I found Beth Akerman’s photos on a friend’s Google+ page, and I promptly added her to one of my circles so I could keep up with her work. Beth, a trained artist, grabbed onto my love of nature with her vivid, artistic photography. As an amateur photo buff, I know it’s not easy to get nature to cooperate with the mechanics of a camera; you have to have the right angle, the right lighting, and the right settings to capture a purely beautiful scene. It’s not as easy as some photographers make it look. Beth is one of those.
LK: Beth, welcome to Elucidations and thank you for being here to chat with us and show off a bit of your work. Will you share a bit of your background and tell us how you were pulled into photography and design?
BA: I have a BFA from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio where I concentrated in printmaking and art history. Some of my design work comes directly out of my printmaking background, specifically my ink designs. I learned to look at and for little details and think outside the box while in college, and it has translated into the way in which I work both in ink, painting and photography. I have never taken a photography course, and am totally self-taught in photography. Mostly through trial and error, but the concepts of design, composition and color where well grounded already from my art background.
LK: I have looked through a lot of your photos and I’ve noticed you have a penchant for close up nature work. What draws you to that focus rather than to landscapes or hard surfaces or people?
BA: I like details and finding things within things, like the shape of a twisted dry grapevine, or the texture of the petals and interior of a flower, the fuzz of a bee, and so on. I see potential in the small things that others might overlook. I do like landscapes and would love to do more of them, but I live in a suburban area that does not allow for too many of those. I also really do not have a huge interest in photographing people, but from time to time to stretch my wings I will photograph them. I did several portraits of my boyfriend dressed up and pretending to be Pablo Picasso for an Artistic Photography Mentorship I have on Google Plus for a Picasso assignment. They were well received. I may try a few more in the future.
LK: You have also taken part in charity work, through two photo books and with art raffles for sea turtles and tsunami relief. What brought you to engage in helping with your chosen charities?
BA: The Leaf Portraits book came about last year as several people told me that I should make a book of them. Since I really didn’t need the income from the book, I decided to donate the proceeds to a local school that I am a member of the Alumni Parents Association Committee. It was a collaborative effort with the leaf photography and poetry of several friends from Fine Art America, Google Plus and one dear longtime friend and supporter, Amos White whom I have known since college. 100% of the proceeds was donated directly to the school. The Google Plus Female Photography Book called How We See It...our view of our world again was a collaborative project for charity. 33 female photographers from Google Plus contributed images to the book, and over $250 (at $4 and $5 per book profit) was donated to the NOW Love Your Body Foundation that deals with body images issues and eating disorders. A cause close to my heart and that of many of the 32 other contributors to the book. A second book that is expanded to include many more Google Plus Female Photographers and female writers is in the works. It will be released on Blurb at the end of October, and will be called How We See It...more views of our worlds. The sea turtle project over 2 years ago was in response to the Gulf BP Oil Disaster. I have always loved sea turtles, and enlisted my Facebook friends at that time to help raise money to sea turtle rescue. Many of my high school, college, and sorority sisters purchased sea turtle jewelry and artwork with the proceeds being sent to various sea turtle rescue societies. The I Love Japan fundraiser primarily through the proceeds from the sale of various artworks of both myself and my then 13 year old son was the result of wanting to help with Japanese Tsunami Relief. My son loves Japan and the fundraiser was mainly his idea. Money was donated to the Red Cross for Tsunami relief.
LK: I was especially drawn to your photo book compilations with other photographers and poets. Leaf Portraits grabbed me due to my love of trees. Can you tell us more about the Wellington School art program it helps to support?
BA: The Wellington School is a private independent pre-K through 12th grade school located in Upper Arlington, Ohio. My now grown daughter is a graduate of the school, and I have been involved in some manner with the school for over 18 years. They have a wonderful and strong arts program, both in the visual and the performing arts. Like any other private school, the school must raise money for its programs through its parents, alumni parents, alumni and other fundraising events, including the yearly Arts Premiere. I was honored to have been able to participate in the 2012 Wellington Arts Premiere by offering 3 of my photographs and several macro photography experiences for young photographers at the school.
LK: Your newest compilation is full of work by female photographers. How We See It... Our View of Our Worlds has a great cover and I assume they are the book contributors. What led you to the thought of doing a women only photo book?
BA: Frequently what I have found is that the art and the photography world is pretty male dominated. What I found in joining the Google Plus social network while it was still in Beta was not only was there a great and supportive art and photography community there, but a strong women’s artist and photography community there. I met many wonderful female artists and photographers there, and felt it would be a good way to help bring some more attention to the high quality photography of the female photographers on Google Plus. It is a great community and not only are the women photographers on Google Plus wonderful and highly supportive of each other, the male photographers as a whole are highly supportive of the female photographers there. Plus, it was kind of a way to show the guys that the girls are pretty darn incredible too.
LK: Aptly, the charity How We See It supports is female related, as well. Can you tell us a bit about NOW Love Your Body Foundation and why you chose it?
BA: The charity was actually chosen by one of the other participants. However, it is something very close to my heart. I nearly lost my then 15 year old daughter 8 ½ years ago to an eating disorder. As a parent who went through that experience, I believe very strongly in promoting healthy body image and eating disorder assistance and hopefully, trying to find ways to prevent them in the first place, by identifying those in danger of succumbing to them before they get out of hand. A number of the other book participants either have struggled with body image issues and/or eating disorders or know someone who has struggled with one or the other.
LK: We share a similar path in that our families took the place of our art for many years. Do you feel that affected your work or your current work ethic?
BA: At the end of the day the answer is no. I always drew and created some art during the years I was raising my children but didn’t try and pursue it outside of doing art for myself and my family and friends. I also made jewelry during those years and sold them to co-workers and friends. So I kept creating to a certain extent. Also, I think now that I am more mature my work is more mature and I am able to focus more on the areas that I have consistently been good at over the years, namely the ink designs, and being more choosy on adding new and different things like taking up photography. I always knew that art was something I could easily pick up again.
Actually it took a visit to a former next door neighbor’s art gallery that she had for a few years before closing it to concentrate on her family that inspired me to really take up the art again. Kind of a “hey I can do that moment.” I had some early success in that my work had been in art galleries before right after college, and I had received several commissions over the years, so it was kind of picking up to a certain extent where I left off in many ways. However, with the internet and the ability to sell your work not only in the traditional means such as galleries, commissions and art shows, but via print on demand services like Fine Art America and SmugMug, my main art sites for my photography and art , have changed the game a bit and made it easier to get out there again and start building a following for my work. It does still involve a lot of work and a bit of luck, but it does make it worthwhile to get instant feedback when you post a work that is positively received.
LK: Just for fun, a few artsy personal questions: What music gets you going? Who is your favorite fine artist? Like any particular dance style? How about a favorite author or reading genre?
BA: I love punk rock and alternative music, namely stuff like The Ramones, The Smiths, REM, No Doubt, and Green Day to name a few. My favorite artists have to be Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renior, Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe and Jackson Pollack. Sorry have more than one of those. I don’t dance at all. My family says that is something I shouldn’t do. I love to read John Grisham type legal novels and John Jakes type historical novels.
LK: Beth, thanks again for sharing your time. Before you go, do you have any advice for amateur photographers interested in going professional?
BA: Try everything photographically and then find a few niches that work for you. Don’t be afraid to be a bit different, but still be yourself. Don’t get discouraged, and get out and network and promote yourself in a positive manner. Be nice and kind, it will get you further than having an attitude. And don’t allow others to discourage you, walk all over you, and don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself sometimes. Realize not everyone is going to like what you do, but there is always someone out there who does like it. Find your audience.
Thank you again, Beth! Be sure to follow the links below to find more of her incredible photography:
Leaf Portraits book: http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/2568119
The Way We See It: http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/3176099
Fine Art America: http://beth-akerman.artistwebsites.com
Main website: www.akermansart.com