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The Story Behind That Picture - 20 - "Photographing A Thought"
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Copyright 2010 Thorsten Overgaard

The Story Behind That Picture: "Photographing A Thought"

By: Thorsten Overgaard [In Danish]

How does one photograph a thought? Or that a person gets a realization? Because that was the task at hand some weeks ago when I photographed at The Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre in Los Angeles. That is where the celebrities practice Scientology, but as we all see plenty of celebrities in the magazines, let me instead show some images from the place itself.

  Copyright 2010 Thorsten Overgaard
  Atmosphere from the studies

The place is a religious retreat, which for some rings familiar, but in other cultures (such as my fellow Danes) holds no meaning. We simply don't have that in our culture, except for a monastery or our Folk High Schools. A religious retreat is where a person for a period can withdraw to a quiet or secluded place to study and develop spiritually.

The image above is a good illustration, if I'm allowed to say so myself. I asked my six year old daughter what the image illustrated, and she said "it's a thought." Frankly, I was proud both that she could tell and that I could make a photo of it.

The woman in the image is receiving spiritual counseling: A trained auditor ("one who listens") asks questions to a person and listens so as to guide that person to look at and get realizations about life and the things preventing them from being themselves. The purpose is to free people from past pains.

Part of the religious retreat is also that one lives and studies in a historical building in Los Angeles, the Chateau Elysée, which was is built in 1920 as a French chateau with beautiful restored gardens and fountains.

  Copyright 2010 Thorsten Overgaard
  Atmosphere from the hotel
Copyright 2010 Thorsten Overgaard

A challenge one normally dosn't consider when you work across the Atlantic Ocean, is that the Americans have a different idea of how much people should smile in an image, than for example the Europeans. To us Europeans the successful smiling executive in a business magazine is perceived as fake and over the top. In fact it's only within the medical advertising that the American smile has been generally accepted in Europe. In the rest of our visual perception, the Swedes look worried (and have to), the Norwegians a bit more free, and only the German grandparents smile more than the Americans.

As a Danish photographer there is almost a mission in this: It has to look natural and honest without making the Americans into "concerned Swedes."

Another thing is the colors. American reproduction of colors is usually warm, while the Europeans prefer cooler colors, and the Scandinavians really cool colors. So the colors have to be natural, yet to the warm side.



You can see more images from the gardens and the building here (though not updated yet with my images)






Copyright 2010 Thorsten Overgaard


The Thorsten Overgaard Photography Extension Course 2010


- Thorsten Overgaard
May 2010 and July 2013




A thought. Photographed with Leica R9/DMR and Leica 19mm Elmarit-R f/2.8 (the light glare is natural flare in the lens from the sun).
Copyright 2010-2014 by Thorsten Overgaard.


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Thorsten Overgaard
Thorsten von Overgaard is a Danish born multiple award-winning AP photographer, known for his writings about photography and Leica cameras. He travels to more than 25 countries a year, photographing and teaching workshops which cater to Leica enthusiasts. Some photos are available as signed editions via galleries or online. For specific photography needs, contact Thorsten Overgaard via e-mail.

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