"You see what you’re looking at; you have an artist's eye. Everything you see is beautiful and that comes through in your work." Jim Tucker painter and photographer
There can be a one-minute window when the light is just right, when the mountains and sky are transformed into visual eloquence, and knowing that those fleeting moments are out there is my main inspiration. Often it's the ethereal beauty of the sky at dusk or dawn that captivates me, but I also am fascinated by the beauty of abandoned places and objects: rust and patina, old cars in fields with grass growing in the seats, falling down barns, ghost cars and frontier cemeteries. I sense that the man-made world is transient like a sunset, and the things we cast off gain a spell-binding beauty in their colors and textures as they transform gracefully back into the natural world from which they were hewn.
I have had little formal training as regards photography or any of the things I’m really any good at. I have an intuitive response to things that have the ability to capture my imagination, and no amount of arduous study can match a single minute of truly inspired creative insight. As Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” I’ve found its when I think I’m completely prepared and trained and ready to meet some challenge that I become jaded and lose my sense of wonder, and make boring photographs. When I just let go of self-direction and let inspiration guide the way, everything just flows and I lose myself and lose sense of time. Of course it sure helps to know how to use your equipment, but beyond that there’s some risk of never experiencing the joy of discovery as relates to figuring out on your own how to make images that capture your soul; that would be a shame! Its those epiphanies that have the power to transform the learning process into deeply meaningful and lasting lessons; they become part of you. If you have everything spelled out for you before you even go out into the field, all the way down to composition theory, etc. then you run the risk of emulating lessons rather than being capable of seeing and reacting with legitimate actions of your own. If you're adhering to other people's versions of composition and subject matter, do you really even have any input into what you're seeing, looking for, doing? Learning from others is great so long as it doesn't replace intuition and your own input. Art is expression, not regurgitation. If you're just trying to be a proficient technician because you're chasing a paycheck as a hired photographer, that's fine but its the creative souls in love with the subject matter who inevitably end up being the ones that produce spellbinding images of power and grace. Any craft taken to its highest expression becomes art.
Focusing on Philosophy
What is image manipulation? Using a flash? A long exposure? These things change the nature of the image completely... and are regularly accepted. A camera is a tool which alters images by its design, and the dark room is where most photographers hone their skills at bringing forth the vitality of their visions. What the camera captures is mere inspiration; it can't capture the sky. The camera gives me a crude approximation of what was out there, but the real magic is inside. That fantastic light and the beauty of nature and of life, its in me and you as sense memory- not in the camera. Inspiration literally means, "in spirit"- and that's where photography takes me, to that glowing essence of things. The possibility that I might be able to coax those ephemeral qualities of wonder to show up in the print, that's my inspiration, that's my goal.
Some believe that any 'image manipulation' done after clicking the shutter is generally a no-no, except where it is intended to return the image to the way it actually looked in real life. Then there was Ansel Adams who spent hours in the dark room turning skies black and causing prints of clouds and rock formations to take on dramatic shadows and highlights that were only hinted at on film. He once wrote, "The negative is comparable to the composer's score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways." and, "Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships." Ansel Adam's popularity as a photographer has been due to his artistic vision and ability to make it manifest in the dark room, not because of a completely faithful adherence to making unaltered prints– far from it. Looking at straight, un-altered prints from many of his negatives, they appear well composed but are not striking like HIS prints are- there is a gap between being proficient with a camera, and the creative process known as art. I draw inspiration from the powerful images Ansel Adams created, and in my own work approach dark room theory with perhaps similar goals in mind. "You don't take a photograph; you make it." -Ansel Adams-
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