Where Photography and Painting Meet

Like Gold Through Trees, by Laura Berman

The Link, Spring 2019
| by Josie Newman |

When Laura Berman sets her mind on a new creative endeavour, the results just naturally follow. Throughout her various incarnations, the Castleton-based artist has been an abstract expressionist painter, a landscape architect, a self-taught photographer, and is now a creative photographer, or one who changes the nature of her photographs by digitally painting onto them.

“I hate the term digital manipulation, so I call what I do creative photography instead. I enjoy the photography but I enjoy playing on the computer and doing digital painting almost as much,” confides Berman. That “painting” involves adding underlays, overlays, colours, textures and light through computer programs which enhance the photograph and present it as a portrait rather than a photo.

“I took as many shots as I could whenever I could, and basically taught myself the art of photography.”

Am I Blue? by Laura Berman

Her new career coincided with her move to Castleton from Toronto in 2012. Shortly after the move, her husband became ill and then died the following year. Her long-time contract as a photographer with Canadian Gardening simultaneously ended because the magazine went out of business. Berman had worked for 10 years as a plant photographer for Canadian Gardening and similar magazines.

“I needed more income, so I began digitalizing my painting technique on plants during that first year when I transitioned from straight photography. I began to practise my technique on photographs of animals, too,” she recalls.

Berman sees her creative photography as a culmination of two previous aspects of her art journey – her early work as an abstract expressionist painter following the tradition of expressionists such as Jack Bush, and her much later work as a photographer. She describes her career as a plant photographer by way of a natural evolution from her previous occupation as a landscape architect for Foodshare Toronto, where Berman worked with community groups, assisting them in starting their own community gardens. Her years as a landscape architect came out of a need for employment following her beginnings as an expressionist painter.

“I got my first digital camera when I was 50 and began taking lots of shots of plants. I was getting restless just doing architectural landscaping and wanted something more. I took as many shots as I could whenever I could, and basically taught myself the art of photography,” she recalls.

Since launching into creative photography in 2015, Berman has produced 20 to 35 portraits per year. She has focused mostly on animal portraits since 2017, and all her current exhibits are strictly of animals. When she first began creative photography, though, she primarily focused on plants, landscapes and abstracts.

“I’ve always had an affinity for animals and always lived with them. I think they’re more intelligent than we are because they seem to understand what we’re saying to them more than we understand what they’re trying to get across,” she says.

Although most of her portraits are of farm animals, Berman does some commissioned portraits of dogs, cats, and other domestic pets. In fact, her current two cats Che Bella and Beau, as well as her previous cat Beatrice, are featured on her website gallery of prints for sale.

“I find there are different qualities to each animal, which is what makes them so fascinating to portray,” says Berman. She is constantly looking for people who own animals that are treated as individuals, which brings out the animal’s personality and makes them a good candidate for a portrait. Her friends in the Castleton area have sheep, cattle, horses and other farm animals which she frequently photographs.

“There is no doubt that animals have emotions. I like bringing that out in my photography and to help people see that animals are not just things, but they are beings.”

Josie Newman, a previous full-time journalist who now works freelance, is a lifelong writer and lover of the arts. She lives in Oshawa, in an older house surrounded by antiques, plants and cats.

A solo show of Berman’s work, entitled ‘With Respect’ is on display until April 28 at The Oriental Hotel in Castleton. To view and purchase prints of her work online, visit laurabermanphotography.com

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