This is one of those "going out on a limb" posts, where I will write about work of mine that will likely incense some of you. This is primarily because the work itself will upset some readers. I am referring to the work I've just recently put up on the site called, Mountain Work. Technically, it isn't new work, as I made the pictures from 2009-2011, but it is new to the site and few have seen it. I did show the portfolio to Jason Landry when I first printed the group. Jason is the owner of Panopticon Gallery where my work is represented. In truth, Jason sees just about everything of mine.
Why might this post, or more accurately, this work along with this post, prove incendiary? Because the photographs brush up against cliché faster than a speeding bullet. Pretty pictures taken in the mountains outside Bologna, Italy? Not allowed. Long lens work with hazy mountains in the background? Just not done. Green foliage in mid summer in the White Mountains in NH? Yuk.
Serious artists don't make pretty pictures these days.. Have you noticed? Beauty is out. But this is exactly what I did in the Mountain Work, made hopefully interesting but also beautiful pictures from beautiful places that I traveled to.
Cloud formation from top of Mt. Washington in NH?
Check:Hanging out over a wall in the northern Italian hill town of Bomarzo, Italy and pointing down to make a picture of an olive grove?
Check:Driving for two hours along the side of the mountains on a road that went from paved, to dirt, to a farm track to almost nothing in my rented Renault Cubo near Bologna to get this picture?
Check:Heading along the side of a mountain above the town of Marradi in central Italy and making this picture across the valley where a farmer is burning off the brush he'd just cleared and the smoke from the fire behind the tree lighting it up?
Check:Art? Who knows. Pretty pictures without much guts? Probably. Do I care? Not a bit. Okay, so a "serious artist", which I like to think I am, wouldn't ever do this, present a group of pictures like these, of course, not in today's world. Too pretty, too beautiful, just not done. Landscape pictures? No serious artist would do that. That's been over since Ansel Adams died in the 80s if not long before.
Well, true but one of the advantages of being my age (66 and counting) is that you can do stuff and not give a damn.
But how can I reconcile this work with other work of mine that is serious, that does work to extend photography or to push the boundaries of conventions like landscape photography? How can the same person who makes Mountain Work make bodies of work like Reggio Emilia or Mallchitecture? Because I am, in essence, more diverse in my interests than in doing just one thing. Aren't you?
Aha, you're now saying: he's schizophrenic. Maybe, but I don't think so. I just love the challenge of going somewhere I haven't been before, both literally and figuratively.
Let's see if I can reference this specific work a bit and help you understand where it comes from, why I was interested in this way of working.
During the 70's, 80's and 90's I worked in black and white, using medium format and large format cameras to make my pictures. I also had a preference for wide angle lenses. For the most part long telephoto lenses were the domain of 35mm, a format I did not use due to its small negative and lack of quality when enlarged. Along comes digital and I find myself changing over to the kind of camera that used to be 35mm, a DSLR, and using lenses that range from extremely wide (14mm) to extremely long, up to 300mm.This was a brand new world for me, to be able to reach across a valley and frame something miles away full in the frame, to compress scale and put things up against each other over great distances. That's what Mountain Work does. Exciting? Absolutely. Challenging? Yes. Fun? Hell yeah.
A few more:
Cannon Mountain, NH
Okay, so here's where I have to now admit to some closeted activity, something never before revealed to you my readers, something kept on the down low and only known by my closest friends. Quite the lead up, eh? What's he going to reveal here?
I drive up the Mt. Washington Auto Road in New Hampshire to the top of the mountain every year in the summer. In fact, as I write this, I have booked a reservation to stay one night in a motel on the road up from Boston to be at the base of the Auto Road at about 8 am Monday morning.
There it is, out in the open. Why? Because it is a completely cool thing to do. And in all these years I have photographed just about every time I've gone up. Not only is it a wonderful and scary drive up but it is another world on top. This is where the wind has blown harder than anywhere else on the planet (over 200 mph!), where it can be 85 degrees at the base and 35 at the top in the summer, where those that drive up or take the cog railway mingle with hikers that have spent days climbing to the top.
Making pictures at the top of Mt Washington is a yearly pilgrimage. It has served as the precedent for me photographing all over this continent and Europe seeking to get up above it all to see the world from the heavens, essentially.
So, I've made my case. Are these pictures relevant in the world of cutting edge art making, tackling issues such as gender, societal ills, political injustice, oppression, global warming, coastal erosion, or post modernistic thinking? Nope. They are not. Is it okay to enjoy them without guilt? I believe it is. It's okay, you can keep them in the closet if you need to, bring them out in the privacy of your home computer display with no one watching you. I won't tell.
BTW: In researching this post I pulled the Mountain Work from the shelves, dusted the portfolio off, so to speak. The prints are 23 x15 inches on a paper called Harmon Baryta. They are seriously gorgeous. If you'd like to see the actual prints and are local, shoot me an email. I'm sure we can arrange something.
I hope you enjoy Mountain Work. Let me know one way or the other via email.