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Life at 50 (mm)
"Life at 50 (mm)" is an exploration of both humanity and technology: 50 images, with a 50 mm lens, revealing life at 50 years old
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I invite you to take a photographic journey with me during my 50th year. I will turn 50 on March 29, 2016. During the year from March 2015 through March 2016, I will use a 50 mm prime camera lens to capture fine art photographs that exhibit my understanding of this period of life. I ask you to help guide this journey, by giving me an assignment. Make a pledge and tell me what I picture I should take to make this year memorable.
Turning 50 is a momentous time in a person's life, and I want to do something special to remember mine. I admit that "50 at 50" is a bit of a gimmick, but choosing this particular limitation is significant for me. I purchased my first camera in 1985. It was a Minolta Maxxum, the first auto-focus 35mm camera created. It came with a 50mm prime lens, which I still have today. Now, I use a Sony Alpha camera body for digital photography. I chose this model specifically because Sony purchased the Minolta camera technology in 2006, so my original Minolta lens still works on my Sony digital camera. And, using a 50 mm prime lens allows me to return to the constraints I experienced during my first 20 years as a photographer, before the switch to digital about 10 years ago.
The 50 mm prime, or normal, lens is particularly useful for portrait photography, as it is the lens that best reproduces a view that generally looks natural to a human observer under normal viewing conditions. With the widespread use of phone cameras, many people see photos of their world from a wide-angle view. Such a view is useful for capturing large groups or panoramic scenes in nature, but it is a view far different from the natural view. Photographs with a 50 mm lens are the closest match to being there and looking at it yourself.
The prime lens also presents an artistic challenge for a photographer as there is no zoom function to the lens. With a prime lens, I must move myself closer to or farther away from the subject as I frame the composition of the shot. In that sense, using a zoom lens is cheating.
Creating bokeh is another artistic advantage of using a prime lens. Bokeh is the artistic quality of background blur in a photograph. The human eye cannot create bokeh, as the eye automatically adjusts focus to everything it sees with binocular vision. But a camera has a single lens, and the optics of a fixed, prime lens create a particularly shallow depth of field, the vertical plane of objects at a particular distance from the camera lens that are in focus. Photographers use this technique to bring the viewers attention to a particular part of the image and to create a pleasing, softness to the photograph.
In addition to using the 50 mm prime lens, I will constrain my images to subjects that are particularly meaningful to me as I go through my 50th year of life. Now, many of my best images are already captured at, or near, a 50 mm focal length. That is a view that seems to be particularly strong as I express my artistic vision. I like images images that have a sense of "HEY, look at this....right here...get a good look." But, I will now pay particular attention to my understanding of what it means to be turning 50.
During my 50th year, Sarah, my oldest daughter, will turn 21. My father would be 75, but he passed away last year. So, I imagine I will have many generational thoughts and experiences. But, I will also focus on what it means to be turning 50 in the year 2016, with thoughts of all the changes in society and technology over the past half century.
But, I want you to join me in this journey. First, I need your help to fund this project. You can give me an assignment by choosing the subject of one of my photographs. You think of something meaningful to you, make a pledge to the right, and then you tell me what that photograph should be. I will use my talent and judgment to make the photograph for you. It will become part of the collection, and I will print a fine art copy for you and send it to you. Your pledges will cover my expenses for travel, printing, time, and the "Lifeat50" website. Or, for a lower pledge amount, you can come to one of my portrait day events near Baltimore. I will apply all of my talents as a photography artist to create a high-quality portrait for you. For a greater pledge amount, I will dedicate a day to come to you for a professional-quality, on-site portrait session, that includes a 17" x 25"