In today’s post I am pleased to interview photographer Karen Syens and feature her amazing work. Please sit back and enjoy her fresh new look at our everyday world. You are in for a treat!
Welcome back to Refreshingly Riki for your second guest post! Readers really responded to your work so much the first time and I knew I had to have you back.
I’d like to go back a bit and start at the beginning. Photography has not always been at the forefront of your life. How did you come to develop it as a passion?
I have always had a camera whether it was a throw away, film, a digital, or now a big DSLR to capture moments in my family’s life. I never really knew anything about photography, how to compose a picture or all the technical stuff till recently. I was always the girl with the camera at parties or on outings with friends. In March of 2010 I was laid off from a company for which I had worked for over 10 years. I was a bit depressed and wasn’t having luck finding a job, so my mom and I started going out and taking pictures at places around the state. It was then that I realized my knack for photography and that I actually enjoyed taking pictures.
From there my mom taught me how to process my pictures in Photoshop and how to add different textures and processes. That is when my artwork and creativity took off. Later in 2010 I took some family portraits for my sister’s family for Christmas and I discovered that I liked doing that. So for Christmas that year my mom bought me my first “big girl” camera, my DSLR. I have now captured several portraits of many families and kiddos along the way.
In the spring of 2011, still unemployed, I decided I needed to take this photography stuff more seriously, so I enrolled with the New York Institute for Photography. I’m still currently enrolled in the course for professional photography and with any luck I’ll finish by the end of the year. I’m so happy that I enrolled in the course; I have learned a lot of the technical aspects that I didn’t realize and I can see a big difference in my pictures between two years ago and now. I am currently employed and I do photography on the side. Someday I would like to turn GirlAZ Photography in to a bigger business and have more clients but, for now I’m happy to be where I’m at.
What serves as your greatest artistic inspiration?
The world around me is my inspiration; the little things in life inspire me. Things that people don’t normally take a second look at, I can see artistically. I’ve been told that I can turn anything from a photo of an old faucet to a photograph of an old sink in to a work of art. I think people really need to slow down and take a look at the world around them; there is so much beauty in everything and everyone.
Tell me about our first featured photo. The quote reminds us that if not for photographs, we might lose important pieces of our visual history. What images are most important for you in terms of preservation?
I love, love, love taking photographs of buildings, churches, vintage cars, and anything that looks old. I think as photographers we can be historians to preserve the past. By photographing old places and things we can share from generation to generation how cities and thing evolve. I think it is sad to see pieces of history torn down when really it could have been preserved and kept to share with future generations. For instance, this gas station may be torn down and turned in to a CVS but, with photos the people who opened that gas station or once had services done there can remember the good times they had when it was in its prime. It is not the same as actually having the gas station there, but at least its beauty was captured digitally.
A lot of your photos evoke a very visceral reaction in the viewer, especially scenes of religious or natural beauty. What does this photo mean to you?
This photo gives me a sense of calmness; a sense of ease. It is a how I like to live my life, calm but a splash of fun (the red door). I love old churches because I feel peaceful and at ease when I’m near them. I’m not necessarily a religious person but there is just something about the feel of being in an old church and wondering how many people have worshiped or were married there. This sense of calmness comes over me when I’m photographing them. Churches just give me a good feeling. This was such a cute little one up in Miami, Arizona.
This is one of my favorite pieces. Something I enjoy most about your work is your amazing use of light. How do you capture your subject in the best possible light?
Thanks, I like this one as well. There are certain times of day you are “supposed” to shoot photographs, early morning or around sunset. Well, I’m not much of an early morning person and more than likely I have a beer in my hand around sunset. When I looked at this picture there were about 100+ of these caps on the fence; one of them had to have good lighting on it. There really are some things that are better to take in the early morning or before sunset but if you just look around at the world around you, the sun cast shadows and brightens things that you wouldn’t normally see. That’s why I love taking pictures. I love seeing the little things and the fun shadows and light the sun can create.
I used a new technique on this photo; I used an overlay. You can see it faded in the background. I just discovered these, thanks to my mom, and I love them.
Tell us about this beautiful brick building. It evokes an air of times gone by, when construction was both utilitarian as well as beautiful. How do you feel about photographing architecture? Do you have a place or a building that you’d like to explore for you work?
This is the front of the train station in Globe (I think it was built in 1916) and from what I have read it is still running.
I love photographing architecture; it is one of my favorite things to take pictures of and to process. I love all the detail in old buildings. The older buildings almost tell stories themselves. You can see how worn they are or if they have been kept nicely. Just think how many people have walked through the doors of that train station over the years. How many people have met loved ones coming on in a train. There is just something about the history of old buildings that gets me.
If I win the lottery or come across a ton of money, I would love the take my mom and head to Europe. I’d buy us a Euro Rail pass or rent a small RV and just travel, taking pictures of history. I have been to France and I love taking photographs there. I would love to see other countries, not necessarily the big cities but take the roads less traveled and see small villages. That would be my dream destination.
You take a lot of photos of Arizona and our local landscapes, such as this shot in Globe, Arizona. What do you most enjoy about the desert? Are there particular considerations to be taken in account for desert landscapes and locales?
The desert is beautiful. I don’t think many people realize the beauty our desert holds. It is so colorful at times and so full of life. Seeing the hills covered in Mexican Poppies in the spring time looks like someone painted the desert bright yellow. Watching the sunset over South Mountain and seeing the colors change. Driving to Boyce Thompson Arboretum in the fall to see some fall colors is just magical. You always have to keep your eyes open when shooting in the desert because you never know what you will see. I don’t really have anything that I take in to consideration; I shoot what I find beauty in. It is funny, I think that this building, or a flower, or even a lizard is beautiful but the next person may not have the same vision as I have. That is one thing I love about photography is that you can be out with 10 photographers and everyone comes back with a photo of the same thing but seen 10 different ways. Just be creative look at things until you see it just how you and only you feel happy with how it looks. There is no right or wrong just go out and see the world around you.
This is the backside of the train station in Globe. I was going for a vintage postcard look for this one.
In this photo I am drawn to the dichotomy of a religious building and the functional work fixture of the windmill. Photography and other visual arts often expose situations in a way we might not have noticed in passing. What have been some of your most interesting finds?
It is funny; I have photographed this church before and never saw the windmill. Then one day when I went back I wanted to find a different angle to photograph the church so it wasn’t like my other shots. So as I walked around the church it was like a light bulb went off when I saw the windmill in the background and I knew that was the shot I had to take.
Some of my most interesting finds are at Boyce Thompson Arboretum on the Outback trail. I love taking pictures of the old blue truck and different things in the old hut there. Have a look at some of my cool finds on Flickr.
Jerome is another fun place with a lot of interesting things to shoot. You can find vintage cars, old signs, a mine, and everything in between to photograph there. You can check out my Jerome set on Flickr as well.
Finally Apacheland in Apache Junction is another fun place to photograph. By far one of my favorite photos is from there. I had one printed for my friend Kevin and for my brother when they turned 40. I don’t know what it is about that piano but it just gets me.
You also do a lot of portrait work. Do you have a vision for each shoot? Do you assist in the planning of a theme or location?
I usually have a vision for each shoot but you never know how it is going to go. I try to get as much information from the family or person beforehand so I can plan accordingly. You know, not being a mom, kids have a mind of their own. So I have a vision of how I’d like things to go but they have a vision completely different. I usually let the kiddos win. If some little girl knows the latest diva pose or some little guy loves his rock star pose, I let them do it. I think it shows more of the child’s personality than if I try to pose them myself. Some are a little shy so I work with them. I always try to make my clients feel comfortable and feel like we are having a good time.
I now have a small home studio and I usually buy one or two new things each time I have a new booking. I want to make sure I have everything I need to fit each client’s needs or personality.
As for outdoor locations, I help the family brainstorm. I have my favorite places but I would like to venture out and find some new cool hip places to shoot portraits at. I want to try more urban places. I’m happy that this year my niece will be a senior so I’m going to take her out to a few new places to take her senior portraits.
How can readers see more of your work or book you for a portrait sitting?
I can be reached on my Facebook page or by email. If you stop by my Facebook page, please click like and share it with your friends and family. If you like what you see here on the blog, please also visit me on Flickr. If you are interested in purchasing any of my artwork you can also contact me at my email address.
Thank you so much for allowing me to feature your work. It’s always wonderful to talk with you!