Amanda Mason | Three Questions

Amanda Mason was the Juror’s Award Winner for our exhibition “Flawed” juried by Michael Kirchoff.

How did you come to photography?

When I first read this question, I was thinking of answers like how I fell in love with the darkroom in high school (which I did), and how I went on pursue Design and Photography Art School etc to pursue my love, all of which is true, but I am simply drawn to photography over other art mediums. I have always been esoterically drawn to the medium for the ‘magic’ of it. By magic I mean the feeling I get when a photograph just ‘works’. When it is just ‘right’. The mood, the idea, the light, the composition… When the elements all work and speak to each other in the way you envisioned, when it captures your feeling or the situation perfectly. That it feels like the image came from somewhere other than you. I am addicted to that feeling. It is not always about technical ability or equipment. It is about feeling. This is why I continue to use photography as my artistic medium over others. Photography has a unique ability to capture minute moments in time and stir up emotional responses effortlessly, both dark and light. 
 
I recently inherited a box of photographs from my deceased grandfather, who was apparently a very accomplished photographer, so my other theory is that it is simply in my blood.
Amanda Mason / Falling / Juror's Selection

Can you tell us about your images?

I am deeply inspired by story telling, by narrative, and create tiny ideas within images. I try to shoot stories, or a sense that my images are a small part of a much larger narrative. I love that viewers make up their own interpretation. My images are mostly cathartic and nostalgic. My emotional responses to things that are happening around me, memories, messages. I love using symbolism to try to tell the story, so often my photographs are littered with objects or symbols that allegorically represent what I am trying to work through. I shoot almost exclusively film, and mostly Polaroid or Impossible Project films, as they bring to life the dreamscape and otherworldly qualities that just capture what I am thinking when I picture the end result.

What is it about instant film that that gives it more emotive qualities for you over digital?

Instant film is not perfect, It has flaws, glitches, unexpected flares, a softness and other random results that can work for or against you. The nature of the film creates an image that doesn’t exist in reality, it feels like a dream, or nostalgic, or more surreal. I adore these qualities, and love the unexpected results that happen. It works for the images that I create, and build poetic expression. Of course you can achieve similar results with post processing these days, but I never feel like they have the same soul. And it takes a lot of time and great retouching skills to achieve.

Carol Erb | Three Questions

Carol Erb was the Co – Juror’s Award Winner for our exhibition “Water” along with Mark Hopkins.  S Gayle Stevens was the Juror for “Water.”

How did you come to photography?

My first experience with photography was a class in high school some 40 years ago. I continued with a few classes in college, but felt that traditional black and white film photography was just too limiting for the type of images I felt inspired to create, so I concentrated on drawing, painting and printmaking.
I left art school after two years to finish a degree in finance and subsequently worked in the corporate world for 15 years. After moving to California with my husband in 1999, I returned to drawing and painting as a hobby.
In 2012, I saw an exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles called “Digital Darkroom”, which showcased the work of several artists who were pushing the limits of digital photography. That exhibit made a huge impression on me. I immediately bought a digital SLR camera and taught myself Photoshop using online instructional videos. At first, I made images just for the fun of it. Last year I started to get serious about my imagery, entering juried shows and going to portfolio reviews.
Carol Erb / Adrift / Jurors Award

Can You tell us about your image?

Adrift was created especially for the “Water” show at the A. Smith Gallery. I really enjoy using call for entry themes to make new images. The background photograph was shot from a ship in Alaska on a day when I thought that the water had a surreal, dreamy quality to it. The image had been siting in a file for over a year, waiting for inspiration to strike. Next, I tried layering several different boat images onto the water, settling on this red one because of the color contrast to the water, the peeling paint, and the angle at which it was shot. After adding a shadow to the boat, I used the Photoshop paintbrush tool to add clouds. The title came to me after I made the image, and I think it pretty much sums up the mood of the piece. I believe this image works as a metaphor for what most everyone feels at some time in their life.

As an artist, how significant of a role does Photoshop play in your work?

Photoshop is essential to my image making. There are a lot of photographers out there that eschew digital manipulation, or only use it to fine tune an image. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for that type of work, and in fact I own many fine art photographs made using traditional methods.  My own approach to image making comes from my background as a painter. I want to create something that does not exist in the real world.

Postcript:  This is Kevin speaking, as a painter also I connect strongly with Carol’s approach to making pictures. Photography is many things, and, is a different, nuanced art form depending on which photographer one is talking to.  The making of compelling images is a goal that transcends disciplines and unites artists regardless of medium.  Amanda’s vision for the gallery and the exhibitions is encapsulated in her statement at the end of each call for entry — “Creativity is encouraged.”  Onward.

 

Hall Puckett | Three Questions

Hall was the Juror’s Award Winner for our exhibition “Open.”  The Juror was Dan Burkholder.

How did you come to photography?

The first thing that really sparked my interest was Life magazine in the 60’s. I would come home from school, get a king sized bottle coke, and kick back in the naugahyde lounger and devour the latest issue. I also really enjoyed looking at old family albums being particularly drawn to how sharp some of them were compared to others. I started working as a photographer in 1979 and would like to say “it’s been downhill ever since”, but I won’t, ’cause it wasn’t.

Hall Puckett / Yearning / Juror's Award

Can you tell us about your images?

I noticed one day that an awful lot of my favorite images I have taken over my lifetime involved water in some form or fashion. My water portraits are a more direct approach to that realization.

Hall, as a professional photographer could you chime in on the analog/digital debate?

When I started out I went out and took a picture with a 35mm camera usually with film never exceeding 400ASA. I then went into the darkroom and “made” a photograph. I got what I wanted as much by happy accident as by a scientific approach to the exposure/development correlation. This changed over time to a certain degree. While I personally considered my skills in the darkroom to exceed or at least be equal to anyone I always found that when making a print that involved a lot of manipulation it was difficult to make more than one exactly the same.

Now, as a commercial photographer, I shoot exclusively in the digital format. While I still hold on to my old 4×5 and have film in the freezer waiting for the affordable return of polaroid, I find that modern technology far exceeds the capability of 35mm Plus X film. Now I go out and take a picture with a DSLR and then I go back to the computer and “make” a photograph. Sometimes it’s what came straight from what I shot. Other times I “burn and dodge” in the same ways I did in the darkroom. The magic being in that once I get it like I want it I can reproduce it exactly forever. The other thing about the new technology is that many modern cameras are now able to capture things in light so low we can barely see it ourselves. How cool is that?

Steve Stokan | Three Questions

Steve was the Juror’s Award Winner for our exhibition “abstractions.”  Eddie Soloway was the Juror.

How did you come to photography?

I am formally trained as a graphic designer and was employed in the advertising industry for 20 years. I began my involvement with digital photography in 1991, while shooting product photography for a variety of clients. Although my roots were commercial in nature, I now use the camera as an artistic tool. Photography is my creative outlet. It is my way of expressing myself to the world. I’ve tried other artistic mediums (painting, drawing, etc.) but found the process of using those materials too slow and tedious. The camera allows me to simplify the artistic process and be more productive.

Steve Stokan / Glow / Jurors Award

Can you tell us about your images?

Aqua Nocturna is a project created entirely with an iPhone and Hipstamatic app. Therapeutic in nature, this series began the night I buried my father. After the funeral, the family gathered at my sister’s house. Many of us turned to the backyard pool to relax and unwind from an emotional day. Water is the source of life. It has the power to sustain, comfort and heal. These ghostlike figures represent the spirit. Although the body may perish, I believe the spirit continues within the next generation. My goal was to capture that spirit, and bear witness to the healing power of water.

Because of your graphic design background do you see the making of a photograph as a design problem?

I hadn’t really thought of it that way, but now that you mention it, I guess so. There are parallels between the two, solving the “problem” of composition being paramount. However since I approach photography as a fine art (vs. commercial design), the challenge doesn’t come from a client, the challenge comes from within me. In many ways, this makes the problem more difficult to solve. I oftentimes don’t understand what I’m trying to say at first. But the longer I work on a project, the easier it is for me to see “the big picture” I’m trying to get at.

Mark Hopkins | Three Questions

Hi there, this is Kevin, the other Gallery Director here at A Smith Gallery.  I was given the task of keeping the blog portion of the website going about a year ago.  However, because of us having to move and other things out of my control (sounds pretty good to me — Amanda isn’t buying it either) I am just now getting around to it.  I promise to do better.

This is going to be the first of my catch-up posts.  I apologize to Mark and all the other recent Juror’s Award Winners for my tardiness.  The following are the three questions we ask our winners.

Mark Hopkins / The Lull / Jurors Award

Mark Hopkins was the co-winner along with Carol Erb of the Juror’s Award for our exhibition “water” juried by S Gayle Stevens.  Mark’s image was especially compelling to me because I grew up fishing on the Texas Gulf Coast.  He captured that moment of absolute serenity on certain calm fishing days of my childhood, when the cork would slowly drift, waiting, and along with the gentle movement of the boat, could induce an almost hypnotic languor.  A pretty remarkable circumstance for a kid with ADD.

Mark how did you come to photography?

I bought a digital camera in 2004 at age 72 and got fascinated with the control that it and PhotoShop afforded. Before that, cameras were just things to take along on trips. Trying to do good stuff has been my freetime goal ever since.

Can you tell us about your images?

My primary aim is to capture closeups of forms in nature. This has covered everything from rock formations to vegetation to water reflections to window frost.

Mark, could you tell us a little bit about your life before camera and how life with camera has affected or influenced your view of the world or how you look at it?

Life before ‘camera’ involved mostly reveling at the enticing visual aspects of everyday life and not wanting to have a camera between me and those images. Life after ‘camera’ has delivered the satisfaction of being able to share that fascination with others.

 

 

 

Thanks for the Prayer Flags….

The Tibetan tradition of hanging prayer flags began more than two thousand years ago.  The prayers, invocations and mantras imprinted on them were thought to carry on the winds, to the surroundings and all that passed under them, happiness, peace, wisdom, strength, long life and compassion. In commemoration of World Cyanotype Day, founded by Judy Sherrod, we, with Judy’s help, sent out the call for cyanotype prayer flags to hang in the gallery for the celebration. The response was tremendous. We received flags from all around the country and the UK.  It truly was a blessing to have the incredibly creative and evocative cyanotype creations hanging in our new space.  We want to thank all the artists that have given our new home this blessed beginning.  Thank you: Shari Rhode Trennert, Mariana Bartolomeo,  Barbara Murray, Vicky Stromee, Margo Barnes, Paula Riff, Sandra Klein. Pat Brown, Amy Jasek, Michelle Lewis-Smith, Ann George, Heather Pyles, Kimberly Chiaris, Aubrey Guthrie, Donna Moore, S Gayle Stevens, Jackie Stoken, Johnny Powers, Valerie Burke, Mel Levin, Ky Lewis and the students of Niall Hunter at South Hampstead High School in London, England.

“family” reception in new digs……

The first reception at A Smith Gallery in our new space was Saturday evening, July 25, 2015. It was a fantastic evening, thanks to everyone for sending us the good energy. Thanks to Al and Kay Pratt of Lady Bird Lane Cafe for gifting us the wonderful victuals. Thanks to, the ever-friend, the indefatigable Aubrey Guthrie II for helping us get up and running. Thanks to Sandra Klein for the surprise champagne. Thanks to Steve Goff and Beckwith Thompson for sending energized young photographers out into the world. Life is good. We are honored and humbled by all the talented and generous artists out there allowing us to march in this parade with you.

“travel” reception April 25, 2015

“blue” receptions April 28 and March 28, 2015

Ray Collins Questions

Ray Collins is a miner and an amazing photographer of the oceans topography.  Arthur Meyerson, juror of our recent exhibition “blue”, gave Ray his Juror’s Award for three of his seascapes.  Ray has won many awards and accolades and was recently a short listed finalist for the prestigious Smithsonian Annual Photo Contest.  It is hard to peruse social media these days without coming across Ray’s work.  The following are three questions Kevin posed to Ray concerning his images.

Ray you certainly have made a splash in the photography world recently.  Forgive the pun.  Your images are being admired and debated all over social media and elsewhere. The four we had up in the last exhibition, “water,” were some of the most discussed we have ever hung.   Could you please give us a little background and some insight into your process?

Basically, the image you see is the final link in a chain of events…

I spend hours, days or even weeks and months pouring over weather maps, checking storms, tides, wind, swell, temperature and light. From there I correlate all the information and see where along the coastline my best chances of dynamic waves will be. Most places aren’t user friendly and can often require scaling down cliffs along some treacherous coastlines to reach offshore reefs, usually in the dark so I can make the most of the golden morning light.

Having a heavy pro body camera inside a water housing with a prime telephoto lens can get very heavy at times and as the ocean is pulling and pushing you into and under the waves you have to then focus, compose, adjust shutterspeed, aperture and iso all while staying a float and out of danger, it can often all come unstuck…

But you have seen the end result.

And as long as I draw breath I will continue to push my own boundaries of image making.

Ray Collins / Blue Hook / Juror's Award

 

Ray, I understand that you used to be a coal miner.  Your photographs capture light emanating through and reflecting on water, transforming a wave into a prismatic solid on paper — a fixed phenomenon; no longer transitory or fleeting.  Did your time underground in a world void of natural light inform or influence your photography?

Still am a coal miner in fact! I want to freeze the ephemeral. I want to show my relationship with the ocean as it is all I have ever known. I feel an intimacy when I am immersed and I want to show that. I’m not sure there is a direct parallel between coalmining and ocean photography, but in saying that… The photos have me woven through them, my interpretation, myself, and I’ve been working 12hr shifts underground for 12 years now so that has influenced me as a human and most probably transferred into the images I make. It would be cool to see a parallel universe of what my images would look like if I never worked in the mines, how different they might be. But tearing my knee at work underground in 2007 is what led me to buying my first camera so it’s an impossibility.

Ray Collins / Oil / Juror's Award

 

I know that you are a surfer, as someone that briefly dabbled at surfing as a young man, the two things that I took away from attempting to ride waves was the understanding of the raw power of moving water and the undeniable rhythm and cadence of breaking surf.  Your photographs render the ocean beautifully static and solid.  Is there something of rock here or am I overanalyzing? 

That’s the beauty of art isn’t it, the interpretation that we each bring to an image. The way it makes us feel and the way it makes us draw from ourselves, our experiences and our understanding of life.

Ray Collins / Fang / Juror's Award

Check out   Ray Collins on YouTube