What Camera Do You Use?

I guess the thing I get asked the most is: “What camera do you use?” I always find that a revealing question. It’s like asking a painter what brushes she uses. Or, a musician what saxophone he plays. The question is always asked with a sense of enlightenment, like learning the answer will reveal some great insight into how a good photograph is created.

In many ways it’s similar to thinking that a $300 Escoda Kolinsky Sable brush will create a better oil painting than a $10 house brush from Aaron Brothers. Sure, the better products will hold up better and last longer. They will hold their shape longer. They are more comfortable to work with for longer periods, etc. But they don’t paint a better picture. Neither does a more expensive camera take a better picture. It will have better reliability, more durability, larger file size, and so on. But it still comes down to the person looking through the viewfinder and pushing the shutter release.

That question always reminds me of the story told about the legendary photographer Sam Haskins. One evening Haskins went to a socialite party in New York. As he entered the front door, the host said “I love your pictures – they’re wonderful; you must have a fantastic camera.” He said nothing until dinner was finished, then offered: “That was a wonderful dinner; you must have a terrific stove.”

Now back in the day –the one before digital cameras– I don’t remember people asking what camera I used. I think today there is so much emphasis on the digital technology, that the craft of photography is overtaken by the technology of digital equipment. People truly have the perception that the camera creates the image. In fact, it only records the image that the photographer creates.

The old saying that: “music is in the musician, not the instrument,” is so very true.

Portfolios of Work

Up until a few years ago, I grouped my photography according to basic genre: landscapes, still lies, figurative, etc. However, now I categorize my work into portfolios of imagery. Each portfolio encompasses a specific theme of work. Often, I find great variety between the images within a portfolio, yet they all support a consistent theme or statement. In this way, a figurative work may be grouped with a still life, or a landscape. Because it is really more about the statement the image makes than the photographic genre of its content. I prefer organizing my work this way because it speaks more to the intent that goes into the work, rather than fitting it into a generic category. Over the past year I have restructured my website to reflect this new portfolio approach. To help clarify the creative intent of each portfolio, I’ve begun writing statements about each group and the type of content that goes into it. I’ll be adding these statements to my website over time as I complete them. Hopefully my thoughts behind the work will help clarify how I approach my art and what it means to me, as well as add to the viewers appreciation for the imagery.

The way we now communicate… You have to send an email.

The Internet brought with it some amazing changes to our world. It removed time and distance, it created instant contact and unlimited conversations, and it offered a wealth of shared information. It also made people more isolated and anonymous, it built a barrier to personal communication and human contact, and it desensitized the individual.

In my opinion, the Internet has brought the world closer together while at the same time pushed those in it further apart. This point has been never more apparent to me than when I traveled to New York, Rome, Berlin and Vienna with the intent of visiting art galleries. On this trip I brought with me a portfolio with a selection of actual photo prints of my work. I took the time and effort to assemble a portfolio, just like artists did back in “the day” (the one before the Internet). So I set out on a journey to visit galleries and show my work in person. I was astonished by what happened.

Not a single gallery would take a look at my work! The response I received was universal: “You need to send us an email and we’ll get back to you.” I was looked at with amazement that I would actually walk in the door and expect them to look at my work right then and there. I was often told that no one does this anymore (meaning that everyone used to before you-know-what) and that “all business is done over the Internet.” I ventured to explain that I wanted to make a personal contact and be able to show my actual work, but was repeatedly turned away with claims that “we don’t have time to look at everyone who walks in the door.” What I found most ironic is that in the fifteen minutes that I was in each gallery, being told they didn’t have time to look at my work, they could have looked at my work.

My argument to all the galleries was that sending an email was impersonal and vague. Who knew if anyone actually read it or whether it just went into a junk folder. I would never know if anyone got my note. I was assured that they read all emails. So I tried a new approach. Halfway through my travels, I sent an email to all the galleries I was planning on visiting on my trip. I told them I would be in town the following week and wanted to show my work, and included a link to my website. If they weren’t interested, I asked, please let me know. Not a single gallery responded. So I visited the ones on my list and they all told me the same thing: “You have to send an email.” I told them I did! I was beginning to feel like Captain Yossarian.

Now, I’m not naïve. I get what’s happening. The Internet is being used as a wall, a barrier to keep out pesky artists, as well as others. This way the galleries don’t have to pretend to be interested in the work. They don’t have to feel uncomfortable by turning someone down and sending them away. They can go on their merry way and not have to add that stress to their life. It’s cleaner that way.

They also could pass up some real talent. Being an artist is as much about the artist himself as the work he produces. It’s about their personality and drive, and their work is merely an extension of that. Why wouldn’t you want to get to know that person if they were willing to make the effort to travel to meet you and bring their work to show. That tells you a lot about the person behind the work. After all, the artists are the manufacturers that produce the products that galleries sell.

But the Internet has changed all that. It’s made everything much easier…but not necessarily better.

Thanks for reading. And feel free to drop me an email any time.

Social media is more about controlling the media than being social.

I’ve been on Facebook with business “Pages” for my fine art work for some time now. And through that I’ve learned just how arbitrary and controlling Facebook has become. But honestly, it’s not just Facebook, it’s many other social media outlets, from Google to Yahoo, and on and on.

I started my fine art “Pages” about two years ago. These “pages” are about my artwork. They are even categorized as “artist” under the title. These should be venues where I can, like anyone else on social media, share updates, ideas, events and thoughts about my art.

Yet, at times I’ve received messages from Facebook that a particular post/photo does not comply with their guidelines. So I read the guidelines as they relate to the warning note I’d received. Unfortunately, the guidelines are so vague and ambiguous that it’s futile to try to determine what specific behavior creates a violation. Now, I am very careful not to show any image on my Facebook page that includes blatant nudity or anything about the body that might be considered erotic. And I always clearly include a warning note in my posts if a link takes the viewer to any nude images. The warning reads: “This photo shown has been cropped to be FB friendly. The link contains mature content. If you are easily offended please do not click the link. However, if you are more evolved than that, please do and enjoy.”

I also tried to promote my fine art erotica Pages on Facebook to get more “likes” and followers. But they often denied me. When I asked why I was denied, they sent me a screen-grab of one of the sub-pages of my website. Apparently Facebook doesn’t want anyone to view erotic or nude images, even if those people want to view them. Apparently Facebook feels they should be in charge of what people can, and cannot, see. Apparently they feel they’re qualified to make those determinations. A power even the Supreme Court doesn’t feel capable of exercising.

But ostensibly it’s okay for employees of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center to post photos and confidential medical records of patients being treated for an STD on the Facebook page “Team No Hoes”. It must not violate their guidelines to create a page to post confidential medical information that clearly violates state and federal laws, and opens a person up to public ridicule and shame. That must be okay with Facebook.

Amazingly, the 22 YouTube videos of threats of violence that Elliot Rogers posted were not a problem for that social media website either. Maybe the killing spree he ultimately embarked on near U. C. Santa Barbara wasn’t a problem for them. Nor was it an issue for Google to try to scan every book ever written and post them on their site for all to access, for free. Copyright be damned, apparently. But if you show a portion of the human body or use the word “erotic” you’re branded as a scourge to society. As if we need to protect people from something as offensive as the human figure and it’s use in art.

Ultimately it’s not that I object to these so-called “media” setting limits to the content they will allow. My objection is more about the contradictory, myopic and arbitrary nature of their constraints.

How I name my images

One question I get asked a lot is how I come up with the names for my images. Well, I like to have fun with naming my images. To me, the name of each image is a central element of the actual image. Now, of course, many of the names come to me while I’m shooting the image. Some titles just seem obvious while I’m doing a shoot or setting up a shot. “Heavy Metal” and “Shopping Spree” are good examples of names that hit me during the shoot and just seemed perfect for the image. Another series I’m working on is a version of visual puns. In this case, the names come first, then the image is created around the name. “Jackass” and “D: None of the Above” are examples of these.

Many other names appear to me while I’m processing the images. Since I spend so much time processing and printing images, the time invested while working on an image for a period of time let’s my mind wander. Names often form in my mind during that stage of the process. “Where The Suckers Moon” and “A Hand in the Game” came to me this way.

The other way I get names is a little more obscure. Sometimes, no matter how much time I spend with an image, nothing comes to mind. One day, while stuck trying to think of a name for an image, I took a look at a horse racing form that was on my desk. Many of the race horse names are very unique and lyrical. The symbolism, I found, transferred into many images. “Iconic Imbalance” and “Deadpan Ambiguity” are examples of image titles derived or inspired by race horse names.

For me, the names for my images are an important part of their creation. Much like naming one’s child. So I put a lot of thought into it because I want to make certain the name captures the spirit of the image.

The Debate Over Photo Retouching of Models

I regularly encounter critique after critique regarding the ethics of photo retouching. It’s the latest craze, it seems. “Photoshoping” (When did the noun become a verb?), as it has become known, has turned into a controversial hot-button. A controversy that fosters concerns about the ethics of photo retouching in the media. That it’s wrong/unethical to manipulate a photograph of a person, celebrity or model to distort reality. The photo then, becomes a lie and it deceives the public goes the argument. From Kim Kardashian to Lena Dunham, this battle has become the rage.

Now I know that this critique is motivated by the interest in policing companies that perpetuate the body shaming so many women are subjected to. This debate has done a lot to get the message out that real women are beautiful. Which is why you could look at the “controversy” in an entirely different way. It is also argued that these “unrealistic” retouched women create a false message; a lie that the manufactures create.

Bottom line, we all know anyone who appears in any magazine or ad has been retouched so if you purchase a copy of a magazine, you’re buying into the fantasy. And beyond that, you don’t have to buy the magazine. Let’s not pretend to be so naive that we blatantly accept all images. Hey, if someone invited me to appear on the cover of a magazine you bet I’d say yes and I’d definitely expect some retouching done to my photo.

While I limit retouching of my fine art images to a minimum, I certainly understand that magazines and advertisers employ retouching to create enhanced perceptions. But I feel too many people want to promote the controversy over retouching and end up becoming the controversy themselves.

What this debate fails to factor in is that, in reality, all products are retouched and enhanced. From automobiles to buildings, from food to liquor, they all use retouching to portray their products in the best light. Would you want to buy a car that looked dingy and dull, and had all manner of reflections showing in the surface? Probably not as much as you’d like to see a bright, sparkly sleek car with a beautiful sunset horizon reflected along its side, enhancing the clean lines of the car. Consumers claim that this practice is deceptive, but the FTC clearly establishes the requirement that a deception must be a “material” one in order for it to be actionable. A material deception is one that depicts the product inaccurately; and the model is not the product.

The irony of all this debate, and what I find laughable, is that the same people who argue against retouching of models and celebrities in magazines and ads, will demand retouching for themselves when the have their family portrait done. “Take out those wrinkles under my eyes and fix my double chin. Oh, and can you thin out my arms so they don’t sag underneath? And my saddlebags, can you get rid of those??” I can’t tell you how often I’m asked to “flatten out my stomach” or “…make my butt a little more shapely.” These are regular people who out of the other side of their face are arguing against “photoshopping” models. Ah, the beauty in irony.

Grady Harp review of “D. Keith Furon: The First Thirty Years”


Following is a review of my book “D. Keith Furon: The First Thirty Years” by Grady Harp on Amazon.com, November 13, 2013

Among the legendary artists of the 21st century D. Keith Furon is among the most respected. Born in Los Angeles in 1952, Furon received his training at UC Berkeley and UCLA and is now in the collections of important museums and private photographic art collections. His home base is Palm Springs, California. Furon looks for the unexpected, for images that others haven’t seen before. His images are infused with a refined sense of composition and aesthetic. And blended with a sensual and powerful spirit. He captures the essence within the subject in every phase of his oeuvre – still life, landscape, nudes – and his trademark is subtle: meticulous composition, near dream-like images that never pass into the realm of the surreal yet serve as emblems of a heightened sensitivity to light/space/place and in many ways a spirituality.

This handsome book is a generous collection of Furon’s work of the past thirty years. Though all categories of his work are extraordinary, the most imaginative images are those of female nudes – alone, in tandem, in groups. In one particularly evocative piece called Rock Garden he places three models facing away from us so that these sensitive feminine forms are appreciated more as works of still life without the superimposition of facial suggestion of person. It is radiant.

The book is stunningly designed, allowing the photographs to speak without interruption by words. Elegant and quiet, this is the artistic journey of a very important photographic artist.

View Amazon.com: D. Keith Furon: The First Thirty Years

The Difference Between Taking a PIcture And Creating Art



One thing I hear often is that a picture of a nude is automatically art. But is every picture of a nude, art? Well, the answer is no. It doesn’t mean that a nude photograph can’t be art. It means that a nude photograph isn’t automatically art. Now I’m talking “art” in the formal sense of “fine art,” as opposed to “commercial art” or “decorative art.”

I often use this example: Is a photo of a nude woman in Playboy, art? No. True, it’s a beautiful picture of a sexy naked woman, but that does not make it art. No it only makes it a nice photo. The picture is merely an exact representation of a common scene, with nothing beyond that. This doesn’t mean that a simple photograph can’t be art. But for a photograph to elevate itself to the status of being art, it must be more than the picture.

But to be honest, creating art is very different than just taking a picture. In fact, taking a picture is one step in the process of creating art, but not the only step. Now the term art (as a noun) is thrown around loosely in conversations,  “look at the art we got for over the sink in the kitchen.” That’s “decorative art” if you will. But if we adhere to the term of art (as in fine art) as the result of an insightful creative process, then we have to look at what went into the “art” to see if what came out is worthy of being more than a snapshot or decoration.

Many people think that if it’s taken with a camera, it must be a creative process, so it must be art. But, just because someone gets oil paints and a canvas and makes a painting, doesn’t make it art. The difference is in the result, not the tools. Art is a result.

So now, we try to define art, which is very difficult to define. So rather than define art, I propose to define the qualities that move a mere photograph into the realm of art. This may not give us a bullet-proof definition of art, but it will allow us to recognize it when we see it, and while we are trying to create it.

When I work with students, I explain that creating art is about making a visual statement, not just about taking a photograph. Art goes beyond the photo. It evokes emotion and feelings and thought beyond the elements depicted in the image.

So what are the qualities that move a mere photograph into the arena of fine art? While there is no formal checklist, here are the elements that I follow to make the distinction.

Firstly. Is the model just in the photo, or is he/she integrated into the scene or story? In other words, are the model and environment one element? Very often we see images of a nude posing next to a wall, rock or doorway. But the nude doesn’t integrate into the setting in any unique way. She is just posing next to an item, maybe her hand on it. The nude and environment must be essential to each other…they have to add something to each other so the overall image is unique and intriguing to the viewer. Another way to look at it is to ask yourself: If you isolated the environment and the model from each other, would the image be just as strong? If the answer is yes, then the combined image fails as art. The result of the two parts of the shot must be greater than the parts individually.

Secondly. Does the image make the viewer feel, think or see something that’s more than just what’s in the image itself? Put another way, it must tell a story or evoke an emotion. I always think of this as the creative intent of the piece. What did the artist want to say with the piece? That’s the artist’s creative intent. If the overall piece is nothing more than a photo of a naked person in a setting, it’s usually not art.

Thirdly. Is it just a portrait of a naked person, or more than that? Again, this looks to the quality of simply a photograph of a beautiful body, which is essentially a portrait. Or does the image evoke more than that? Take, for example, da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. It’s a portrait essentially. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a study in environment, expression and emotion that elevates far beyond a basic portrait. A nude portrait can certainly be art, but it must posses some intrinsic message beyond the image of the naked body –no matter how beautiful– alone.

Fourthly. Composition: Placement of objects is so crucial to an image’s strength and is one of the most challenging and overlooked aspects of creating art. A very static image usually lacks movement and energy. And, in that case, it’s often the composition of the photo that’s lacking. Cropping, placement of objects, angle, space (and negative space), perspective and juxtaposition are all elements of composition. Images that are too perfectly even usually lack intrigue in the composition of the piece. Those images don’t become art, but are stuck in the world of a snapshot. They are literal, uninvolving pictures. Art must move beyond simple depiction and use composition to move from ordinary to extraordinary.

Fifthly. Light and shadow: There’s as much power in what you don’t see, as what you do see. That’s where light and shadow come into play. Those are the areas where the viewer’s mind can dig in and play. Where his/her imagination can fill in the blanks. So using shadow and light are powerful elements in the storytelling roll of an art piece.

Lastly. Don’t overuse Photoshop (or any other software) to the point where the technique overpowers the image. We see this employed way too often today, and it’s clear that it’s become synonymous with “art.” The name “Photoshop” has moved from being a noun to a verb. We Photoshop something. But it’s not art, anymore than a paintbrush is. Art is about the content of the image, not an overpowering technique. When I work with students, I tell them to look at it like this: Is the image strong without the technique? If not, then an applied technique alone won’t turn it into art.

These are all the issues I consider when I work on an art piece, and when I work with others. The most important thing about creating is to start creating long before you push the shutter release. You have to know what you want to create before you can create it.

Just Released “D. Keith Furon: The First Thirty Years” is now available



D. Keith Furon: The First Thirty Years
Yellow Cat Press, 2013

D. Keith Furon’s first solo book is now available through bookstores and online. Available in 168-page softcover version (8.5″ x 11″ finished size) through bookstores and online. Also available in a limited-edition (2500), individually signed & numbered hardcover version (12″ x 12″ finished size) through the artist.

D. Keith’s photographs let us explore a deeper visual awareness of what we normally take for granted. His images take us on a journey that parallels the obvious point of view. His work says something fresh about photography. It gives permission to see, feel, think, form values and break down barriers on many levels: Perceptual, visceral, social, empathic, sensual and sexual.

To D. Keith, his art is his message. It reveals something extraordinary from the ordinary. He looks for the unexpected, for images that others haven’t seen before. His images are infused with a refined sense of composition and aesthetic. And blended with a sensual and powerful spirit. He captures the essence within the subject.

This collection represents a 30-year journey, and offers an overview of the artist’s path through artistic expression.

Softcover version available through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com

Limited-edition hardcover version available directly through the artist: D. Keith Furon

“Mastering The Nude” Fine Art Photography Workshops


Just wanted to post about my Workshop Series. Here are the details…

Upcoming Workshop Dates:
November 8-10, 2013 – Palm Springs, CA

The “Mastering The Nude” photography workshop is taught by D. Keith Furon, and was designed for photographers of all levels who want to learn, develop and improve their nude photography skills. This three-day workshop will greatly improve your artistic and photographic eye, as well as develop your technical skills. An experienced live model will be present for the workshop to provide the opportunity to learn posing techniques and other skills needed to effectively work with live models.

Whether you’re a beginner, looking for their first experience with shooting nudes, or an experienced photographer this workshop will give you the guidance, knowledge and confidence in your skills at nude photography as well as help you develop your own artistic style and vision.

The workshop will provide the opportunity to work in both indoor/studio sessions as well as outdoor location photography.

To help participants take their photography to the next level, the workshop will concentrate on:

• Composition of an image to create intrigue and power.

• Creating the image before taking the picture.

• Posing models: building a rapport and getting the most out of a model’s strengths.

• Integration of elements into the scene.

• Creating Mood and drama in an image: Combining technical skills and aesthetics.

• Making a visual statement rather than just taking a picture.

• Working with contrast in textures and tone.

The workshop will provide a relaxed, fun and supportive environment of learning and development. And to ensure the best experience, workshops will be limited to 6 participants. Workshop participants will also receive a free, signed copy of D. Keith Furon: The First Thirty Years.

The workshop will be held at D. Keith Furon’s studio in the world-famous destination of Palm Springs, California, which also offers many amazing desert locations for shooting opportunities. A list of hotels in the immediate area will be provided upon registration.

It is recommended that participants work with a digital camera.

Participant Fee: $1,200

For information on the workshop, or to register, email dkeith@dkeithfuron.com

“Mastering The Nude” Workshops