Sundew

By Gundega Dege Back to

Dege_SO_2008_1

My everyday work is public relations and photojournalism. I received a BA degree in English philology, but also took some classes at an art school, and took part in several young painters’ competitions. I started photography more seriously a few years ago when my husband and I bought our first digital SLR. Since then I have won prizes in several local and international photography contests.

I mostly explore several areas of photographing people: portraits, portraits in nature, and my favourite, children. I do photo manipulation as well as natural photos. I have never focused on, for instance, birds, landscapes, or animals because I prefer exploring human emotions. My heroes are the people around me. I often photograph my two children, and draw inspiration from the events and human relations around me every day, as well as from music, from how I or how other people around me feel. That’s why some of my photos may look depressive or black, because I try to show the saddest side of our lives: there are so many unhappy people around us nowadays—many poor and homeless, for example.

I am very much inspired by Czeck photographer Jan Saudek. Perhaps that’s why some of my portraits seem weird to people—I very rarely make “classically beautiful” portraits. I like to observe more deeply: the portrait is not only the eyes, the lips, the expression; it is trying to look into the soul. To take portraits, I need time, the model and the idea, although sometimes ideas arise when I started post-processing of a photograph in my computer.

In the House of Lost Dreams
Autumn

Sometimes, however, I know ahead of time that I want to do some difficult post- processing for a photo, and plan for it. The images in my portfolio with my daughter, for instance, are taken in my home studio on a white background; afterwards I add other backgrounds from my stock of images. I’m constantly looking around to shoot interesting places—old houses, rooms, walls, and so on, so I can use them in future art works.

It is always difficult to get the right lighting, because if I take a shot inside it has noticeably different lighting if I afterwards try to combine it with a background photo taken outdoors. So I try to always use natural window light or one flash—using the flash like sunlight. I also use a white reflector to light the shadows. I have a large balcony in my house with light wails, so I sometimes put my models there and make good shots.

As to working with models, I always try to make up and dress them for the theme of the photo and, of course, in post- processing some details can be colorized—lips, eyes, hair color. For this, I use the Airbrush tool in Photoshop, very carefully. I make a different layer for each post-processed piece, so afterwards it is easier to correct before merging them.

It helps that my two favourite models, my daughter and son are always here.

I think I have my own style that is a little bit like painting; people often say that my photos look like old painted pictures. That is why I use a specific way of post-processing in Photoshop, with several layers, because I very often use several photos in one image, as well as brushes and different textures. Sometimes I don’t know what the result will be until the post-processing is finished. But it also happens that I just take a shot and see that I don’t need any post-processing, except maybe adjusting the contrast and making the image black-and-white.

I think it’s important to take a camera with you all the time, and take many photos. You don’t need an expensive camera, everybody can start with just simple 4-megapixel camera. It doesn’t matter so much what camera you have; the main thing is to have your ideas!

Bird

Hope and Destiny


About the Author

Gundega Dege
Contributor
Born in 1971, Gundega Dege is based in Ogre, Latvia. More of her work can be seen at www.photo.net/photos/sundew, and at www.sundewart.com.