Photographer Winifred Whitfield: Successful fusion of art and business

Women In Business

Photographer Winifred Whitfield: Successful fusion of art and business

February 1, 2011 @ 11:11am | Rodika Tollefson

Winifred media

Women In Business

Photographer Winifred Whitfield: Successful fusion of art and business

February 1, 2011 @ 11:11am | Rodika Tollefson

Winifred WhitfieldWinifred Whitfield has no trouble reinventing herself. The Poulsbo-based photo artist has followed several paths before finding her current niche — creating fine art photo portraits of women — but they all have one thing in common: complete dedication.

“I want mastery. I want to do it really well. I’m not a dabbler, that’s for sure,” she says.

Whitfield launched her boutique studio gallery, Intimate Portraits for Women (www.bigvalleyphotoart.com), when she discovered she enjoyed creating soulful, sensual portraits of women using the disappearing art of classic portraiture. She was doing wedding photography and when she found the possibilities of digital photography, she saw it as a way of returning to a childhood passion: painting.

“People want to do work fast, put a tag on it and get it out the door. My niche requires time intensity to develop these products,” she says. “It’s not fast at all.”

The product starts with a photo session where Whitfield uses techniques such as lighting and the subject’s own feelings. She says a good photograph needs a context, a person’s emotions, whether that’s sadness or joy.

“I tell women to concentrate on their thoughts and what they project. I need content because it will come through the camera,” she says. “There’s a feeling to the images, a calmness, and that’s the difference. When people are ‘not there,’ there’s no feeling.”

With the photos complete, Whitfield’s work is only beginning. She will take the raw image and digitally turn it into fine art, brushstroke by brushstroke, using two different software programs. “It’s very engaging and it’s a lot of work but it’s not boring or tedious,” she says.

To achieve her level of mastery, Whitfield studies constantly — everything from composition to lighting in other artists’ good work — as well as dissecting her own work to see how she can improve it. She also focuses efforts on the technical aspects, such as experimenting with her digital brush strokes in order to build up her toolkit. “You have to work at it, it’s not intuitive at all,” she says.

Her work has become renowned around the country and abroad. Whitfield, who also does photography in New York on location, has won various awards for her work and has been in demand for classes — as recently as January she went to London for a week to teach workshops. She also was recently invited to do beta product testing and be a spokesperson for X-Rite, a global leader in color science and technology.

Whitfield enjoys sharing her knowledge with other photographers, and she’s even conducted a tutoring session for a renowned photographer friend via Skype: As he worked on a photoshoot in Australia, she guided him in using her techniques.

The business aspects are generally challenging for the artsy types, but Whitfield says she has disciplined herself to do the work that comes with being self-employed. “If you don’t do it, you perish,” she says.

Using that side of the brain, of course, is not new to her. In her former career in New York City, she was in charge of bond ratings at Standard & Poor’s. But one day she decided she was done with Wall Street and with life in the big city, so she set off for the Pacific Northwest to start a new life. She had been to Bremerton before and liked it, so the Kitsap Peninsula became her destination.

As she continued in the financial sector for a while, assisting colleges and other entities to structure their financing, she had acquired lamas and turned her focus to breeding. After she landscaped her six-acre farm and designed beautiful gardens, she found her property in demand for weddings, which, in turn, brought her into photography. (She has since put the farm on the market and moved to a much smaller home in Port Ludlow.)

“It’s not tough to reinvent myself. I’ve been told I have the gift of fearlessness. I know I will land on my feet and do well,” she says. “It’s because of the mastery. It’s an inner thing — not having to overcome fear and the drive to learn new things, be creative and do well.”

She says if she had to change careers again, she could easily do it, but she’s content with the niche she has found, especially in an industry that continues to grow. “The best part is the satisfaction, the tears that come when I deliver the final product. Women like to see themselves expressed beautifully.”

Working for herself has worked out well for Whitfield, who likes to do things her way, and she doesn’t see going back. “I’m very happy on my own,” she says,” as complex as it gets sometime.”

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  • JaziJaci

    wow. Jackie Lowe