Exposure Pro is a series looking at the work of leading professional and artistic photographers.
(Credit: Vicki Bell)
Name: Vicki Bell
Biography: Vicki Bell is an award-winning photographer who specialises in wedding, portrait, corporate and event photography. She is based in Melbourne and was most recently awarded the AIPP Victorian Portrait Photographer of the Year Award.
Vicki has a natural ability to put people at ease in front of the camera — her photography is a testimony to the spirit and emotion she can evoke in a session.
AIPP Victorian Portrait Photographer of the Year (2010), WPPI First place winner Glamour Portrait Category (2010), WPPI Second & Third place winner Group Portrait Category (2010), WPPI Second & Third place winner Individual Portrait Category (2010), International Aperture Awards First Place Winner Portrait Category (2009).
As a photographer it is my honour to document people's lives through my vision and my expression. I immortalise and memorialise lives in the most beautiful and engaging way that I can. I enjoy my traditional genre of work as much as my conceptual Fine Art portraiture, which is now advancing into commissioned work for clients.
In the same way artists were sought out throughout centuries of Art History to create portraits and document people's existence in the most visually pleasing way, I too wish to paint with my photography. I am inspired by so many avenues of the art world and I am inspired by people; photography is my vehicle to see, explore, interpret, express and unite my passions into a single print for generations to enjoy.
CNET Australia: what inspired you to take up photography?
Vicki Bell: I did a Bachelor of Education degree in Art & Craft back in the 1980s (those were the days) in which we studied numerous studio areas. I gravitated to photography and it eventually became my major and my obsession. I was inspired to photograph portraits, especially pregnancy and children from my first assisting job with Leanne Temme, my mentor and friend of many years.
How do you conceive your shoots? Do you have a strong visual image in your head of what you want the final outcome to be, or do you let the client and the mood dictate?
My images are conceived via a number of avenues. I have my "triggers" — it might be from other images I see and appreciate, it may be a landscape or a building I walk by and photograph, it may be a particular palette of colour or the beauty I see in and within a person that I gravitate towards. Whatever alerts my senses — even music and literature — can set an idea off in my head. I have my own library in my being so it just presents itself to me at any time.
My pre-visualisation can be quite strong but once I start evolving the image through Photoshop it most often takes a tangent and the outcome can be quite different from my original intention. I will always listen to a client but most often it is up to me as the artist to interpret that conversation. We all see differently so people will commission me based on the vision, the feeling and the translation that I have.
The way you use light plays a pivotal part in your photos, how do you achieve such a delicate look? Is it natural lighting or controlled studio lighting, or a combination of both?
I love available light where possible. I also utilise studio lighting to navigate the light to where it needs to be, for example, to suit the landscape used as a setting for a portrait. I have been very fortunate to have had training from my colleague and mentor Rocco Ancora who is masterful at light and interpreting light.
Tell me a bit more about your influences. Does Renaissance and classical artwork influence you at all?
Most definitely, and I am pleased you recognise this. As I studied Art History in my degree it most definitely has influenced my style. I love the use of drapery, the wonderful colour palettes that were used, the way poses were choreographed and I look towards the past to advance my work.
Can you tell me a bit about the process of fusing images together for your conceptual Fine Art shots?
My images are either a single capture or a composite of a few elements. I say I create imaginary portraiture; I create a memory that may exist more in a dreamscape or a fantasy world. My aim is to make it look actual and believable. It is as simple as etching out the elements in Photoshop and then creating an overall blend so all juxtaposing elements work in harmony. I see it as a collage or jigsaw fitting elements into the one scene.
You represent the female body in such a delicate and beautiful way, what is it about the female form that inspires you?
The female form is delicate and beautiful. Studying classical dance has had an influence on my appreciation of the female form. The power the body has to express through movement and hand gesture is an element I love to explore in my work. I also studied life drawing, a wonderful discipline that allowed me to explore the female and male form.
Do you consider yourself an artist or a photographer first, or both?
I am an artist in my heart and soul, in the way I see and think. Photography is my vehicle and my craft to enable my imagery to present itself.