A Picture Is Worth A Thousand

For several years I documented my own artwork, and I did a pretty good job.


Not great.

That’s why, when it was time to take my art biz to the next level, I decided to hire a professional photographer.  One that had experience photographing artwork, sculpture in particular.

The images I had taken in the past had served me well enough; I had secured several solo shows using them in proposal packages.  However, the good-enough quality of the images were not going to help me get a grant, nor would they be able to stand out in a sea of proposals all competing for a few scheduling slots at prestigious galleries.  There’s only so far that my limited documenting skills and equipment can take me.

Being a handy, do-it-yourself kinda gal I have no doubt that given enough time and money, I could – with my obsessive perfectionist demeanor – become an excellent photographer.  But I wanna be making the art, not photographing it.

So, I looked for someone that had the proper experience and equipment.

Before hiring I conducted an online search for local photographers.  Lots of Vancouver area photographers came up, but very few listed fine art documentation in their services.  Of the ones who did offer fine art documentation, only a few displayed examples on their website (which didn’t make me rush to pick up the phone.  If you tell me you can do something, I want you to show me).

In the end I approached Kenji Nagai, who works out of a studio located in the same live/work building I’m in.  I’d hesitated to contact him initially because I wasn’t sure I could afford him.

I immediately liked Kenji’s business style.  Before agreeing to take the job, he came down and looked at my work.  Then he invited me up to his studio to show me examples of other artists’ work he has documented.  This process gave us the chance to “interview” each other – make sure we were suitably compatible, so to speak.

I was duly impressed by his portfolio.  I decided I couldn’t afford to NOT have Kenji document my work; I consider it an investment and I don’t regret it.  This is how I justify it: instead of buying all the fancy, pro equipment he has and doing the work myself, I can use that money to hire him for at least the next decade. 🙂

Because of the flexible, rag-doll nature of my sculptural work, I need to be present to pose and re-pose the work during documentation.  I’ve learned so much by watching him set up lighting and witnessing his clever use of reflectors and shades.  Really impressive how this man can sculpt with light!

Here are some sneak peeks from Tuesday’s documentation session:

Wardrobe 1755, 2012. 48″ x 24″ x 6″.  Photo: Kenji Nagai


Wardrobe 1755. Gun detail. Photo: Kenji Nagai


Wardrobe 1755. The bonus for folks who look at the “back” of the piece. Photo: Kenji Nagai


Wardrobe 1755. Detail of French turnback coat. Photo: Kenji Nagai


Wardrobe 1755. Detail of Mi’kmaq face. Photo: Kenji Nagai


Chestnut Complex, 2012. 16″ x 72″ x 11″. Photo: Kenji Nagai


Chestnut Complex. Gun detail. Photo: Kenji Nagai


Chestnut Complex. Wolf detail. Photo: Kenji Nagai


Chestnut Complex. Bat canoe. Photo: Kenji Nagai


Chestnut Complex. Bat canoe from other end. Photo: Kenji Nagai

I’ve been hiring Kenji to document my work, both sculpture and works on paper, since 2011.  I’d link to him, but he doesn’t have a website – !!!!!  Feel free to email me for his contact info.

Note: the photography in my website galleries is done by me.  I hope to update the galleries soon with the images that Kenji has taken – I’ll let you know when it happens!

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