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Meet Photographer Karen Wise

Ready for some color and beauty this afternoon? I first heard about Karen Wise, who has photographed weddings, food, still life and portraits for 10+ years, via Oh Joy! and found her work some of the best I’ve seen. Energy, personality, emotion, she captures the most beautiful moments. A RISD graduate, Karen Wise has been featured in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Martha Stewart Weddings, Vogue (India), Time Out New York, and more and has photographed weddings from New York City (where she lives and works) to India, Mexico and beyond. Would you like to know more about her work, background, and inspirations? Read on…

decor8: Karen thank you so much for for visiting decor8 today to talk about your passion for photography. Tell us, how did you get into photography as a full-time career?

Karen: I studied Photography at RISD and received my fine arts degree (BFA) in 1996. I then moved to NYC to assist various commercial and fine art photographers and during that time started my own food and wedding photography business, while shooting my own fine art projects on the side. I assisted from 1996-1999. Then I started shooting weddings in 1999 and started my businesses simultaneously. I favored 4×5 film, both chrome and negative film, and I had a working darkroom in the basement of my last apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn for the 9 years that I lived there.

decor8: Who or what inspires your work?

Karen: Hmmm… too many photographers, films, paintings and fashion. I’d say in the earlier days, I was inspired by feminism in photography, public art, and documentary film. The artists and directors I followed included Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holtzer, Deepa Mehta. I also loved the still life or Irving Penn and Tina Modotti. I was also inspired by family portraiture in college as I was shooting an ongoing large format project documenting my own family. I like Larry Sultan’s work as well as Tina Barney’s work. I loved the vivid color they achieved through using studio camera and available light.

decor8: How would you describe your style?

Karen: I use blend of styles. Since I have so much experience having worked for still life, fashion and interior, and food photographers, my strengths are varied. I am good with still life, excellent at documentary photography, portraiture, and proficient with using strobe lighting as well as natural light. I’m good with a light meter, and rarely get the exposure wrong! I love to use my people skills to arrange a portrait session, but I also like to hide out and use my long lens to capture intimate and emotional moments at the wedding. Most of the wedding is spent shooting documentary style candids.

decor8: How did you develop your style?

Karen: By observing a ton of professional photographers. But also by trying every camera and lighting technique first too! I worked with Mary Ellen Mark, Sheila Metzner, Victor Schrager (for 3 years), Sandi Fellman, Sany Skogland, Anna Williams, Sang An, Steven Lewis, and Bill Abramowicz, before branching off and starting my own business…

decor8: In addition to weddings, I noticed that you’re a food photographer and that you have a additional website for that. Can you please tell us more?

Karen: Yes, I’m also a food photographer, having assisted for Victor Schrager for 3 years before starting my own business (he won the James Beard award here in NYC for best food photography in a cookbook) and I learned a ton from him about shooting large format (8×10 film) and the use of strobe lighting to make an image look really natural. I shot a cookbook published by Houghton Mifflin (The Way We Cook) a couple of years ago, and I have also photographed Gourmet Magazine’s editor Ruth Reichl, and 4-5 other famous chefs here in NYC and Boston (Ming Tsai of the TV show Simply Ming, Marcus Samuelsson, Michael Psilakis, etc…)

decor8: But your focus still tends to be on weddings, why?

Karen: I have no choice but to focus on Weddings! They consume me, but I love them! I like shooting weddings because they incorporate so many of my skills. I feel that my talents are multi-faceted and I am able to quickly change my style depending on the situation, the event, and the lighting at that particular event.

decor8: What are 6 things that make your work stand out?

Karen: 1. I still use film. Both black and white, and color medium format films. 2. I print my black and white and color enlargements for my portfolios by hand in a darkroom. 3. People say my color is really vivid. 4. I’ve been told that my color printing is impeccable, and that my color balancing is really “on”. 5. I think I have a good eye for composition, lighting with strobe or available light, styling, and modeling light in both color and black & white photos. 6. I’ve shot many destination weddings, including my first one in India in 2003 (which was a 5 day wedding in Delhi and Udaipur). I’ve also shot in Jamaica, Los Cabos, Palm Beach and Cape Cod and I have a couple of weddings coming up in Malibu, The Dominican Republic, and possibly on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve also shot other projects in California, Italy and India, hence I’ve been lucky enough to have photographed in some really unique settings.

decor8: How do you learn about new trends in photography in order to stay current?

Karen: I learn a ton from my interns who are either just out of school or currently still at Pratt or RISD! From the newest Adobe programs, and most current /quickest method of post-production (Adobe LightRoom and Aperture) to what the best external hard drives to buy are. PDN magazine is also a great source, as well as the fine art journal Aperture and American Photo Magazine. I also take classes at the ICP every now and then (the last one I took was on book publishing) and the most recent class I took was actually on Antique Photography through the Center for Alternative Photography in New York City. I’m addicted to the wet-plate process. It’s not exactly au current but it’s new to a lot of people. I’ve made some really gorgeous positives on glass and on tin in those classes, and I cannot wait for the next workshop.

decor8: And finally Karen…What things would you not want to live without?

Karen: Yoga, working out (i.e. basketball, spinning, roller-blading or skiing), scrabble, my boyfriend, my little niece’s laughter, my family, knitting projects, unlimited vacation time, a warm environment, positive energy and a healthy diet (with the occasional bites of chocolate!).

Thank you so much Karen for your time, it’s an honor to have a few moments to get inside of your head. Wonderful!

Readers: If you have any questions for Karen, please add them to the comments section below…

Psst: Karen has a blog, too!

(images from karen wise)

Posted in interviews on January 30, 2009
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Iceland: Visiting Reykjavik

Tara Hogan from INK & WIT just got back from Reykjavik and asked if she could share her take on the city with all of us today. I’ve long been fascinated by Iceland, it’s one of those places that I imagine being really hip, really cold, and really well… off the map. We don’t hear about it that much here in America as is the case I think with most countries that are relatively small and peaceful. Tara, the stage is all yours….

A new INK & WIT print inspired by her travels.

Iceland… Geothermal Bliss by Tara Hogan

I recently visited Reykjavik – the capital and largest city of Iceland often referred to as the land of ice and fire. I had been to Iceland before on a layover en route to Helsinki and back en route to JFK. It was pure sadness being trapped in the airport where I could not get out into the geothermal pools or feel the landscape. But, I knew I would be back. Two of my closest friends and I paid Iceland a visit two weeks ago. Geothermal spa soak for three, please?

Please note during this time there is minimum sunlight. The sun rose at 10AM and set at 4PM. However, if you are going to be somewhere dark most of the time this is the place as it never ceases to be beautiful or mysterious. Furthermore, I live in Syracuse, NY currently belted by snow and frigid weather. Iceland is not this cold. Some of my friends thought the weather there would be more extreme than here but this not the case. It was indeed cold at times but mostly where you have no barriers from the wind near waterfalls and state parks. You are in the great wide open. And, really in it. You stand in spots where the earth’s layers were molded by lava pools.

Iceland is relatively small and has a population of about 320,000 and a total area of 103,000 km². It is located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland’s landscape is defined by large-scale volcanic and geologic activity.

While this country is sadly going through an economic crisis it did not feel so two weeks ago while I was there soaking up, literally, all it had to offer us. People were pleasant and calm. The issues of economics were blasted all over the papers just like our economic crisis but there was a sense of calm. Maybe it is all the pure water they drink? And, yes, it is the purest in the world.

Nature dictates life in Iceland especially since 25% of the island is active. I think you surrender to nature when you truly understand it is bigger than you. You respect it more. You do not try to control it or run away from it. You simply know you are a part of it, good or bad, like it or not.

There is so much to say about this eco friendly island. The 18th largest island in the world. My grandest memory was our stay at the Blue Lagoon (shown above). The Blue Lagoon is a man made spa but one look at it and you would not even think man made. It appears so natural as it is out in nature and the surrounding architectural structures are so simple and non intrusive to the natural surrounding beauty. That is one of the most amazing design aspects of Iceladn specially Reykjavík. The landscape is the dominant concept. In addition, there is no Starbucks or Sephora to distract you. Well, there is a Sephora at the mall and a LUSH but it is out of view from the greater picture. It is a modern, intelligent place that has respected its resources and evolved from burning coal at one time to utilizing its plentiful geothermal energy. This energy heats 87% of Iceland homes.

Geothermal energy, water, and bathing all go hand in hand in Iceland whether at the Blue Lagoon or in the bathroom. You will smell sulfur in the water everywhere and also find that saunas, relaxing heather pools, geothermal pools, geothermal spa pools, and bathtubs in your hotel room, if lucky, will be present at all times. You can also look forward to several different aromatherapy saunas, power steam rooms, thermal pools, and lap pools at the 5 star Laugar Spa in Reykjavik. A short cab ride from the city center.

For accommodations, allow me to recommend the CenterHotel Thingholt in Reykjavik (above). Think vampire gothic Eames chic. I could have done without all the animal skin products but the place was amazing. My friend and I even ended up getting the upgrade to have the bathtub right in the room. Pure water and a deep well designed bathtub? You cannot go wrong. Nothing bad to say about this place. Actually, if you stay in the city on a weekend plan on going out until 6:30AM because Icelanders know how to party. And, that does not necessarily mean bars and surliness. They just stay out late and have a good time. So, if you cannot beat them join them. We went out dancing until 6:30AM.

A Naestu Grosum

Getting to the design scene of things and creative stimulation… well, I guess it depends on how much you love nature. I believe environments shape people. And, if Iceland shapes people then the creative people here are in the middle of a strange, strong, and beautiful scene full of grand volcanic scale and intricate definition of black deserts. Homes are rich in reds, cobalt blue, and sunny yellow. Roofs are red, white, green, yellow and black. I was completely inspired to draw the whole place. People and all. Iceland has a young design scene but it is growing rapidly in its desire to be a eco conscious, critical, and an edgy dot on the map. There is a mysticism and vast open amount of space here that feels it would fuel room for strong concept and fluid design sensibility. I am excited to see what is to come out of the design scene in Iceland.

TIPS: Some designers I came across in my travels: Studio Bility, Ingibjorg Hanna, Helene Magnusson (who also has an Etsy shop with felted lighting), Thora Breidfjord, Katrin Olina (don’t miss the Cristal Bar she recently designed in Hong Kong), Photographer Elsa Prinsessa (also on etsy), and Bjorg Juto. You can find more listed here. Here are some great shops: Kraum, Kisan, and Sirka. Also check out the Icelandic Design Center online. If you’re looking for design bloggers in Iceland Olof Jakobina is a good starting point. If you are visiting Iceland, don’t miss the Reykjaik travel guide at Time Out. For some music out of Iceland, listen to Hjaltalin, Sigur Ros, Maus, Calder, and of course Bjork along with many others that you can find here at the Iceland Music website. Restaurants/Cafes: Greaenn Kostur, Silfur, A Naestu Grosum, Ice Bar at Restaurant Reykjavik, and Vox (they happen to serve high tea, too).

Want to watch a video about Reykjavik? Here’s a great one on You Tube.

- Thank you Tara for the beautiful post featuring Reykjavik! I’m always interested in a good travel post so if you’re a reader heading to a fun city, design event, or anything else you’d like to show us please send me an email (holly AT decor8blog.com) with your story ideas. I’d love to hear from you! – Holly

(images by tara hogan)

Posted in travel on January 30, 2009

Amy Kligman Art

I wrote about artist and designer Amy Kligman today over at Real Simple, don’t miss it, it’s worth checking out for sure. You can learn all about Amy here.

Sadly BlueFlip Art, where Amy sold prints at one time, closed up shop and I’m not sure where you can order prints of her work currently. Amy if you are reading, please let us know and if you don’t sell them online consider opening a shop. Please, your work is tops.

Happy Friday everyone! I’ll be back in a moment with a travel post from Iceland and an interview with a top photographer… stay tuned.

(image from amy kligman)

Posted in Arts + Crafts on January 30, 2009

Susannah Conway’s Creative Class Online

Hot off the press! I’m really excited to share this e-course with you soon to be offered by English photographer Susannah Conway, also known online as Unravelling. In addition to her online shop, she authors an inspiring blog, Ink on my fingers, and is a very inspiring, genuine spirit on the web. I really am fond of Susannah and love how she is reaching out to the online community to offer an inspirational e-course called Unravelling: Ways to See My Self beginning on Monday February 16th for 8 weeks.

I’m thrilled to now be able to offer my Unravelling course online! It is my hope that by sharing some of what I have learnt over the last few years I can help others to reconnect to their own selves, using photography as the key to unlock the door.

For this course, you’ll use your camera to unlock how you see yourself and your immediate surroundings, delve into the past through writing assignments, and turn your thoughts towards the future. Writing prompts and exercises support your photography projects to encourage greater self-awareness. “By the end of the course you’ll have a new appreciation for your one wild and precious life. You’ll also have a set of images that provide a fascinating insight into who you truly are“.

If you would like more information, please click here . I think this ties in so nicely with the Thursday Creativity Series on decor8, it would be an extra nice boost for you to sign up for an online course like this for a real hands-on approach where you can get to know others in a small online group setting and be accountable to both an instructor and your e-class. I love this approach, beautiful idea!

(images from susannah conway)

Posted in events on January 29, 2009

Books:

Available now on Amazon

Further editions available include: Portuguese, Danish, Czech, Slovak, French

Courses:

Next dates

Blogging Your Way for Beginners
e-course, April 17 – May 15, 2014
Find out more and sign up now.

Styling With Holly Becker
London, May 2014 (Date TBD)