CLIFF BIRDS. STUDY 1. LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA 2009
If you follow my work at all, then you will have noticed that recently the work has taken on a different aesthetic. Although, my primary focus over the last several years has been based in bold color and often, the panoramic format, there has been quite a number of things that has led me to seeing and shooting differently as of late…and I must say, it has been a thrill!
Early on my photographic path, and as I embarked on landscape photography specifically, the works that were influencing me were color. Art Wolfe’s book Edge of the Earth Corner of the Sky was a big influence and still one of my personal favorite collections of photography. Many of those images touched me strongly and his use of capturing time resonated with me. Around this same time, I found panoramic photography and began educating myself on this aesthetic. One of the initial ideas of the panoramic that really resonated with me was – it is the most natural photographic formats to view with the human eyes, it is how we see. Sounds good, right? We do see wide. It was with this thought that I wanted to learn to capture the landscape in a wide panoramic format, and so I purchased a Linhof 617 and began to work at it.
The learning curve was steep for me, and I found some months of time and many shooting attempts passing by before I made what I felt was a successful image with the wide 3-to-1 format. You have to see the world different and the composition contains so much area, it becomes quite difficult to make every element make sense. I pressed on. It was probably two years before I began to feel somewhat comfortable and probably a third before I felt anything resembling confidence with the format. In the back of my head, I always wondered what it must feel like to find the perfect format (for me), where the work came more naturally. It was obvious that most other landscape photographers had found their ideal formats and weren’t going through these same struggles, right? I mean, whether it was Kenna and his Hassleblads, Wolfe with his 35mm, Fokos with his large format 8×10, it seemed that most weren’t going through these difficulties. To make matters worse, I was trying to mingle the panoramic format with the 6×7 medium format AND 35mm/DSLR formats, all making for a lot of confusion. Of course hindsight being 20/20, I now clearly see that for a developing photographer, this is madness!
I began working in photography galleries where the work was primarily hyper-color. Fuji Velvia and beyond. I spent several years talking with people about these works and the surreal colors and it clearly had an influence on my work. I shot only Fuji Velvia and chased after sweet light and moments of glorious color. Now, several years later, my thoughts and feelings regarding color, and specifically the hyper-colors in photographs, have somewhat changed. Not due to any one moment of epiphany but rather to a culmination of many things. Primarily, I began to see that, with the digital age in full swing, that people get hung up on the colors that I was accustomed to making. Whether it was done naturally with film did not matter, most people simply couldn’t allow themselves to view a bright colored piece and have the communication with it that I would hope because they couldn’t get past the color!
I think this is what happens – People think, hey, this isn’t how I see the world…I don’t see color like that in my everyday life, so it must be false…it must be Photoshopped and enhanced. With my work, I never really did try and create photographs to look exactly like the way you might with your eyes, I more tried to create images that would evoke a feeling or a line of thought. As an artist trying to communicate to the viewer, and to see the viewer continually not having this communication, seemingly due to this hang-up regarding color, was troubling at first, but led me to explore this topic deeper.
Amazingly, I never saw these same reactions from the viewer with black and white images. It is crazy to me, since we see the world in color, not black and white! Nonetheless, people seem more open and able to simply view the black and whites and I seldom saw these same hang-ups. Even when the black and white was heavily manipulated with a time exposure and dodging and burning vs. the color image that is very natural and straight out of the camera, 95% of the time, viewers would have no issue with the black and white and question the color!
Over time, my aesthetic was naturally becoming more simple. I was working harder to leave more out of the compositions. I was also working harder to leave more gear at home and to simplify my entire process with less gear, and therefore less decisions. With all of this mentioned and many other factors, I have, of late, been finding myself going out with one camera and one aesthetic – the black and white in a square box. I haven’t been shooting with anyone else in mind, but trying to solely focus on what I find intriguing in an image. This aspect of the photograph has remained constant – the capture of time in a still photograph is what I find most intriguing. Whether it’s a simple landscape with the movement of the ocean, people moving around a breakwall, or birds moving throughout the exposure, it’s this study of time that I am most drawn to capture. I can’t say I’m abandoning color, or the panoramic format, but this recent work has felt so liberating and has come so naturally to me. I have felt the way I always suspected of other photographers but never had fully experienced, totally at peace and at ease with the format and the aesthetic. The work has come more easily, more naturally, and whether it communicates to any viewer is completely unknown, but I can say – I don’t much care. Just the making of them has been pleasure enough.
THE WALL – MORPH. LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA 2009