Interview With Mary Bedy

When did you first become interested in art, in general?

I remember collecting postcards of various artist’s work when I was about 10. I was fascinated with some of the abstract art by Kandinsky and Miro and a few other artists. I was always drawing horses when I was in grade school. To this day, I still like to draw, but works on paper or canvas became few and far between when I started raising a family and later was working many hours at my day job as the manager of a translation company. I still collected art books, though, and have read extensively on all aspects of traditional art and photography.

When did you first become interested in photography, specifically?

As my kids grew and eventually moved out on their own, I wanted to get a decent camera and make photography my main art form since I have always loved good photography. A friend who was knowledgeable about equipment pointed me to a completely manual Minolta (film) camera because he said that would force me to learn how to set the camera on my own. I fell in love. In love with the search for something beautiful or interesting to photograph. In love with the feeling I get when “seeing” what I want to capture, and thinking about the composition, the lighting, the viewpoint, the atmosphere – basically everything about trying to capture on film (and now on a sensor), the wonderful complex or simple, natural or man-made object or natural scene that has captured my attention. I consider photography “home” for me. It is my medium of choice now.


In what other forms of art do you also work?

I do still draw and recently (that is in the last couple of years) tried my hand at creating interesting collages using traditional media such as cut paper, ribbon, fabric, or generally anything that will adhere to a flat surface. I find I quite like it and have completed maybe ten or twelve collages which can be found in my collages and mixed media portfolio at my website.

On which style(s) of photography do you specialize?

I really don’t think I have a “style” per se. I mean, you see a photograph by Diane Arbus and you know immediately it is one of hers. I consider myself a “straight” photographer. That is, pretty much what you see is what you get. I do love both color and black and white so I will usually make a black and white version of everything to see if it works well as a black and white image (love the digital options now!).

Has your style changed from when you first began?

I wouldn’t say my style has changed, exactly. I have greatly improved my photographic skills over the last 25 years, which I believe makes my work better, but as far as a style – since I don’t generally heavily edit, I really don’t think the style has changed.

What kind of equipment do you use?

I’m currently working with a Canon 6D with a 24-105 kit lens, a 100 mm dedicated macro lens, and a 70-300 zoom. All Canon L glass equipment. I do also have a Canon Rebel T2i, which was my first DSLR after working with inexpensive point and shoot cameras (all Canon) for a while after abandoning film. The difference in the quality that I get now is, obviously, significant. I’ve found the Canon digital equipment to be outstanding. I use Photoshop Elements to edit.


What made you choose that equipment?

I have read that in today’s digital world, most major manufacturers make pretty much equally excellent equipment, but I believe Canon has a good reputation for their light metering excellence, and their good quality lenses. I did find that the auto setting on both my Canons tends to overexpose, but with my experience in setting for the lighting (dark forest – full sunlight), I can generally get the perfect exposure after a little “fiddling” with manual settings. As for the lenses, I love closeup photography and have been able to get some outstanding images with the dedicated Macro lens, and the zoom is perfect for that thing that is just a little too far away to shoot well with anything else. In fact, I think the zoom is my favorite lens.

How do you choose what you’re going to photograph?

I find that to be the hardest thing to figure out unless I’m visiting a location like a national park. Sometimes I will go out with the intention of shooting old barns or old buildings in the rural areas around where I live, and I will find there’s no place to pull off the road, or the sun is on the wrong side of the building, etc., so I end up finding interesting foliage in a roadside ditch. I also love architecture, and I will occasionally pick an old town and try to shoot the interesting architectural details on the old buildings. Historic buildings, elaborate moldings, even rooftops fascinate me. I’ve been known to shoot photographs of the ceilings in airports when I’m stuck waiting for a flight, and I see some cool lines and angles when I look up.

What kind of editing do you perform on your photographs, if any?

I consider myself a “straight” photographer. That is I do very little editing generally on my photographs. I may delete a distracting element, or selectively lighten or darken a portion of the image where I feel it would be an improvement. I rarely do significant editing on a photo, although I do always tweak the contrast, lighting, and maybe straighten or skew an architectural image so it looks more natural and I will bump up the color slightly. I will stop before the image looks “garish” however. “Overcooked” photographs just don’t appeal to me. That is not to say I don’t like some of the wonderful work I’ve seen done by other photographers who start with a photograph and end up with something really interesting after a lot a selective editing or adding treatments to an image that make them look more like other media (a drawing or a painting for example). Some of the work I’ve seen that falls into the very heavily edited category is outstanding. For me, however, the straight photograph has been my most enjoyable pursuit.


How much time (on average) does it take to complete a work?

I have taken some photographs that I consider “perfect” right out of the camera, but those are few and far between. I will spend between five minutes and an hour on a photograph depending on what issues it may have. That distracting element in the corner, for example. Sometimes software (Photoshop in my case) can figure out how to delete the element automatically, and sometimes it’s stupid and I have to do it manually. That can take some time. If I think the image is worth it, I will stick with it.

How do you know when a piece is finished? Is it easy to walk away?

Yes, it’s easy for me. It’s not like traditional painting or drawing. The “stuff” is already there on the “canvas” so to speak. So if there is a bunch of blurry foliage in the way of an otherwise beautiful image and it’s not something I can remove, I just move on to the next image.

What do you do to overcome a ‘block’?

I walk around with the camera in whatever location I’ve chosen and just start shooting stuff at random. Usually, after about twenty minutes to half an hour, I can get into it because I have found something interesting I can concentrate on. I like what I read somewhere once about connecting with your subject before you start. Like “commune” with it for a while first. If I’m feeling blocked. I will just sit in front of something for a while until it speaks to me and says “Hey, look at that cool shadow over there. You should shoot that”.

How well do you take criticism and how do you make use of it?

I very much welcome it. I have leaned to ignore criticism of subject matter only – one person’s interesting image is another person’s boring image – but any technical advice someone gives me or compositional advice, or exposure advice on something I’ve already shot, I welcome and store away in my brain for future use.

Who is your favourite photographer?

That’s a tough one. I have several. Berenice Abbott, Dorothea Lang, oh yeah, and Ansel Adams! I don’t understand people (and there are several) who think his masterful photography is boring and mundane. He was a true master of his craft.


Which one of your photographs is your favourite?

That’s not really possible to answer. That changes day to day and mood to mood. I think I like some of my “minimal” work over some of the others, but then there’s the other category – complex patterns in nature, or the corner of a building. I really can’t pick one.

Have you exhibited any of your work in galleries?

No, I’m strictly on-line. I still have a day job so that obviously takes up most of my week. I got into shooting to make artful images in my later years, so there has been no pavement pounding to find a place to exhibit.

Will your work be included at any upcoming contests or galleries?

No, however I have had the honor of having an image chosen for the cover of the November/ December 2015 of Michigan History Magazine.  It was an image of Fort Michilimackinac that can be found in my gallery of the same name at my web site.

What are your plans for the future?

Keep on shooting!!! It’s my peaceful interaction with the right side of my brain after processing work related stuff for hours. I also keep on learning about my equipment and how to improve.

What advice do you have for budding photographers?

Shoot everything. You can do that now with digital and it doesn’t cost any money. Read about composition. Read about lighting. Notice everything in your viewfinder. Learn about basic stuff. If you learn the basic compositional rules, you will learn when to break them effectively. If you learn your equipment and how to change settings for various conditions, you can get that elusive image in a dark forest. But composition and lighting is key. Study traditional art composition books. Try to get the best image you can right in the camera. Don’t completely rely on your software to fix an awful image later.


Have you done any courses to help you?

I have taken painting courses, and I have studied extensively on my own and with the help of other photographers. Since I really got serious about this about 25 years ago, film was on the way out as the most common photographic tool, so I never had any dark room training and never printed my own film photos. Sometimes I wish I had had time to do that, as the processing in the mini labs was usually dreadful.

What do you do to market your work?

I tweet, and I’ve recently joined Instagram. I have a Facebook photography page.

Being of an older generation I don’t use it as much as my children do or as often as I should or would like. I’m still learning!

Are you available for work (commissions)?

No, I don’t do commissions. Although I would consider it if asked.

Have you got hobbies?

I would consider my drawing and collage work as a hobby since it’s not my principal art form. I’m also an avid afghan knitter. I have several in my house I need to sew together. I give them as gifts sometimes.

Where are you based?

I live in the small town of Saint Clair, Michigan. I’ve lived in Michigan all my life and most of the work I have sold has been an image taken in Michigan. Being surrounded by the Great Lakes we have more shoreline than practically anywhere else in the world to work with.

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2 Thoughts to “Interview With Mary Bedy”

  1. Mary, I really enjoyed reading about your photography. I love the cactus flower and bud photo.

  2. Great selection of photos and interesting interview. I enjoyed reading it.

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