The joy of modern media is the opportunity it gives to everyone to spread their message, whatever that message may be. There is nothing to stop any of you picking up a camera and making your own media. In these unsettled times, when governments are discussing how to monitor and manage the negative messages a minority of the world’s population disseminate, it is joy to find someone spreading a positive message, not only through the medium of video, but also stills photography.
Whatever you choice of media being ‘authentic’ as a storyteller is an important factor. This you can only achieve by developing your own unique style. Developing authenticity, honesty in your work can sound a bit esoteric and if you’re wondering what that means then you need some wise words from someone who’s succeeded in doing just that.
Step forward Marlene Neumann from South Africa. Marlene is not only a Master Fine Art Photographer but also an inspirational woman and public speaker. Her workshops focus on developing your own sense of vision and honing your visual skills.
Marlene joined forces with a former boss of mine – the woman who taught me so much about how to make TV when she was my producer at the SABC in Johannesburg so many years ago. The result is a series of videos that are a joy to watch, not only because of the fabulous photographs it includes but also for the calming and serene presence of Marlene herself. I confess I was surprised at how calm I felt after watching them!
Marlene and Moira discuss their collaboration, and the resulting videos:
What is the purpose of your video collection? What inspired you to start this project?
Marlene: I have spent the past 30 years of my life taking photographs and in many ways I used my images to express the essence of what I was photographing. I reached a point where I wanted, through a video series, to enable people to experience what I had learned over the years. Everything is energy and that certainly is a subject that should be taught at school level. We need to understand how life really works. It’s not always in the mind. There is a whole other world happening that flows from the heart.
Moira: Our director of photography and editor for the series, Butch Coetzee, had sat in on one of Marlene’s photographic workshops and was so taken by the way she taught photography as a means of capturing energy or essence that he proposed a video series. Marlene then got me involved. I threw out the script because I also believe in essence or energy. I know from long years of making videos and films that the only way to capture essence in a moving format is to capture what presents itself rather than trying to shape things to be the way you think they should be. So, Marlene and I came at the series from the same perspective, just in different technical formats. To his eternal credit and ultimate enjoyment, Butch sighed and went along with us.
What is the message of the videos?
Moira: The message is very simple: To be a good photographer – to be a good anything, actually – you need to be connected to your inner self. To do that, you have to bypass the mind, forget what society says matters, and discover the real essence of existence. The videos discuss what that essence is and how to find it.
One of you works predominantly with stills photography and the other with video. Do you both feel one medium has an advantage over the other when trying to convey an important message?
Marlene: I believe they go hand in hand. Of course being a still photographer, I would go as far as saying it is more difficult to capture a story in one frame. That frame must say everything and must do so without copy. That’s what I would call an ‘intuitive image’. An image that moves you to your core.
Moira: Marlene’s right. It is much more difficult to capture an entire story in one frame. By the same token, it takes skill and clarity to keep video pared down to an essence; to show things in their simplest form but, at the same time, take full advantage of the extras such as movement, voice, and music to express the essence without cluttering or over-egging it. In exactly the same way as with stills, you have to let the subject come to you and speak in its own, original language. Don’t impose your ideas on it.
Marlene, you do a lot of inspirational public speaking. What is the most common question your audience asks and what is your answer?
Marlene: The question I am almost always asked is what inspires me to take the photographs I do. My reply is always the same: My deep connection to nature and to my own emotions. The humbling experience of knowing that we are just a breath away from the ‘other side’, knowing that we are not here forever, keeps me grounded and constantly aware that my life is truly a miracle. Nature communicates with us all the time. It’s we who are so shut off that we cannot hear what she has to say.
Given that media is most often about telling a story of some sort, do either or both of you have any advice for those trying to produce their own media online?
Marlene: Being authentic is the key. People can sense when you are not being true to who you are. Just keep it real! After all we are humans and we all experience the same emotions.
Moira: What Marlene said.
Where can those interested in these videos find them?
Moira: The episodes can be bought individually or as a set. Anyone wanting a DVD box set can order directly from Marlene via her website:
http://www.marleneneumann.com/about-marlene/video-series/. The series can also be streamed or downloaded from Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/ondemand/marleneneumann