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Questions About Photography

Recently I was contacted by a photography student asking about my Body Emotions series. The student was interested in the background of the series and what got me into photography in general. She asked:

“I would like to know what got you into photography and why you chose to do a shoot about body emotions?

What influenced you into doing such an interesting project and what kind of meanings or emotions were you trying to portray?”

Here is my response, in case you (dear reader) were also wondering.

Why I Got Into Photography

Man holding a video game controller angrily holding his first in the air

from a series for IU Creative Services

I got into photography really because I love light. I like looking around me and noticing things. I like details about the world. I like the small worlds that inhabit our much larger world. And I love people and emotions.

For me, photography became a way to express what I saw in the world. It was an outlet, and sometimes the only way I felt I could speak. Most of the time I didn’t fully understand what I wanted to say until I started shooting, then it just all came out. At times, I didn’t even think I had anything to say at all, but once I got behind the lens, I couldn’t help but speak.

The camera also enabled me to dis-engage with the world physically while highly engaging with it both emotionally and mentally. The physical was always there, moving around a subject or manipulating light, but the mental exercise of seeing something before I created the photograph was powerful. It enabled me to be reflective about what I saw, and what I thought.

a black and white image depicting a gritty lock and chain

details in fine art photography

I also love how looking through a view-finder always changes my perspective. It forces me to think. It forces me to understand, and to notice. But that process never stopped within the camera. It evolved constantly as I edited photos in the darkroom, or manipulated images digitally. I always tried to force myself to understand what I was trying to say, and if that message was coming across. I also love imaging what people will think about a photograph as well. How can I get my message across to the viewer? What will speak loudly to them? (which ties in well to my career in experience design.)

About Body Emotions

I specifically began shooting body emotions after a weird night of playing around with my camera. I often shoot self portraits, and one night I decided to put a box on my head. I was working at my computer and seeing all these boxes everywhere. A box for my computer, a box for the screen, a box around the keyboard, 20 different boxes on the screen. It seems like we are always working with boxes and within boxes. So boom, it hit me. Why not put a box on my head? What would I look like if my head were a box?

Body Emotion - Fear

FEAR – from Body Emotion

It was after that first night that I began seeing and thinking more specifically how I might be able to convey emotions without facial expressions. So much of our lives is focused on faces. What can we say without faces? I’ve also always been a big believer in the power of body language.

So, I merged the two ideas and out came Body Emotions. I wanted to create a series of photographs depicting several base emotions of human life. All without the use of a face. It was a difficult project for me, and I shoot and re-shoot many many times. I shoot in both film and digital, often in the same night. I had to imagine lighting, body positions, clothing, and set. And, I had to do it all within the confines of my bedroom. It was a constraint that I gave myself. It also let me be more free with my body and more expressive without feeling awkward in some public situation, though I’ve often thought about extending the work to public places.

So I kept shooting and shooting until I had this nice large body of work and many different emotions. I then edited everything down to a base set. I worked both in the lab with prints and in Lightroom and Photoshop with digital images. Overall, it was a blast, and probably one of my most successful series.

Check out some more of my photography, and if you have questions yourself, let me know! I would love to hear from others about their own experiences.

Announcing Give-A-Crit

Give-A-Crit allows photographers to upload images and get serious critique from professional photographers. Through video recordings and on-the-fly editing tools, photographers can engage in honest feedback and critique with each other.

Sign up to be notified when it launches in 2012.


Artists and creatives need critique to thrive and produce their best work. As digital photography has exploded in the last decade, hundreds of thousands of people have taken up photography. These new photographers turned to flickr and other sites for feedback and critique. However, text based comments don’t provide for a serious and honest critique. They lack context, technical information, and natural conversation.


Give-A-Crit seeks to address this problem through 4 major design principles; Show and Tell, Respond, Choose, and Quality.

Show and Tell
Video critiques coupled with on-the- fly edits enable professionals to give quality, honest critiques.

Photographers can watch any critique and can respond to critiques of their own photographs.

Photographers can request specific critics for each photograph they submit for critique.

Critics are of the highest quality to ensure professional, honest, and serious critique


Thesis Poster

Below you will find my thesis (or capstone) poster from my master’s program. You can find more information about the project via my blog.

Give-A-Crit poster

Brittany Joy Skwierczynski

Before I left Indiana for San Francisco, I traveled up to Indianapolis to photograph and say goodbye to my really great friend Brittany. While it was a bitter sweet night, I’m so glad to have gotten her in front of my camera. Brittany is a kick ass designer, a super passionate person, and she is beautiful as well. Lucky her, and lucky me for getting to photograph her.

Some of the above photographs represent some of my best work to date (I think). I would love to hear what you think. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Brian Oppenlander

Location: Bloomington, Indiana

Camera and Lens: Nikon D80, 70-300mm f/4.0-f/5.6 lens

Creative Process: Brian wanted some photographs on a white background. I set the lighting up and brought him over. I had him bring in some props for fun, and he had this great hat. Once he put on the hat we were both cracking up and I was able to create this photograph.

Post Production: Basic photo edits and a little cropping.

If you want to find out more about Brian, visit his website and portfolio.

Lee Beckwith

Location: Bloomington, Indiana

Camera and Lens: Nikon D80, 50mm f/1.8 lens

Creative Process: Scouting for locations, Lee and I found a park bench in the middle of campus. I had Lee site for about 2 minutes while I took photos from multiple angles.

Post Production: Basic photo edits, nothing more.

Location: Bloomington, Indiana

Camera and Lens: Nikon D80, 35mm f/1.8 lens

Creative Process: Inside the HCID Design Studio I had Lee grab a pen and some paper and start sketching. This allowed him to take his mind off of being photographed, and gave me a good opportunity to take some natural looking shots.

Post Production: Basic photo edits and a little cropping.

If you want to find out more about Lee, visit his website and portfolio

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