In this episode of the Fine Art Photography podcast, I’ll tell you what kind of projects I’ve been working on as a photographer lately
Full episode transcript
In this episode: I’ll tell you what kind of projects I’ve been working on as a photographer lately
Welcome back to another episode of the fine art photography podcast. In this episode, I thought I’d tell you what kinds of projects I’ve been working on, and give some updates about recent developments with my photography / art business.
I realize most, or all of you listening, know very little about me — your humble presenter — as an artist or photographer. You most likely chose to listen based on the name of the podcast without any background on me. I have heard from some of you though, and I really enjoy that so if you want to reach out and introduce yourself please do. You can email me from my website, and you can also send a voice message through my podcast host page on Anchor — that’s anchor.fm/keith-dotson.
You may not know this, but you can leave an audio message and be featured on the show if you like. Leave a comment, offer a suggestion, or make a contribution to the discourse and maybe I’ll put you on the airwaves.
As an artist, I have traditionally considered myself a landscape photographer, shooting in strictly black and white, with emphasis on macro images from nature. But I’ve always enjoyed shooting anything that catches my eye — architecture, florals, found animal bones or bird’s nests, whatever.
Over the years I have also enjoyed shooting abandoned buildings and derelict structures, because they’re so full of character, texture, and they have such a moving sense of melancholy or loss.
Lately, thanks in part to a ready supply of these places across the deep south not too far from where I live, I have really been focused on abandoned places. I published a small book of abandoned places photography in 2019 — I’ll include an amazon link in the write-up if you want to check that out, but honestly since publication of that book, my efforts around abandoned places have only expanded. I sincerely have enough new work for 5 books about abandoned places now.
So that’s probably my primary project theme these days — shooting abandoned places. By the way, not long ago I published a podcast episode about visiting an abandoned little community called Hushpuckena, and to my surprise, that has been a popular episode. If you haven’t heard it, go check it out next. In it, I talk you through my experience being there and shooting that lost little place on a dirt road in the Mississippi Delta.
In support of the abandoned places project, I’ve been to the Mississippi Delta several times in the past year, including the aforementioned Hushpuckena — but also to Clarksdale, Yazoo City, natchez, Memphis, Vicksburg, and a lot of little towns you’ve never heard of. I travel a lot of back roads, following my nose to find interesting ruins. I’ve also been to places across Alabama, to Charleston and the Low Country, to Savannah Georgia, to Southern Illinois, and across the State of Tennessee where I live.
Over the winter, I went to Texas to shoot west Texas landscapes. I did this because I grew up in Texas and I get a lot of traffic on my website from people looking for Texas images. I offer quite a few, but it was time for a portfolio update — so I went to Texas. I hadn’t ever spent much time in West Texas and I had a lot of fun and published a handful of videos on my YouTube channel of my travels there. One body of work that came out of that trip was a set of mountain panoramas that I’m just crazy about. I shot these on my new Sony A7RIV and they are capable of being printed very large. They are hazy and intensely layered, and dramatic. And — I just sold my first print of one of them so that makes me happy — to see that trip and that effort begin to pay off so soon.
I also shot quite a few abandoned places in Texas — these were all lucky finds — nothing I had researched or anticipated. One more thing about the abandoned places images — I always do my best to research the history of the building, to learn what it was used for, who lived there, when it was built — whatever I can find. I think it enriches the story behind the photographs, but it also gives me fodder for my YouTube channel, which documents my visits to these places. Come and find me on YouTube if that interests you.
I tend to work concurrently on several projects, and another of mine is this project that I call the Dignity of Work, and it’s a set of still life and macro shots of antique hand tools, you know wrenches, and things that working men would have used 75 – 100 years ago. I’m shooting most of these in dramatic, low light to give them gravitas, and I work on that project as I can. I’ve gained quite a collection of old tools for this too! Which is funny because I’m not very handy myself.
Another ongoing project that’s mostly controlled by source material – -is my leaf skeleton macro series. A few years ago I began shooting high resolution macro photographs of leaf skeletons, and I was so happy with the results, I’ve kept the project going. Finding good leaves is a problem, and I generally find them by accident while walking or hiking. I’ll look down and see one. But if I go intentionally searching, I’ll never find them.
Business during the pandemic was surprisingly robust overall — mostly because I had some big commercial projects already in the works from the pre-apocalypse days that I was able to work on and finish up. Ironically, it’s been the reopening times that have been slow. Business has dropped off a lot toward the end of the lockdowns and since the economy began to reopen, but I am sensing that maybe it’s turning around again.
The bulk of my business as a photographer comes from print sales and image licensing. I sell prints to individual collectors, but also to art buyers, interior designers, and corporate clients.
My licensing business has included art for TV shows and movies — you may have seen my work in Grey’s Anatomy, or in the TV show Sistas, made by Tyler Perry studios in Atlanta. But my work has also been licensed for a wide variety of other uses — from book covers to note cards to websites.
But this is really big news, I recently completed a massive project for the University of Kentucky Arts in healthcare program. They acquired 32 prints of various sizes for wall art in one of their clinics in the Lexington area. This is a great thing for me — super large job — and of course I love the idea that my work will be in a place of healing but also I hope the photographs are helpful in a setting where there could potentially be some fear or stress. Well, I know I always have stress when I go to the doctor’s office anyways. Big thanks to the UK Arts in Healthcare program for choosing my work for that.
I also recently had an image chosen for a wine label for a varietal of wine being produced by Oakridge Wines in Coldstream Victoria, Australia. My work was selected for this project by Andrew Paoli of the design firm Paoli Smith, located there in Victoria. They’re very talented and do incredible work. I used to work for advertising design firms and wine labels were rare and very coveted design projects, so it’s really cool to be selected for this project as well.
Thanks to Paoli Smith, and also to all the individuals who have recently shelled out their hard-earned baksheesh for my photographs. Believe me when I say it is humbling and quite an honor when a person in Portland, Oregon, or Atlanta, Georgia, or Memphis, Tennessee, or Ft. Worth Texas or wherever — those are all cities I have shipped photographs to in recent weeks — but it sincerely touches me when people make a decision to spend their money on my work. It means a lot to me to know someone has connected with my work that much — that they are committing to it for their home or workspace.
The bulk of my sales over the past few years has been for interior design projects in commercial spaces like restaurants and hotels, and guess what — those people haven’t been buying much art — at least not from me. So, it really has been individual people who have been stepping up to buy from independent artists like myself.
Anyways, that’s all I’ve got for this episode. I hope you enjoyed this more personal version of the fine art photography podcast. If you prefer not to hear episodes like this, let me know. Otherwise, I may do periodic updates like this to let you know how my own art and business is doing, in hopes it might help you with your own. I’ll put links to everything I mentioned in the description, and on my blog.
Thanks for listening. I’ll talk to you again real soon.
Links to websites discussed in the podcast:
Unloved and Forgotten: Fine Art Photographs of Abandoned Places: My book of abandoned places photography on Amazon (Affiliate link)
Abandoned Places: My portfolio of abandoned places photography
Anchor.fm/keith-dotson: My podcast host – send a voice message here
Antique Tools: My website portfolio for “The Dignity of Work” project
Oakridge Wines (18+ please) Australia
Paoli Smith, Creative design, Australia
Note: This blog post contains Amazon Affiliate links. I may earn a small commission on qualifying purchases.