Colleen D. Gjefle
I’m an artist at heart and always will be. I was given my first camera about the same time I got my first set of paints. The paints were starter-size oils and the camera was an old Kodak Instamatic 110-film camera and it seemed almost magical. Photography has been a part of my life ever since, to some degree or another. But my path to becoming a professional photographer was not a straight one. In fact, for most of my life I focused on painting as my main creative endeavor.
Fine Art & Personal Projects
After leaving Philadelphia and moving to a smaller community in Delaware, I made the decision to focus on fine art photography. Being surrounded with both water and farmland presents me with plenty of opportunities to capture some exquisite subjects. I find a tremendous amount of beauty in the weathered, aged and ruined, so when I come across a broken down building or old cemetery, I can’t resist. I also have a ton of fun photographing splashing liquids, rusty old cars or anything else that seems to consistently capture my attention and imagination. I’m finding the pursuit of fine art photography more rewarding and pleasurable than the commercial photography I used to do. There is absolutely no pressure – I get to do what I want, how I want and when I want – can’t beat that!
Portrait & Commercial Photography
Though I’ve given up “people photography”, I enjoyed it immensely. I primarily did work which included non-standard fashion and publicity shots for actors, models and musicians. I’m strongest when creating artistic portrait photographs, whether for commercial and personal use.
I specialized in jewelry photography for many years, though I “retired” from this niche. I’m keeping some jewelry images on my website for historical purposes. Other products include a range of things such as architecture, glassware, hand-made art items, etc.
I’m a huge animal lover and am comfortable around several different species of critters, with an appreciation for each pet’s unique nature. I’ve been a volunteer photographer at different animal shelters, where I try to show that each animal is wonderful and special, in the hopes of helping each find their forever home.
My life to date in a nutshell
I was born and raised on a small family farm in western Wisconsin. I went to college in Minnesota, but after a couple of years I ran out of both money and focus. Before leaving school, I got a student work permit which let me spend half a year in England, where I happily worked and experienced life in another part of the world. When I returned home I couldn’t find work, so I enlisted in the Air Force to finish my education and get that elusive “experience required” qualification.
The Air Force gave me an excellent education that became the basis for my entire working life ever since. I was officially a “Computer Programming and Communication Technology Specialist”, but when it was discovered that I was an artist, I was moved into a job where I got additional training in computer graphics. Most of my military service was spent in Texas. After my discharge, I was back in England for a few years, returned to the USA and eventually ended up in the Philadelphia area. I took advantage of my GI benefits to help buy a house in Philly.
After trying a few different jobs, I landed a job where I was taking photos of items that were going on an internet auction website (one of the early eBay competitors that didn’t make it). Those photos were taken using a video camera and image capture software as digital cameras were only just coming to the consumer market and were crazy expensive. In 1998 I bought my first digital camera – a swivel-body Nikon Coolpix 900 with only 1.3 megapixels that cost me $1000. (My stomach was full of butterflies as I handed over my credit card!) However I didn’t just leap into being a full time photographer at that point – I did some photography (mainly for a customer selling on ebay), some computer troubleshooting, some website design, some of this, some of that…
Eventually I realized that my heart belongs to photography. I began with that 1.3mp Coolpix 900 but now I’m using a 21.1 megapixel Canon EOS 5D Mark II that even does HD video. I feel like I’ve moved from kindergarten to graduate school in slightly more than a decade.
As with all art forms, I’ve developed my own “style” through trial and error. I examined the type of photos I found most visually appealing and put my own spin on them. I love vintage photos, especially high-contrast black and whites, which is the style I’ve adapted for my beauty / boudoir photos. The only modern photographer whose style has influenced me is Ellen von Unwerth – mainly her photos that have that same vintage b&w look. I also really love HDR (high dynamic range) photography, which not only has great color, but tends to have a natural touch of grunge.
In late 2009, I sold my first house and bought my second home. In spring 2015, I moved from Philly to Delaware for more sane lifestyle, to be closer to nature and for the low Delaware taxes.
Alongside photography, I still love art and painting. My paintings are abstract and surreal – my artwork website is MsSurreal.com.
Here’s my tribute to my parents, who passed away in 1996 & 2015 and whom I still miss very much.
Here you can meet my dogs, both living and dead – my life is incomplete without dogs around!