It's pretty common to go to a place like the Bahamas and come home with some pretty stunning photos. In fact, most people leave the islands with hundreds of pictures on their cell phones, iPads, point-and-shoots, SLR's and disposable cameras. Ataira Franklin also returned stateside with some photos, about a dozen of them.
While most of the players used some of the down time to catch up on school work and start studying for finals, Franklin, a studio arts major who has a concentration in photography, also used the setting to work on one of her current projects.
"At this point in my college career, I am in advanced photography," Franklin explained. "We have had a lot of different projects over the semester, one that was dealing with space. Another that was dealing with construction. Another that was dealing with marks in the earth, naturally-made marks and the aftermath of certain situations. Our fourth project, the one I am working on now, is what my professor calls a free-for-all. Whatever you see, you can take a picture of. This is a great place to have a free-for-all kind of project and just take pictures of nature and the landscape. We found some coconut shells that were awesome. Just some stuff we normally see in Virginia."
As Franklin was scouting the grounds of the Grand Lucayan Resort, looking for interesting subject matter, many people stopped and chatted with her about her hobby. The guard, who was a standout on the court in the first game of the Junkanoo Jam Tournament, scoring 25 points against No. 3 Tennessee, stood out among all the other people taking photos not just because of her focus, commitment and patience (each shot might take 15 minutes to align, focus and get the proper light readings), but because of her equipment.
"We are shooting with a View Camera," Franklin said, explaining the distinctive-looking tool of the trade. "We shoot on two-sided plates with 4x5 film. It is really cool. When you look into the camera, that is actually the photo you are going to get. You see exactly what you have in front of you, the size of it is how it is going to show up."
The finished shots, which will be in black and white once Franklin develops them in the dark room in Charlottesville, focus not on vast blue oceans and sunny beaches or of her friends and teammates hanging out in the 78-degree weather, but the fine details of the islands. As someone who is a self-professed portrait artist, this has been a change for Franklin, but one that she has embraced.
"Excluding people or human figures at all from your photographs makes you see what cool things are in nature," Franklin gushed. "It's not a picture of a tree. It is a picture of the bark of the tree. It's not actually the rock, but the texture of the rock or the moss growing on it. With the projects we have had so far, I've learned to not really focus on the subject matter, but the things around it or what caused this to be a subject, and I have really enjoyed that."
The view camera, in addition to being able to throw a cape over the camera while looking through the lens to see precisely what your shot will look like, has other advantages as well when taking photographs to create fine art.
"The view camera has a lot of great features, my favorite is the ability to put everything in the shot in focus," Franklin said. "I think I am really good at tightening up on space. Shooting with film as opposed to digital adds so much more to the picture. Digital is more convenient in this day and age, but shooting with film, whether it be 4x5 or 35mm or even medium format, there is a quality that you get with film that you don't get with digital."
Of course, Franklin, like most photographers of her age, began shooting in digital.
"I was in middle school when I got my first camera for Christmas, a little purple camera" Franklin recalled. "It made me so happy. I was taking pictures of literally everything. I took a lot of pictures of my friends, because, being in middle school, that was the thing to do. Toys, grass, trees. Anywhere I had the camera, I was shooting something."
Now, she is more patient and selective with her subject matter, at least while working on her portfolio. She is looking to transition back to the world of digital after graduating.
"My major it is a fine arts program, so that is my focus right now, but having those principles and foundations makes it easier to adapt to digital photography," Franklin explained. "Given the assignments that we have had, it has made it easier for me to learn how to find narratives and carry that into digital photography and videography."
Before that, however, she will turn that same focus on the small details back to the court to try to carry the Cavaliers to the NCAA Tournament.