April 4, 2019: United Christian Church, Austin, Texas
After a lifetime of personal and commercial photography, John Acurso has enough advice to share that it would fill many meetings. An audience of 47 members and guests listened intently as Acurso first critiqued the April club competition entries in the first hour and then displayed images in the second hour from his personal projects coupled with thoughtful insights about developing your personal identity as a photographer.
From my own notes, below are some of John Acurso’s valuable advice.
1. John responded to several images because they stimulated him to ask questions. They had an air of mystery and conveyed emotion through movement. The shapes and lines drew his eye around the image rather than just to the middle.
2. John admitted he seldom photographed sunsets/sunrises anymore because they need a special hook to be unique. He praised several dramatic sunsets in the competition for their color combinations of blue shades of clouds and mountains and yellow/orange. The foreground silhouettes were also important elements in the compositions.
3. In several competition images, Acurso pointed out that they had been too over processed to his personal taste with HDR or sharpness. He urged us to be cautious with too much post processing.
4. John recommended that several images with strong central objects could be improved with “containment” or a subtle dark vignette or burn in around the edges. He also critiqued several images with strong leading perspective lines, i.e. railroad tracks, as being good but recommended the lines should lead to something interesting too.
5. While reviewing his life as a photographer, Acurso explained he began by successfully making good technical photos that pleased his commercial clients. It wasn’t until much later when he went to graduate school for his fine arts degree that he learned the language of design to make his own personal fine art images as expressive, emotional photographs. His favorite reference book is Design Basics by Stephen Pentak and David Lauer. It explains the design process with elements like unity, emphasis and focal point, scale and proportion, balance, and rhythm. He recommended one should start a photo project by creating an intentional purpose for “making” not “taking” photos. The goal should be how to “find” images that communicate the photographer’s vision and to avoid “chasing” images. John regularly investigates “experiments” for making images as illustrated by his church kaleidoscope mandala photo series using multiple exposures.