Ruthie Schneider Vast Library of Photomanipulation

by Paul Weiner

Ruthie Schneider creates photomanipulation artwork by sampling from a vast library of her own photography in order to create aestheticall pleasing compositions. Her abstract compositions are also available for viewing online here.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us a bit about how you got involved in this type of photography and manipulation.

Ruthie Schneider:
Up until about two years ago, I had been doing primarily street photography in my travels and still life photography of things that caught my eye in my environment. I was somewhat bored with my work. I had been to a painting workshop out in Oregon and was experimenting with abstracts. My closets are littered with unfinished paintings!

When I saw what one could do with post processing methods, a light went on in my head about merging an existing photograph with another, or several. This is a challenge, as I have to visualize the shapes and composition of the images, and make a decision as to where the strongest elements are. I go through a process of changing the rotation, RGB curves, contrast, and such until I find two or three images that work.

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Paul Weiner:
Was your photography similar stylistically before you began using digital tools?

Ruthie Schneider:
Not at all. I was raised on the Zone System of photography back in the 70s and followed in the footsteps of the “f/64 club.” After I sold my darkroom equipment and focused on raising babies, I transitioned into doing travel – street and still life photography.

Digital manipulation has totally opened up a new world for me, one which allows me to utilize both my painting skills and photography to reach a happy medium. I actually feel as if I am producing a canvas. It is always a pleasant surprise to see two, three or sometimes four images merge to produce a totally different result.

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Paul Weiner:
Is your photography influenced at all by abstract expressionism in painting?

Ruthie Schneider:
Absolutely! That and my keen awareness of shadows, textures and light.

Paul Weiner:
How do you balance raw camera images and Photoshop as tools for abstract photography?

Ruthie Schneider:
Well, I actually don’t use Photoshop for my work. I use a free online app called PicMonkey, which I use for enhancement and occasional manipulation. I have a huge library of photographs from my travels and day to day stuff. I have photographed many unfinished, abstract paintings that my daughter and I have done that are languishing in our house! I also utilize images of various ‘textures’ as you will; rust, peeling paint, shadows, etc.

When I set out to make a new image, I pick something from my library that perhaps doesn’t make it on its own, but that can come to life when merged with a texture or painting.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you find a subject for your work?

Ruthie Schneider:
As I mentioned, I draw upon my vast library of images that go way back. I revisit photos that need help!

In my travels and walkabouts, I like to shoot from the hip so that, often, I leave out what is happening at eye level. I enjoy this method as it gives a skewed look. Since I have started merging, for lack of a better term, I also shoot textures.

I had a grand time behind Walmart, photographing all of the pallets with plastic shrink wrap that had water droplets beading everywhere. There were also flattened boxes with layers and layers of color and texture. Old cemeteries have endless opportunities, and we are fortunate to live in New England, land of historic graveyards. Other places that have wonderful subject matter are airports. Cleveland comes to mind, but just about every airport gives me great inspiration, especially when spending hours hanging around while flights are delayed. Farmers markets, food, and dogs in the street strike my fancy as well.

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Paul Weiner:

Is your chief concern aesthetics or are these photos all connected conceptually?

Ruthie Schneider:
I have groups of images that share the same element of texture. For instance, I will use a photo of a shadow and merge it with several scenic, still life, or street photos. So, you will see that connecting theme, but that would be the only connected concept.

Paul Weiner:
What types of cameras and equipment do you use?

Ruthie Schneider:
I keep it simple. I am not one of those with two cameras and long lenses hanging around my neck—the smaller and lighter, the better. I began with a Nikon D40 when I first started using digital, and it was strictly for travel. Right now, I am totally enjoying a Fujifilm X100, which reminds me of a Leica, extremely quiet. It has a fixed lens, which forces me to compose more carefully.


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