Danielle Edwards, FBCA, received an Award of Excellence in the Fine Art category for "Twisted Garlic" in the 2017 BioImages Salon in Portland, Oregon. She generously agreed to be one of BCA’s featured BioImages winners and tells us about her background, the career she chose, and tips for working in black and white photography.
“At the end of the day, it’s a box with a lens. Pre‑visualization, composition and how to execute what you have conceived are the key ingredients.”
– Danielle Edwards
© Danielle Edwards, FBCA
What is your primary line of work?
My primary line of work is photography and the manager of Clinical Photography at Austin. The hospital is located in Victoria, Australia. We take photographs of patient conditions. The majority of our clinical photographs are of wounds.
Tell us about your photography background?
I have a background in art and science. From childhood, I had an interest in nature and art. Most of my childhood was spent in museums and art galleries and it never became boring.
I formed an interest in photography as a teenager. Photographers such as Harry Callahan and Carleton Watkins inspired me. After finishing high school, I completed a BA in Fine Art photography. I worked for a period of time in a Media Services department and then in the wedding portrait industry. I liked working with people but wanted to do some more fulfilling type of work. I didn’t know anything about medical photography but saw a job advertised in the paper and did some investigation.
In due course, I was fortunate enough to be accepted to work as a Clinical Photographer at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital. At the same time, I was accepted into part-time study for a Bachelor of Applied Science in Photography at The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. At the completion of this degree and, while still working at the hospital, I pursued an Honors degree.
I have continued working in the Clinical Photography Department and am now the manager. Although I use the skills from both my art and science degrees in my work, it is the people skills that I often find the most important. It goes without saying that you need technical skills but Clinical photography is more than just a technical service. It’s also about putting patients at ease when they are going through a stressful experience. It is all of these skills and knowledge combined that make up a clinical photographer.
In my job, I am fortunate to be able to utilize my art background in art projects and promotional newsletters for the hospital. For my own relaxation outside of work, I continue to take creative photos. This gives me the opportunity to combine art, science and nature in ways that inspires me. This in turn inspires my work practice.
What is the influence of digital technology on your photography?
I use digital photography in my daily work life. Digital Photography certainly takes away the waiting time that I experienced with analog photography. It’s almost like having a Polaroid camera at your disposal. Saying that, I think it can also create lazy photographers. Digital technology has also created an instant expectation that a job is finished as soon as you have pressed the button. This has certainly increased the pressure to get jobs finalized with an extremely fast turnaround.
Although I use digital technologies, I consider it just another tool. It allows me to easily create black and white images from color. I still believe in ‘slow photography’ (analog). It is more of a meditative approach, as you are required to take time. We don’t often do that anymore.
The most important thing to me is to think about what you are going to capture in an image, no matter what the format. At the end of the day it’s a box with a lens that contains either film or pixels. Pre-visualization, composition and how to execute what you have conceived are the key ingredients.
What did you visualize when you chose garlic as your subject?
The beauty of the twisted shapes that are formed in the natural way the garlic grows initially captivated my interest. I visualized the petite flowers emerging from the smooth stalks and wanted to show their beauty in shape form and function.
How did you light the picture?
For this photograph I chose a black velvet background. I chose this because I wanted to highlight the contrast between the subject and the background. This photograph is actually taken in color and post-processed in Photoshop as a monochrome image. I often do this as I enjoy black-and-white photography and that is how I pre-visualized the image.
There is no background lighting, as I really wanted the subject to stand out from the background. There is sky light, lighting from above with some small flashes bounced off numerous amounts of white fill card to highlight the smooth stalks. I tried to accentuate the three-dimensional feel of the curved stem by giving it a continuous highlight around the curve.
Why did you choose to submit this particular image?
I chose to submit this image as I think it captures both science and art in the same image. As a technical photographer, I think we should aim for both.
This image was taken with the aesthetic in mind but also for the scientific. I believe that scientific subjects can be photographed for their beauty while still showing all the details required that creates a relevant scientific image.
This image shows the detail of the stalk, flowers, stem and the cap that covers the flowers before it emerges from the bud. It is scientifically correct as a documented botanical specimen as all features are visible, while at the same time the intrinsic beauty of the flower is also captured.
What photographers inspire or influence you?
Ansel Adams, Edward Steichen, Dorothea Lange, Margaret Bourke White, Olive Cotton, Edward Weston, Peter Dombrovskis, André Kertész to mention just a few.