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ePHOTOzine Chats To Portrait Photographer Patty Maher

Patty Maher takes moody, meaningful portrait images. Here we find out more about her work and what inspires her.

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Patty Maher is based in Caledon Ontario. She describes her work as 'in the boundaries between real life and otherworldly'. Here, we find out more about her work and her inspirations. 

Patty Maher

Image © Patty Maher

Tell us a bit about yourself - how did you discover photography?

I discovered my love of photography about five years ago when I had decided I wanted to find a visual medium to express myself. I created a list of a few different things to try and photography was second on the list. I fell in love with it immediately and never made it to the rest of the list.

What drew you to portrait work?

I became interested in portrait work when my husband and I moved from the city to the country. I started off taking landscape shots but then found I wanted to say more within those landscapes. I found myself drawn to storytelling, and portraits within a landscape seemed the best way to tell stories.

Patty Maher 

Image © Patty Maher

Your subject has her face hidden a lot in the images - why is this?

I began hiding my face when doing self-portraits because I wanted my shots to be about ‘every woman’ and not about me. I found the more I did that, the more I liked the anonymity of a shot without a face showing and I started doing that no matter who was modelling for me. I find, for my work, including a face adds a concrete definition to the subject that I think can sometimes prevent people from writing themselves into the story.

A lot of the images have quite a moody and ominous feel - what are you trying to say through your work?

If I look at my work as a totality and from the general tone of it being moody and ominous, I am trying to show the beauty of the dark places life can sometimes lead us to. I often find that I create my best, or most relatable work when I am using photography to illustrate a more complex mood and emotion. I think part of the hidden beauty in life is the complications inherent in living it.

Patty Maher

Image © Patty Maher

I love the simple yet meaningful compositions in your work, how do you come up with the ideas for a shot?

Thank you! Usually my work starts with a phrase that enters my head, from a situation I find myself in or something I read or hear, and then I ask myself how I could illustrate that idea visually – in the simplest way possible.

Is there a lot of post production involved or do you do a lot of the work in camera?

It depends on the shot. Every shot I do goes through some kind of post production which will involve changing or tweaking colours to some extent. I then usually ‘’clean up” the background to either take away things that aren’t really adding to the story, or to make it more symmetrical. I also often composite aspects of different photos from the same shoot together. Some of my shots are created almost entirely in photoshop with the characters cut out of different backgrounds and placed in the scenes. I do this more rarely as I think it can lack authenticity – but I really enjoy creating something completely from scratch sometimes.

Patty Maher

Image © Patty Maher

Tell us about the equipment you use and why you like it.

I use a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and the lenses I tend to use most often are a 50mm f/1.2, 85mm f/1.2 and sometimes when I want to go wide I use a 24-70mm 2.8. I also use a Manfrotto tripod and a remote. I’ve used Canon from the start and I guess you could say I’m emotionally attached to it as a brand because it’s seen me through all the incarnations of my photography obsession from amateur to professional.

Is there any image that you particularly love or would say is your favourite?

My personal favourite of my own work changes all the time. Right now I would say it’s this photo:

Patty Maher

Image © Patty Maher

The inspiration for it was thinking about all the various times I’ve waited for something that didn’t ever happen. It is meant to capture that feeling of excitement and hope you can feel as you wait, but ultimately that futility as the realization begins to dawn that in reality you are just standing in the middle of a placid lake all by yourself and that the thing you are waiting for just isn’t going to happen. I like this photo because it came together quite serendipitously with the location, the costume, the flowers and the weather all falling into place without a lot of effort and planning. I can still feel the mood of that day and it was very serene. I could have stood there forever taking that shot.

Patty Maher 6

Image © Patty Maher

If you could give 3 top tips to a novice portrait photographer, what would they be?

The first thing I would suggest is that if you want to really improve in your photography quickly, do a 365 where you take a shot every day for a year and post it to social media like flickr. I did this and I found that interacting with other photographers in this way really pushed me to improve. Secondly, I would say is to take what interests you in a style that pleases you. I think there is the temptation to want to imitate what other, more successful, photographers do, but I think that finding your own voice is crucial. No one else can do what you do if you authentically create from your own voice. And third I would say to enjoy it. Photography is an enormous amount of fun.

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JackAllTog Plus
12 6.3k 58 United Kingdom
22 Sep 2015 8:25PM
Super article and details,thank you.
p.s. I particularly like the watering can image as i can relate to that.
TanyaH Plus
18 1.3k 411 United Kingdom
25 Sep 2015 4:36PM
I stumbled on this article accidentally ... but boy, I'm so glad I did. Inspirational reading and imagery Smile

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