Decay And Ruin As Process vs. Romantic Symbol

There is more to ruins than ‘Enduring Romantic Symbol’

I recently had occasion to reconnect with one of the photographers who mentored me in graduate school. He always challenged my perceived ideas about my subjects and how I approach them through the medium. I wanted to have some discussion about Time as it pertains to my current subjects and ended up learning an interesting theory about decay and ruin.

I mentioned to him that I was photographing a historic railroad in my area, the old South Branch Railroad. I told him about some ideas that had been forming in my mind about the element of ‘time’ while photographing a bridge on a defunct part of the line. The element of Time, as we know, is inherent in any photograph by the very nature of the medium and I’m always thinking about Time in relation to my photographs. When standing on or near the bridge I feel what I call a certain ‘time dilation,’ or slowing in the flow of time around me. This is not to be confused with the Theory of Relativity and the slowing of Time the nearer one gets to the speed of light…which is a very cool idea. Rather, I sense time moving more slowly as a result of being near an abandoned structure.

Olympia Beer Brewhouse
The old Olympia Beer brewhouse in Tumwater, WA July 2016

My former mentor informed me that I was looking at the bridge as an ‘enduring symbol,’ an idea that has been used to aggrandize political agendas and paint them in a light of goodness. He suggested I read a paper entitled, “The Value of Ruins: Allegories of Destruction in Benjamin and Speer.” While it’s a thick academic read it reveals new ways of looking at ruins, a subject long popular with fine art photographers. The paper compares two opposing critical theories in the evaluation of the ruin. I didn’t think my friend and mentor really believed that romanticized symbols could lead to fascism (he doesn’t) and thought to myself, how could this possibly be?

Decay and Ruin As Enduring Symbol

The Nazis were attempting to paint themselves in the light of truth, beauty and moral good…

The first theory refers to the Nazi agenda for building monumental architecture. Hitler intended his buildings to last millennia so that they would decay gracefully like classical ruins over thousands of years, inspiring future generations in their ruined state. The idea is to immortalize through symbolism and aesthetics the perceived mythical greatness—and goodness—of a political ideology. (NOTE: this case is presented merely to illustrate an academic discussion; I am NOT now, nor have I ever been, a Nazi supporter and I do not admire Hitler in any way.) This is referred to in the paper as the ‘aestheticization of politics’ and it is founded on a treatise of sorts written by Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect, entitled, “A Theory of Ruin Value.” In fact, the author of the “The Value of Ruin” paper indicates that this political tool is still very much in use today by totalitarian regimes. Speer’s own description admits that the title is “pretentious” and cites the writing as more of a solution to creating the “bridge to tradition” Hitler wanted. Speer even presented it to Hitler replete with a romantic drawing of how the proposed buildings might look thousands of years in the future. The other Nazi ministers thought the theory and drawings ‘blasphemous,’ but it was adopted nonetheless.

Gallery of Decaying Subjects

Decay and Ruin As Process

Benjamin distrusted the ‘totality’ of Romantic symbolism…

The countering viewpoint is that of Walter Benjamin, a German Jewish philosopher, who elucidated a reductive theory where the ruin is the physical representation of allegory. In his view a ruin should be evaluated thus, using this theory which is based in Baroque allegory as it represents the futility of man’s existence and accomplishments. The structure is reduced to its base elements by Time to a state of positive ’poverty,’ whereby the inner components of its construction are laid bare. In this way the truth of what it represents and related historical acts can be known. Benjamin distrusted the ‘totality’ of Romantic symbolism and its depiction of classical ideals as a false image of harmony and eternal perfection. They purposely ignore the human element and gloss over the anguish of life and the true conditions and events of history. This viewpoint was no doubt aimed at the Nazi appropriation of such aesthetics to represent The Third Reich for posterity (the “1000-Year Reich”). The problem is that such symbols have been intimately connected with the ideals of truth, beauty and moral good since ancient times. The fact that the Nazis intended to paint themselves in such a light must have been incomprehensible to Benjamin…as it is to all of us. He saw allegory as a better critical tool with which to view and evaluate ruins.

It’s an interesting and dense academic discussion, but I’ve attempted to contrast and compare the basics.

This was a very different angle for me to view my subjects from and something I hadn’t considered before. It wasn’t the first time my mentor had given me an alternative approach to think about…our discussions on my thesis project had worked the same way. And therein lies the necessity and benefit of peer critique and discussion—seeing your subjects outside the scope of your learned perceptions.

What I ultimately realized, though, and I’ve read other writing that agrees with this, the idea of the romantic ruin is well entrenched in our collective psyche. Hundreds of years of its depiction in Western art have deeply ingrained it in our world view. So, it’s not just fascists who see ruins this way, it’s essentially everyone we know. The Nazis were attempting to appropriate the totality of romantic symbolism, like that of ancient ruins which present (according to Benjamin) a falsely positive image imbued with all things good. Most of us see the ruin as something nostalgic without any reference to an insidious political agenda. For my own applications, Benjamin’s allegorical approach provides an alternative that could produce different outcomes in my photographs. That’s something I always work to achieve.

To see my fine art and commercial photography please visit my website at:

New Small Town Reflections

An Introspective Perspective (in New Places)

The photograph below was made on one of my excursions to Port Townsend, Washington last summer (2016), from Olympia the state capital where I was on an extended stay with family. Port Townsend has an amazing collection of Victorian-era buildings lining its idyllic streets, so it was a haven for me and my camera and my love of 19th Century architecture. And I happened to find a few new subjects that made it into my portfolio. You can see others on my website.

The Hastings Building
The Hastings Building in Port Townsend WA

Use of reflections is one of the basic methods to draw attention to a subject in a photograph. Several years ago I began to use reflections in a different way (besides, say, a building reflected in a pool of water) to produce images that are truly unique to my style and vision. I’ve been randomly continuing work on my historic small town reflections series, “Reflections on the American Small Town,” although I’m not fully immersed in that project at the moment. It’s an ongoing work, so if I see something while in the field that resonates with my vision and concept, I’ll photograph it for possible addition to the project. An important aspect is the historic architecture; the picture must contain 19th century buildings and provide enough in the way of strong angular relationships in the lines.

I first began the project several years ago while working on my Master of Fine Arts degree in photography and my thesis. The pictures started out as portrait-oriented pictures and soon evolved into neo-urban landscape panoramas. The images are composed of reflections in storefront windows that depict abstract, often fractured scenes. They were also reversed images originally (since they are reflections), but that aspect has also evolved into right-reading images—I now flip the reflections horizontally (once they are assembled into panoramas) so they appear as if you were there looking at the scene. The picture is rendered as you would normally see it, but with unique attributes from the reflection and refraction of light that would never appear otherwise. Some right-reading elements also become reversed in the process.
 

..the subject becomes removed another level from ‘reality’…into an introspective dream-like state.
Pioneer Square
Pioneer Square Seattle, WA

As a result, the subject becomes removed another 2 levels from ‘reality’ through the reflection and then by reversing it (the first level is inherent in any photograph), into an introspective dream-like state. It’s a bit complex to describe the whole process—what the pictures mean to me and what I hope to communicate to my viewer, so I’ll offer a simpler version. It began as an exploration into my distant past through memories of several historic towns. These towns have been a part of my life over many years. In addition to visualizing feelings and memories (which have been enhanced by my imagination in the intervening years), another part of the idea is distilling a “sense of place.” Fine art photographers have been seeking to realize this in their pictures for a long time.

While I have completed the initial exploration, I now use the technique on other towns (which has always been my intent) to photograph them in my own refined personal style…and to see what lies beneath the surface. This is what I was attempting to do in Port Townsend and Seattle, and it was the first chance I had at photographing in a different part of the country.

Port Townsend, Washington Revisited

Experimenting with Film Simulation

As luck would have it, I found myself making photos in Port Townsend again recently. I hadn’t planned to really make any, since I had already photographed the town during the summer and wrote a blog post for it. I also have a backlog of photos from there to put in a photo gallery, but once on the ground walking down Water Street I couldn’t resist photographing the architecture from another aesthetic perspective. My FujiFilm X-T10 camera has several film simulation modes, so I decided to experiment with some of the Black & White modes to see what effects they would render. Unfortunately, you need to be shooting in JPEG format. I always shoot in RAW—a file that retains all of the original capture data—so the photos came into Lightroom as normal RGB images. Consequently, none of the film emulation effects were visible. I’ll have to remember to put the camera in JPEG mode next time! A good feature of the X-T10 is you can have it save both JPEG and RAW files at the same time.

Hastings Building - Port Townsend WA
The Hastings Building (left) in Port Townsend WA

Black and White Photography

Black and White is not my usual aesthetic choice for making pictures. Many photographic artists use it as part of their signature style, but I love color. Black and white is the preferred aesthetic mode of many documentary and fine art photographers, and both international luminaries and local legends have had a significant influence on my work. It just seemed the right choice at this particular moment and time. That’s what I love about creating art—you often don’t know what style or technique is right until you’re “in it.” And with photography, that means you won’t know until you’re at the location. Everything you’re feeling combined with your life experience comes into play.

Since my intent for these pictures was Black & White with a red filter and then Fujifilm Astia mode, I decided to render the images that way in post-production. The effect produced should have been black and white with dramatic detail in the sky, and a softer image with less color saturation, respectively. So, my Goal was to reproduce that aesthetic in Photoshop. I think the pictures were a success as they do look quite different from what I normally produce, and emulate the desired film types. Note that my black and white adjustments pushed beyond just mimicking film/filter type to make fine art images that represent my artistic vision.
 

Port Townsend from 'The Bluff'
Port Townsend from ‘The Bluff’

First Day of Fall

It takes many visits to those places and things that interest you to produce pictures with depth of meaning and cohesion.

The weather on the Saturday of my stay was wonderfully blustery with ocassional sun, and the temperature in the low 50’s – perfect for the first Day of October and making photographs of historic architecture. I’ve loved this kind of day since I was a kid, running through the woods or playing football in a neighbor’s yard on Saturday or after school. The love of Fall has carried through my entire life ever since. Port Townsend is an active community with lots of families and high school football games…and there was one being played on Friday night. It really added to the Fall experience, and I made some nighttime photos of the historic Bishop Victorian Hotel, which is right near the stadium. Then, Saturday morning I heard the autumn wind rushing against my hotel window overlooking the bay. I couldn’t wait to get out in it, so it was time to pack up and head own the long stairway. As I opened the door onto Water street I was greeted with a rush of blustery weather and the full feel of Autumn. I walked around the corner to the Courtyard Cafe for a home baked apple turnover and handcrafted chai tea. I highly recommend this family-run cafe, situated in a historic Dutch Colonial 2-family house.

Then it was off to make some more photos.

Mount Baker Block

My film simulation work needs many more outings, but this first foray reveals some new ways of photographing familiar subject mater. This is how ‘good’ photographs are made; it takes many visits to the places and things that interest you, photographing them over time, to produce pictures with depth of meaning and cohesion. And while you ultimately want to settle on a process that aligns with your concept and intent for the pictures, it’s good practice and also fun to try new things to produce pictures that are uniquely yours.

Photographs That Look Like Paintings

The Pictorialists – Raising Photography to a Fine Art

An historic aesthetic effect used in creating photographic images has made me take issue more recently with my own work regarding photographs that look like paintings, or those that try to emulate a painterly aesthetic.

Several years ago while working on my graduate degree in photography I discovered the work of the Pictorialists. Naturally, the history of photography will lead every student of the medium to study this movement. It became a compelling influence and I wanted every picture I made to have that moody atmospheric effect. It’s a great aesthetic to employ in visualizing one’s concept, and the masters like Stieglitz, Steichen, Coburn and others (not to forget the many other brilliant photographers of the movement) achieved a high level of artistry with their work. What’s important to me is that they never lost sight of the fact that they were photographers. Even though their images were dismissed as “fuzzy pictures” by some, they succeeded in their goal—to raise photography to the realm of Fine Art.

Flemington Unity Bank Station in Flemington , New Jersey
Flemington-Unity Bank Station, Flemington, New Jersey 2012 – James T Callahan

Knowing Your Intent

Steiglitz photo
Alfred Steiglitz – New York City

Study of this part of the History of Photography may lead us to ask the question: should photographs look like paintings? This is a purely subjective question, and it’s completely up to the artist creating the image. How one decides to render a subject depends on what the picture or series it belongs to is about; how they want to interpret the subject and what sort of emotional connection or response they want the viewer to take away. In short, know your intent. If you know the history of photography, a very complex subject despite the medium’s relatively young age, you could arguably say that the Pictorialist movement sought to imbue their photographs with a kind of painterly aesthetic. Maybe Impressionistic is a better term. What’s important about that work, though, is that they are still photographs, and you can see that readily. And that probably has a lot to do with how they were produced, which is by the process of photogravure, which involves etching metal plates with chemicals to enable contact printing of the images.

The Pictorialists were concerned primarily with achieving the objective of the movement, to make photography a ‘fine art.’ We artists today can use that concept and its processes for a deeper exploration of our own individual interests. My hope is to bring this process to bear on my own photography and create an expansive print collection of my historic downtown and Victorian house pictures. I’m told there is now a water-based photogravure process available that doesn’t involve the toxic chemicals that Alfred Stieglitz and his contemporaries used, so I’m eager to try it.

“I don’t want to apologize for photography.” – Steven Klein, photographer, NYC

Making ‘Photographs’

Flatiron Building
The Flatiron Building – Edward Steichen 1904

The Pictorialists’ work is what I was trying to emulate with my process. I feel it was a successful quest for me, to impart the texture and atmospheric mood to my images and I did it by using a transfer process. My photograph of Flemington Unity Bank Station at the top of the post is one of a series and emulates a Pictorialist photograph, yet it retains the sharp definition that’s important to me in the architectural details. But it’s all subjective; sharpness is expected of photography by many people and it’s good to have it in the details of my pictures, but it’s certainly not a requirement. It just depends on how the overall image looks to my eye and what my intent for the picture is; the details may even be softer, depending on various factors. There’s an intangible aspect about this, but one or two of the photographs in the short series I made—Elegance and Artistry—look more painterly to me; and that’s what I would like to avoid, as nice as it looks. For the most part the series achieved the aesthetic I was going for; so, I just need to make some more. I will certainly make the painterly pictures for anyone who wants them but for my own work I adhere to the belief of photographer Steven Klein that he doesn’t want to “apologize for photography.” And neither do I. What ‘not apologizing for photography’ means to me, among other things, is making pictures that look like painting, especially for the sake of it. As those who have studied photography in depth know, the medium has always been compared to painting, the high art of the fine art world. It has had to compete with it, even now in terms of what galleries will show and patrons will buy. That’s what the Photo-Secessionists (Pictorialists) sought to (and did) overcome. Yet the stigma remains among some art purists that photography doesn’t take any real talent because you’re just pushing a button.

Edward Steichen photo
E Gordon Craig by
Edward Steichen 1913

Mr. Klein started as a painter interestingly, and his statement has stayed with me since my first semester of graduate school, when I discovered his work. A photograph can have an atmospheric aesthetic and still not look like it was made with a brush. You can see this in the examples of Pictorialist work posted here. (NOTE: Steven Klein’s website appears to be no longer available to the public. I tried to include a link here, but it’s not accessible. My suggestion is to Google his name and you’ll get a ton of sites and info, including his Tumblr and Instagram.) Rather, the look of these photographs was achieved through chemical processes and hand printing. Thus, each hand-made print is totally unique…same as a painting, but that aspect is good. You’d need a professionally trained eye and even then it might be hard to see, but the subtle differences would be inherent in each print, thereby increasing the value and uniqueness. And, the work still retains its photographic basis and characteristics. This is what I want to achieve in my art prints.

Hopewell Station in Hopewell, New Jersey
Hopewell Station, Hopewell, New Jersey, July 2012 – James T Callahan

Aligning Concept, Intent and Process

The thing I like about the wax process I developed is that there is a good amount of hand manipulation. In my quest to get the look I wanted, it was important to me for it come from working with my hands—not digital effects. In fact, most of the process is done by hand, with some digital steps in facilitating the original image and final output. The finished wax piece is scanned and printed digitally on fine art cotton rag paper. The visual effect is stunning and supports my concept for the series, which is to impart a hand-worked historic look to photographs of historic buildings. There is an alignment of concept, intent and process, and that is what’s important with any visual art. Something should be communicated, whether a tangible idea or a feeling, through your choice of medium and the application of it.  I think the relationship of my two pieces here to the Stieglitz and Steichen photos is evident, and that is the basis for my work in this series.

At some point I will make more of these but when that time comes, it won’t be to apologize for photography’s unique properties…it will be to embrace and accentuate them.

Edward Hopper’s Influence on [My] Photography

Edward Hopper’s influence on my photography has been considerable, and it is a constant and guiding source of inspiration.

A couple of years ago I watched a short documentary piece on Channel 13 (WNET, New York) on Edward Hopper’s archetypal painting, “House by the Railroad” and its many levels of meaning. It also discusses its influence on photography, which many photographers recognize as significant. I had inadvertently found it while sitting down to have lunch one day (I’ll usually watch a science or art program while eating). I was so engaged that I ran to get a piece of paper to scribble some notes. I came across those notes recently in a text file on my computer. To my amazement they read like prose poetry and I wanted to share it in this post, which is an update to one I wrote a couple of years ago on the subject.

The notes are pieces of commentary by a few of the interviewees—filmmakers and art historians— and reference “House by The Railroad” directly. You can see the piece here: Edward Hopper, House by the Railroad, 1925. Afterwards, I viewed another good 50-minute piece that’s more comprehensive entitled, “Edward Hopper – Painter of Alienation”.

Edward Hopper - House by The Railroad 1925
Edward Hopper – House by The Railroad 1925

Here are my abstract notes on the piece:

solace…an emotional painting…uniquely American…

…transience…is an American experience…

…the painting is a cultural experience and a formal experience at the same time…

…an abbreviation, the quintessence of what you’re saying…like film, like painting…in the way the artwork is rendered; Hopper “had the genius to be reductive…”

…the yearning for sensation…attuned to its absence…

…a tarnished, decaying dream…

This is a far cry from the thematic approach of the previous generation of American painters from about the turn of the Century. You can find many examples depicting close human relationships and interconnectedness in the works of Samuel Carr, Eastman Johnson, and Thomas Hovenden. But Hopper’s scenes are more emotionally somber by comparison. Singular people, often dramatically lit, largely featureless and seemingly isolated from the rest of the world, even in the crowded Big City. Or if there are couples, as in many of his images, there is no communication or intimacy. The subjects are cut off emotionally from one another. There’s such mystery in each scene, an unsettling sense of something not quite right. This is the psychological underpinning of Hopper’s work along with his use of dramatic lighting, the signature of his style. He developed the latter through a life-long love of cinema and the theater, and a job he had earlier in his career doing illustrations for a movie company.

"The Mansard Roof"
“The Mansard Roof” – Edward Hopper 1923

Many of Hopper’s scenes incorporate period architectural exteriors and interiors. The buildings are mostly of a 19th Century vintage so they were considered ‘period’ even when he painted them. And this is a major point of involvement for me. When first discovering his work in my undergraduate art studies, the two defining aspects—lighting and the architecture—immediately caught my attention and I became a Hopper fan for life. Since then my quest has been to use these two elements as the foundation for heightened dramatic and thematic effect in my own work (see my two photographs below). It’s intriguing to me how they’re a fixture in Hopper’s 20th Century art, and now as I photograph them in the 21st Century, they’re an integral element in my pictures as well. Many of these structures have survived the last 150-plus years to accommodate the lives of modern people, both then and now. It’s an idea that’s part of the concept for my 19th Century House Project and also inspires me to depict that emotional element as well. Please see a sampling from that multi-part project here.


Ringoes farm house
Greek Revival Townhouse (adapted to a farmhouse) circa 1830 with later Italianate porch, Ringoes, New Jersey 2017 –James T Callahan

George Street, New Brunswick NJ 2012
George Street, New Brunswick NJ 2012 (photograph) – James T Callahan

I think many of Hopper’s images suggest that the world is ever speeding up and burying the past, leaving even the present and its occupants in the dust. It has thereby caused people to be more separated from one another. We can see this readily in “House by The Railroad,” where the Victorian house looks forlorn and buried—passed by—behind the tracks in the foreground, a symbol of modern travel of the time.

If Hopper’s art is uniquely American and suggests that transience is part of the American experience, then his images are the precursor (and possibly an inspiration) to Robert Frank’s later seminal series of photographs, The Americans. Frank’s images depict the anxiety, hollowness and psychological wasteland that belies the vernacular American landscape. And this is significant because, if that’s the case, Hopper was ahead of his time, prefacing Frank’s work by some 30 years. Indeed, he was at the forefront of artists of his time with his ability to synthesize the past and present in an abstract way. He painted what, to me, are Modernist renderings of the urban landscape permeated with a mood that is an antithesis to everything that movement held in high regard: shining ‘Progress’ and all the promise it held. In Hopper’s scenes, it is a promise not fulfilled.

Photography History, Aesthetics and Expression

The Photography Category

In this category we’ll look at the historic and aesthetic aspects of photography, especially its use as a means of personal artistic expression. Technical considerations will be discussed where appropriate, but they’re not the main subject here…it’s more important that someone know my intent for a photograph rather than what lens and exposure settings I used. There are plenty of photography journals and web sites that address the latest technical topics, so I’ll leave that aspect to them. Of course, process is a major part in creating any work of art, and I’ll certainly make mention of that as well. But in this blog it’s mostly about the Art.

Main & Bloomfield, Flemington NJ
Main and Bloomfield, Flemington, New Jersey-2012 –James T Callahan

Brief History

Flatiron Building
The Flatiron Building – Edward Steichen, 1904

The history of photography is quite thick, despite its relatively short time span as compared to classical forms of art. In only 177 years we’ve seen many uses of the medium from scientific study to pure non-objective abstract art, and many artistic movements. Photography at first was seen as a technological wonder capable of showing us “the truth.” From some of the initial photographic forms of the Daguerreotype, Cyanotype (originally called shadowgraphs) and Calotype, the last of which became the basis for the negative-positive process known to this day, photography progressed through a variety of historic processes including various chemical printing processes including Edward Steichen’s platinum print pictured here, and eventually to gelatin-based film in the late 19th century. With the introduction of George Eastman’s Kodak cameras and film, photography was in the hands of the everyday person. What started out as a rather complex chemical and, later, mechanical process, exclusively within the reach of the scientifically educated gentry who created it, became a democratic commercial and artistic medium affordable and practiced (in one form or another) by virtually everyone.

And the rest is history. But let’s backtrack just a little, first.

Aesthetics

Even by the 1860s photographic images were being changed or altered to fit the media’s—or politicians’—or anyone’s purpose through photo manipulation. Also, chemical and other hand-worked processes could be applied to a photograph to alter its appearance for purely aesthetic purposes…to make Art. Many people didn’t consider photography worthy of this distinction, not the least of which was Charles Baudelaire, the father of modern art criticism. In his Salon review of 1859, he leveled a scathing (and often humorous, at least to me) assessment of the ills and ruination that the ‘industry’ of photography was wreaking on “whatever might remain of the di­vine in the French mind.” In his commentary, he dictates that photography should “return to its true duty, which is to be the servant of the sciences and arts— but the very humble servant, like printing or shorthand, which have neither created nor supplemented literature.”

wilson house east millstone
The Wilson House in East Millstone, New Jersey – from a transfer by James T. Callahan. June 2012

So photography can neither create art nor add anything of value to it! This perception of the vacuous exactitude of photography, its perceived precision in rendering the world exactly how it appears, was prevalent at the time. In fact, many people today still consider this to be its primary ability. After all, a picture is reality, isn’t it? Nothing could be further from the truth. What Baudelaire seems to have missed, though, including the fact that he was looking for art and artists that could capture the true appearance and effects of the modern age, was that photography was the perfect medium to realize this quest. Virtually unlimited creative possibilities were inherent in photography from its discovery (in various forms), and talented  artists were already busy creating works that used its inherent properties and its ability to render the exact opposite of reality.

In fact, a photograph is a rendering of anything BUT reality. And that’s really important to the next aspect…

Expression

Photography has provided a means for artistic expression, for deep exploration of the subconscious, to visualize memories acted on by the imagination, and to image one’s passions and interests in a uniquely personal way since its introduction. John Herschel and Anna Atkins, the inventor and one of the earliest users of the Cyanotype process, respectively, were creating art through their passions, intellectual pursuits and interests. Later, the Pictorialist movement, led by Alfred Stieglitz, sought to (and did) raise photography to the status of high art, like the classical visual art forms of painting and sculpture. These mediums have long held the divine and preeminent status that Baudelaire adhered to so imperiously.

former bethlehem steel plant entrance gate
The old entrance gate at the former Bethlehem Steel Plant site in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

The cool thing about photography is you never know exactly what you will get. You can still come back home, process the pictures and see things you didn’t expect. It’s best when you’re not thinking too much. When I go out to make pictures I think a lot about wat I’m going to shoot while driving to the location; but once on the ground my eye guides me, and my subconscious is at work, which you can’t control. Its presence is latent in the images, and you’ll see that when start editing. It’s like magic and each new experience propels you forward to create more.

So, that is a summation (a very brief one for the purposes of keeping it short) of what I consider to be the foundational conceptual elements of photography as I’ve studied and practice it. It’s the combination of them that leads to a synthesis of ideas and propels your work forward. Of course, the physical and technical aspects—what photographic equipment you use, the techniques you apply, your workflow, your process—is an integral part of creating the work that only you can make. I love every aspect of my process, from beginning to end, and there are many parts. But it’s all exciting to me and it compels me to keep thinking, to keep creating compelling and engaging pictures.