writing to MEM about my work with the street kids. she photographed the street youth culture here in seattle in the early 80's - 25 years ago! which lead to the documentary 'Streetwise' that she made with her husband. i feel i should tell her i'm doing it, here, now, in her footsteps. :)

lovely new website and blog.

March 10, 2009 at 7:28 PM  

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