Q&A Week Three

What kind of gear do you use?     All of my fine art work is photographed on 4x5 inch black and white film. I never shoot digital, because I feel that digital makes most photographers less focused. Film shooting is broken down into individual exposures. If you’re shooting a roll of 35mm, you have 36 exposures. It is quantifiable. With digital, you can have a card in your camera that may hold a thousand images. There’s less pressure to concentrate on what exactly you’re trying to accomplish.

When I’m in the field, I generally have about a dozen sheets of film with me, as film holders are bulky and heavy. In a year, I will make about a hundred exposures. Many photographers working digitally will make a dozen quick snapshots of their surroundings, just to look at the screen on their camera to see if the camera picked up anything they should actually photograph. When you have limited chances, you’re more likely to become more in-tune with your subject.

Q&A Week Two

Part two of an ongoing series of excerpts from interviews with magazines and art students. This week, we get a bit deeper into it...mainly about how critical I am about my own work. 

Pound Net IV, 2015. Chesapeake Bay, VA

How would you describe your work?     Starting off, I think I was probably like most landscape photographers. I used the widest-angle lens I could, and I crammed as much of a scene through that lens as would fit. I think it was probably from seeing those vast Ansel Adams compositions. I also liked doing long exposures with water. I felt the movement broke up a scene nicely, and added a nice effect to it. Like any technique, though, it can be overused. I would experiment, but always keep in mind that I wanted my work to abide by certain aesthetics.   

I’m the harshest critic I can be with my work, especially while out working in the field. If I’m not achieving a composition that feels good to me, I won’t even load film to take a shot. Once you expose a sheet of film, you have a connection to it. You want it to work, and this clouds your judgement. Nothing is going to magically happen when you process your film. That photo that wasn’t working when you pushed the button still won’t work after you process the film. The same goes with working digitally. A bad composition is a bad composition, no matter how many filters you add to it in Photoshop.

In your opinion, what makes photography art?   I’ve kidded around with friends who are painters, telling them that they have it SO easy, because if there’s a telephone pole in their way, they don’t HAVE TO paint it. Kidding, of course...

Speaking on behalf of my own photography, working with large format is very deliberate. When you view my work for example, every bit of information in each photograph is exactly where it is in the image for a specific reason. I look at it as designing inside of a rectangle. Things need to be balanced. Even chaotic scenes need to find a center. It is a huge challenge, as cameras record exactly what they see, and when you strip colors out of an image, all you’re left with, really, is design. You can’t rely on the viewer to be in awe of your colorful sunset, or a blue sky or emerald water. Black and white photography, to me, is as technical of a visual process as you can get.

Q&A Week One

From time to time, I get requests from publications, blogs and students to answer questions for projects they're working on. The questions range from how and when I got into photography, to what cameras I use, and what-not.

So...in a bit of an upcoming series, I'm going to post a few snippets from these "interviews", as I go through how I operate, what I look for while composing photographs, and general thoughts and feelings about photography.

Here's the first installment. Enjoy...

Ship Rock. Monument Valley, UT. 2009

What photographers from the past or present have influenced you the most?     My high school photo teacher introduced me to Ansel Adams’ photography, and what I remember the most from his work was his light. Since I had just jumped into photography, I was learning things, and had found something to look up to, and there was something about the quality of light in many of Ansel’s photographs. Compositionally, they were also so well balanced. I think that it was motivating to see what was possible, which at my new beginning, was also very humbling.

Other than his work early on, I’ve never really followed other photographers, or studied how they do what they do. I just do my own thing, and I think that at this stage in my career, especially with the world being flooded with photographers, the more I stick to my personal vision, the more genuine my work feels. The viewer can see that…and many appreciate it. My work isn’t exactly trendy, so it doesn’t go viral on social media, but I’ve always steered clear of things that are popular. So, the little corner of the art world that I live in has a very low population, and I like that. I’m not competing with the cliché photographers who are all trying to emulate each other. My view is straight forward.

4x5: Behind the Scenes

Here's a look of working with large format cameras in North Carolina's Outer Banks.

I choose to work in this manner, as the large size of the negatives yields incredible detail and richness for my mural-sized enlargements.