Back in college days, when I first felt the wilderness pull me, I was on the East Coast, at Rutgers, and I was fascinated with the stories of the virgin eastern hardwood forests that were written two centuries before me, in the era of Emerson and Thoreau. Among those pages I found plates of the paintings of the Hudson River School, and was enchanted by the emotion conveyed by them. I never studied the paintings or the artists, but I learned to recognize my favorites--Albert Bierstadt, and Asher Durand--and always had an eye out for more, like W.S. Haseltine.
At the same time I began to study photography and was struck by no one’s work like I was by Ansel Adams’. I found his use of black to give his work a power that I admired.
Much later, when I was building art shows in convention halls, hangars, and gymnasiums, I was exposed to the dramatic oil paintings of the Sierras by Edgar Payne. His ability to capture mountain light and the mood felt in the presence of immense granite walls fascinated me, repeatedly.
All of these artists’ work shared a certain sense of drama, they portrayed an immense, seemingly untamable and raw landscape. To enter such foreboding scenes demanded courage. They conveyed a sense of awe.
Next, I began the study of Japanese aesthetics with Dr. Shozo Sato, who, after more than 50 years as a tea master, has a grasp of the subject equaled by very few in the world. I had gravitated towards the Japanese sense of beauty for years, but Sato sensei helped me to understand what I was responding to. And I found some of his own work deeply moving also.
Lastly, when I attended a photography symposium in Alaska in 2004, I met Sylvia Plachy, a famous photographer who had worked mostly with the streets of New York. She had an exhibit as part of the event, and I was impressed with her sense of composition and that she relied on that sense, and often used a low-tech, Chinese Holga; a box camera (like a Brownie or Instamatic).
This confirmed, and gave me confidence in, my belief that “It’s not the camera.” The strength of a composition will carry a photograph that is not technically impressive. I have little interest in the technical aspects of photography, but I am deeply fascinated with composition. This sets me, with my point-and-shoot digital camera, apart from the herd.
More than photography, my art is to see a dramatic composition or find it (often an arduous task), record it, and give it the rich tones that help the image to communicate the power of what I saw.
I am endeavoring to create images that will inspire me on a daily basis, just as I have been by the above artists’ images. I invite the viewer to feel their response to my photographs and ask why they feel such a profound emotion. I hope the answer will help foster a reverence for our precious environment, and for the Source of its creation.