Tag Archives: Natural Elements

Scott B. Davis: Success Stories and the Medium Festival of Photography

When you think about busy people, Scott B. Davis is surely at the top of that list.  Scott recently opened an exhibition, Black Sun, at Hous Projects in New York (running through September 1st), works full time at the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego as the Director of Exhibitions and Design, has created a brand spanking new photography festival, the Medium Festival of Photography that launches September 6-8th, and just closed on a new home.  And those are just the big things.

Born in Maryland, Scott received his BFA in Photography from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.  The son of a private pilot, Scott developed ideas about landscape at an early age.  He began using a view camera in 1994 and photographing the desert at night in 1997.  These aesthetic approaches to making work allow him to define space in a contemplative way where he is diminishing the traditional landscape in favor of highlighting human presence within the landscape. He believes that no single truth exists about landscape, and the most honest photographs equally consider light, dark, human and natural elements.

In 2002, Scott built a 16×20″ view camera, used it exclusively for 5 years and created large platinum prints. He recently has returned to an 8×10 view camera and continues to work in platinum.  Scott has exhibited internationally, is widely published, and his work is held in many significant collections.

An interview with Scott follows…

Balboa Park, San Diego
2011 Platinum/Palladium Print

Congratulations on the exhibition at Hous Projects in New York City.  I love the idea of making imagery that you almost have to squint to understand completely.  What compels you to shoot in the dark?

making photographs
at night came out of a desire to discover new landscapes and engage
fully in the act of looking. i frequently travel in remote parts of the
desert, and revel in the simply joy of seeing new spaces. but like most
of us, i spend the majority of my hours at home. it’s in this realm that
i keep my eyes engaged by shooting what i know, and what we all live
with day in and day out. shooting in the dark is a kind of compulsion…
something that boils down to a simple desire to discover new
Intersection, San Diego
2010 Platinum/Palladium Print
I understand that you built a 16×20 view camera in 2002–is that what you use exclusively to make work?
used the 16×20 camera exclusively from 2002 until about 2007. as film
prices started to climb and i wanted to keep exploring new visual
territory it made sense to retire the beast and move back to smaller
film. beginning in 2007 i’ve used my 8×10 for everything i shoot. i’ve
enjoyed the liberty of exposing more film, and now scanning those
negatives to make large platinum prints.
Canyon, Los Angeles
2009 Platinum/Palladium Print
Talk about the slowed down nature of making work through this process and, in particular, at night.
work at night is a meditation, as is platinum printing. in terms of
making night photographs, it is an act of paying attention to spaces we
pass every day, and looking for beauty where others see nothing. i begin
to see more as i look for those magic spaces ‘in between’, and in
return the landscape beings to teach me. i discover places i would have
never thought important, compelling, or beautiful, and i learn more
about the neighborhoods and places that are equally a part of the urban
spaces we call home. our eyes are subjective consumers, and in the daily
ritual of looking we tend to see everything as a photograph. or a
potential photograph. but as photographers we know most of these don’t
work out. it’s our intentions and “vision” that makes an image worth
printing, or even shooting in the first place. when i’m actively
photographing at night i do everything from consider the exposure to
thinking about how i want to show detail in the final print, or how i
might need to compensate for detail in development and printing. it’s
all very ansel adams! [laughs] from there i’ll set up the camera and
tripod, then begin the nuts and bolts of picture making. exposures are
the quickest part, ranging from a minute to maybe an hour depending on
where i am and what i’m trying to achieve. printing is an entirely
separate process, but an equally important one, best left to itself.
VW Bus, San Diego
2010 Platinum/Palladium Print
You are well ensconced in the San Diego photographic community, and your day job is at the Museum of Photographic Arts as the Director of Exhibitions and Design.  What is a typical day at the museum, and how does being surrounded by so much great photography influence your own work?
my typical day at mopa
is a diverse range of management, design, and long range planning. that
can take the form of anything from meeting project deliverables to
branding and laying out individual exhibitions. i spend a lot of time on
the minutia of exhibition planning, which is to say the administrative
tasks nobody (viewers) should be thinking about when looking at a
finished exhibition. i believe that if my work appears invisible then
i’ve done my job well. it’s a nice metaphor for my own work outside the
museum too. but one of the great rewards at mopa is working with a team
of talented people and being exposed to art on a daily basis, be it
historic work by known photographers, unknown photographs that are
simply wonderful, or contemporary artists who are pushing new
boundaries. it is enriching, and i’m certainly very lucky.
Palm Tree, near Washington and Venice, Los Angeles
2012 Platinum/Palladium Print
I am so excited about the new Medium Festival of Photography that is coming up in San Diego in September.  How did it come about and can you share a little about the festival?
came about as a way to engage with photographers on a deeper level.
being a working artist myself i meet more talented photographers than
anyone has wall space to exhibit. wanting to give a platform to this
abundant creativity was where it began, and finding a way to share that
with a larger audience is where it started to gel. the festival is a
celebration of creative photography spread over three days. it kicks off
with a keynote lecture by alec soth and is followed by a diverse range
of speakers covering topics from wet plate to a live sunburn
demonstration by chris mccaw, and much more! we have a portfolio review
event on saturday that offers photographers the chance to engage with
curators, editors, and gallery owners. it’s going to be a fantastic
addition to the photo community in southern california!
Covered Sedan, San Diego
2011 Platinum/Palladium Print
You wear so many hats in the photo world — successful photographer, Museum Director, Festival Director, friend and supporter of all things photography — how do you balance it all?
a busy schedule is a lot of work, though i find the act of it both
encourages and defines each new step. i believe we should all live our
purpose—what the hindu religion calls dharma—but this is
something we’re largely disenfranchised from in the west. inspiring
others through photography is my life path, and from the outside it
appears to be a lot of work. and it is. but loving what you do and
“working” are two separate ideas to me. i strive to insure my actions
provide an enriching return, not just to me, but to others.  this is the
secret to maintaining a balance. work and give back to others. it comes
full cycle.
Silver Lake, Los Angeles
2010 Platinum/Palladium Print
When you were emerging as a photographer, what took your work to the next level, and what suggestions do you have for photographers trying to establish themselves?
my work evolved
through the passionate study of good photographs, which meant reading a
lot of books and attending as many lectures as i could. the greatest
influences on me were workshops offered by master photographers. these
short, 3 to 5 day experiences taught me more than anything i learned in
formal study at a prestigious university. they helped define my dharma.
Ben’s Auto, Los Angeles
2009 Platinum/Palladium Print
An finally, what would be your perfect day?

my perfect day would involve opening someone’s eyes to photography. this
could mean sharing the magic of a camera with someone or teaching them
something new about the medium. it could also mean my learning something
new, which is a borderline addiction. i recently discovered a book of
desert writings that i hadn’t picked up in several years. the process of
sitting down with this book and re-reading it page by page has turned
into a series of perfect days, one after the other. the writing has
little to do with photography but has given me a half dozen new ideas to
think about… a half dozen new reasons to follow my camera into new
territory. the perfect day is about eye opening experiences, plain and
simple. who’s eyes those are is less important than the act of
inspiration itself.
Tract Home, La Jolla
2011 Platinum/Palladium Print

Sedan, Rice California
2009 Platinum/Palladium Print

Kate Orne

I first became aware of Kate Orne’s photographs when she won the Berenice Abbott Prize for her work with sex trade workers in Pakistan. The series, Brothels and Fundamentalism, captured poignant and powerful images of women trapped in a lifestyle of abuse and fear was deeply felt and appreciated.

Kate is a unique voice in the photography world. She is an editorial and fashion photographer (see image below), a documentary photographer, a fine art photographer, and a humanitarian. In 2002, she created MyFarAwayFamily.com, an organization providing Afghan refugee children with education and their widowed mothers with micro loans and guidance to start their own businesses. Provided food distributions in Kabul and Peshawar among refugees. And she’s one hell of a nice person.

Kate was born in Sweden, and now lives in New York City. One of her first jobs was as an editor for Interview Magazine, but by the mid 1990’s Kate was busy working in all areas of the photo landscape. And within that landscape, she has created a new body of fine art work that is just about that: landscape, but landscape as meditation and inspiration.

The Landscape With: As far back as I can remember, I have been drawn to the wide-open landscape: a canvas of land, water or sky where I feel expansion within and around me. In that setting, my mind is free.

Over the years, I have frequently returned to the landscape, on assignment and for personal work. I’m rarely shooting in a place where there are people – I don’t want them interrupting the pull of natural elements. As I look through the viewfinder, I wait. A shadow, a shape, or some interplay or tension between forms, sparks my curiosity, calling for attention. This is a starting point.

To me art is a form of meditation. In the time when we create, we travel inward. When I photograph, I want to include as much of what is there as possible—both what I can see and feel. My intuition guides the process – a secret language within me, which I regard as the most valuable measurement of honesty. This is what my heart sees.

The feelings that I experience are powerful and the image afterwards brings me back to them. It’s often during the edit, when I look closely at a photograph, that I see what in the landscape captured my attention.

I want it to be the same for the viewers, for them to feel free and have their minds and hearts expand when they rest their eyes on an image. This is why I prefer my work printed on a larger scale, creating a space that invites the viewer inside.

New Limited Edition Photograph by Michael Flomen

New Born, 2010 by Michael Floman

Aperture is pleased to release this special limited-edition 23″ x 18″ print by artist Michael Flomen titled New Born, 2010.  Flomen writes: “for me New Born, is a photographic document of a fragment of evolution. The image represents the birth of a new beginning.” It was made in a pond in Northern Vermont by dipping a glass plate negative into the water at night time.

Flomen’s work is also featured in the publication The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography (Aperture, 2009) by Lyle Rexer.  Read an excerpt from the book by Rexer on Flomen here:

takes photography’s desire for the real to its literal extreme, making photographs that are in direct contact with the natural elements he seeks to capture.  Working without a camera, he places sheets of black-and-white photographic paper in snowfields, streams, and other natural settings to register the activity of light in relation to natural phenomena. This environmental romanticism, so closely akin to Talbot’s intuition that photography allows nature to draw itself, represents a new adaptation of the photogram.

For fifteen years, this self-taught artist has collaborated with nature using this camera-less technique. Natural phenomena, he says, are the inspiration to his picture making.


Dreamscapes: Matt Wisniewski’s Digital Collages

Some people create images to make a statement. Others, like Matt Wisniewski, do it because it looks pretty. “It’s mostly just aesthetic,” explains the 21-year-old computer science student of his spectral photo collages. “Whatever looks nice, really.”

Art for art’s sake is no new conceit. But Wisniewski has created a particularly successful iteration by overlaying portraits with organic patterns—from flowers to jagged peaks to a Rorschach blot. He came to the combination through experimentation. “It just sort of clicked,” he says. “Natural elements tend to be a little simpler and fit together a bit more obviously with the portraits than urban elements.”

The process begins with images from Tumblr and other online portfolios. A few experimental overlays later, Wisniewski lights on something that catches his eye. “I decide that I want to go further on it and then clean that up.”

For his image of a bearded man in a diaphanous red coat, Wisniewski found an overlay photo that “fit well and had a similar shape to his body.” Although many of his portraits eschew color, the red hue of the overlay image appealed to him. “I just thought it looked interesting.”

Matt Wisniewski

Untitled from “Cold Embrace,” 2011

Whether he works on the face or body is also guided by aesthetic fancy. “Usually if I do something with their body it’s because it’s simple enough that I can just work over it,” he says. “Sometimes I see that covering up their face looks a little nicer than not.”

Wisniewski, who studies at New York’s Rochester Institute of Technology, prefers Photoshop to a paintbrush. Yet despite his technical knowledge—he works as a web-developer in his spare time—he’s self-effacing about his tools. “[Photoshop] is a lot more forgiving,” than traditional media, he says. “I can easily fix mistakes or experiment with an idea and complete erase those changes if I feel they don’t fit.”

That isn’t to say he hasn’t tried drawing, painting and photography. Growing up in Philadelphia, Wisniewski applied his tinkering instincts to whatever was at hand. “I’ve created things for as long as I can remember, really. The collage is just sort of something that happened as a result of that.”

On the cusp of graduating and moving to Brooklyn, Wisniewski hopes to maintain his autotelic creed. “I honestly don’t think of anything I do as a hobby or not,” he says, emphasizing that he wants to keep up his web design alongside making collages. “I’m obviously going to continue doing this as long as I enjoy it. Hopefully that will be a long time.”

Matt Wisniewski is a student at New York’s Rochester Institute of Technology. More of his work can be seen here.

Sonia van Gilder Cooke is a reporter in TIME’s London Bureau. Follow her on Twitter at @svangildercooke.