Denise McDermott

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Local photographer Denise McDermott produces images the likes of which you may never have seen before … Altered reality or fantasy is an area of interest for Denise, but she has several other projects on the go, including some fantastic steam punk related shoots! Talent, creativity and imagination are the keystones of Denise’s amazingly beautiful photographic art …

Hi Denise. What brought you to the Greater Port Macquarie area to live?

I came to live in Port Macquarie, because I thought it was the best coastal area in New South Wales to escape to from Sydney. I regularly holidayed here and decided it was the place for a sea change. Port Macquarie has the natural beauty and atmosphere I was looking for. I wanted a beach oriented lifestyle, without having to drive hours to get it (sorry Sydney). 

Originally from Canada, I love living in Australia and Port Macquarie and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

How did your interest in photography begin?

One of my dad’s hobbies was photography, and he got me started as a teenager. I inherited his cast-off cameras as he upgraded, and I learned wet darkroom techniques from him. I didn’t enjoy the darkroom side of things; I just wanted to create. When digital photography came along, I was thrilled. 

When I came to Australia, I joined my local camera club in Sydney and learned a lot from other photographers. I learned technique and also about the great photographers. 

When I moved to Port Macquarie, I joined the (now called) Port Macquarie Panthers Camera Club. I was a committee member for many years and still enjoy the company of some of the club’s members, although I no longer belong to the club. 

As a photographic artist, how would your work generally differ from that of other photographers you know?

I shoot everything, from the night sky to underwater, to studio, to landscape, to macro. I enjoy them all. 

I think I probably do more studio work than my photographic friends. I choose to exhibit images which are made up of several other images to create a fantasy landscape or story (known as altered reality). It is a challenge to find the elements needed for a creation and then put them together. 

When a studio shoot is planned, my partner Mike (also a photographer) and I talk about the theme, and we put together costumes and props. Our goal in the studio is to coax expressions and emotions from our model, which will form the basis of a visual story.

What motivates you to pick up a camera and start shooting?

I am a self-motivated person, so I usually have an idea of a shooting location or idea to illustrate. I look at a lot of artwork online and get inspiration to create my own images. I have a camera with me most of the time. Often I’ll go out to shoot something in particular and come home with images I hadn’t imagined I would see and capture. That’s the joy of photography.

The art of photography must be a continual learning process. How much do you enjoy learning new skills … and what have you found to be some of the best learning experiences?

I am continually learning new skills and hope to keep learning for the rest of my life. I think the best learning experiences are those that seem like small things at the time that make a great impact. For example, one of my friends gave me a half hour lesson/demonstration of one aspect of Photoshop, and it changed my ability to translate an idea into an image. 

I have done several online courses that have helped me move forward. The most influential of those is “Photoshop Artistry” by Sebastian Michaels. I learned some essential skills and moved on to another of his courses, called “Awake”. They not only provide skill development, but also motivation.

What have been some of your favourite photographic works you’ve produced in recent times (and why do you like them)?

Some of my favourite photographic works are the altered reality (fantasy) works created this year. I like them because they illustrate a world I dreamed about when I was a child, reading stories about fantasy worlds and characters, a little bit fantasy and a little bit sci-fi.

What exhibitions/projects have you been involved with – and how have these helped you develop as an artist?

This year to date I have entered my work in six international salons of photography and been awarded one gold medal, one bronze medal and two ribbons, plus a handful of acceptances (images that were chosen for exhibition, but not awarded prizes). 

In June, Mike and I and two friends exhibited our work at Macleay Valley Community Art Gallery at Gladstone. I wanted to exhibit so that I can become known in the local area for the type of artwork I create. We judged it a successful exhibition, because we had a lot of visitors interested in seeing something different in the field of photographic art.

When Mike and I collaborate on exhibiting, we call ourselves “Artography” and have shown and sold our work locally at Crave @ Bonnys café at Bonny Hills and at the Artists Market in Port Macquarie.

What are some creative ideas you have in the pipeline you’d like to explore further?

I usually have several projects on the go every year. This year I have completed a 20 image project of flowers photographed on a mirror. This was straight photography with no special effects. I made a photobook of this project, and it can be viewed on my website in a gallery called “Reflected Beauty”. 

Right now I am working on a project of close up images of feathers. It will most likely be semi-abstract in nature, and I’ll produce a book when it is complete. I expect that to be around the end of the year. 

I am also working on a Steampunk themed work. Mike and I have had half a dozen studio shoots with models dressed in steampunk costume, and I intend to do a major project using those images in a different way than has already been shown. In October, we attended the Victoriana and Steampunk Fair in Goulburn to shoot people in costume and shoot some background locations.

What are some of the tools/equipment you use to create your work, that you simply couldn’t do without?

I used Nikon equipment for many years, but now I use an Olympus micro four thirds mirrorless system as my main camera equipment. I have a few lenses that cover all the distances and types of things I shoot. Like most photographers, my camera bag is heavy to carry around, and I have to pare it down for travel. 

For post processing I use Photoshop, because it allows me to create the images that are in my mind. I use Topaz filters to generally tie everything together at the end of the creation process. A computer or laptop is absolutely necessary for me to do the type of artwork I want to produce.

Where can we see more of your work, or find out more about what you do?

I have a website: where I show a lot of my work, and I update it regularly.  

I will also be exhibiting in June 2019 at the Macleay Valley Community Art Gallery at Gladstone, along with a couple of friends. I will be showing mostly altered reality (fantasy) images at that time.

Thanks Denise.

Interview: Jo Robinson.

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