My aim as a photographer is to create fine art photographs. A photograph that is fine art manifests something of the truth and beauty of the world in which we live and move and have our being.
A little more than ten years ago, I thought I wanted to document the world we live in. I took pictures of everything. My grandchildren soon grew tired of always seeing me with a camera in front of my face. They did not want to be documented. With their help, I slowly found documentation was not what I wanted to do as a photographer. People need an opportunity to slow down and perhaps to see what might otherwise have been overlooked. I found I wanted my photographs to reveal something about the world that otherwise might remain unseen.
Today, as my interests have matured, I find that I myself have slowed down so that I make fewer images. My subject matter has narrowed in scope so that my images reflect what I see in a landscape, a seascape, a city scene. Though my recent work tends toward landscape, I still am very much interested in the role we humans play on the world stage. My photographs are, then, very much a personal expression, and here I have been influenced, as have so many in the 20th century, by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s recognition of the individual.
For the last 20 years in my day job as a professor of writing and literature, I have given many lectures on the craft of writing and on literature and read many papers at literary and professional conferences. I have published short stories. Even the literary critical papers I considered a kind of creative production as I explored a writer’s world in words. I finally decided to quit my day job, but the literary world I was so much a part of gives me a way of thinking about fine art photography.
A fine art photograph is a poem, a visual poem.
A photographer pursues his work much as does a writer. As a photographer, I choose my subject and the camera and lenses to capture a subject the same way I, as writer, choose a subject and make decisions about point of view and how the subject will be developed. The image is composed like a rough draft.
When my freshmen writers had completed a draft, they thought they were finished, but professional writers know when they have a first draft in hand the work of writing begins. In the same way, what I envision in the photograph, what I want to show my audience, requires that the image be reworked after the image capture. In the writing process we call this rewriting or revision. The photographer rewrites, or re-visions, or re-imagines, the image until what was first envisioned in the original capture is manifest.
Such revising of the image requires the use of the tools now available to the (digital) photographer. I am using my fifth camera, a Canon 5D Mark II, to capture images. Digital imaging technology has developed so rapidly since 2001 when I bought my first digital that the first four cameras I used are no longer made. I still use my Canon EOS 5D, but the others have found their way into my museum of the yesteryears of photography. In addition, in my most recent photo shoot I worked almost exclusively with a telephoto lens. Post-processing work is done with Adobe Photoshop, now CS6, which gives me the ability to adjust exposure, contrast, color balance, tone, and which offers me the use of tools such as filters (poster edges, for example) or the cloning tool (to clean up unwanted elements in the image) if they are needed to get the effect I am looking for. Once the image is ready to print, I print each image on a Canon PIXMA Pro9000 printer, most often on matte paper. I have been experimenting recently with various kinds of matte, and as a result I am eager to do a show with prints on bamboo. I use two print softwares – Canon Easy Print and Adobe Photoshop.
One good photograph could, of course, be an accident, but I hope to do consistently good work so that my body of work would be thought something like the collected poems of Anne Bradstreet, or Emily Dickinson, or Robert Hayden. It is a part of our humanness to create art, and art is the rare combination of truth with beauty through which, like an open window, we become aware of another world.