The Fine Art Of Fine Photography: Three Photographers Creating Art
(450 BC - 388 BC)
The new year is a good time for a creative rebirth, so instead of trotting out all of those same old New Year’s resolutions why not try something to help you grow as a photographer? A few years ago I created an online gallery called “2011 Photo of the Day,” which was one of the hardest things I ever tried yet at the same time was rewarding because the commitment forced me to make a new image every day, even when I didn’t feel like it. Last October I introduced you to four photographers and their individual approaches to producing a photograph-a-day blog. If you missed it, you can read it on Shutterbug’s website. This year, I resolved to try a photo-a-day project in 2012 using the free Tumblr (www.tumblr.com) platform so there’s no excuse that you can’t do the same thing. If you follow me on Tumblr (http://joefarace.tumblr.com), I’ll follow you back so we can see how each of us does during the year.
When you land on Harold Ross’s website it’s like bang, zoom. Using a screen-filling format that’s become somewhat popular (and that especially suits Ross’s work) it lets you immerse yourself in his images and, believe me, that’s what you’ll want to do. Ross collects his work in five galleries, including Night, where he takes you into the forest (you guessed it) at night creating magical images full of color, detail, and most surprisingly of all—light. These photographs will change the way you think of “a walk in the woods.” Ross’s forests are full of mysterious trees and, even though you can’t see them, woodland fairies.
In Shopcraft, Ross does what he did for the forest by taking you into unique shops, many of which you thought only existed in your imagination. He also shows you around garages, exploring bits of ephemera that have been artfully arranged by happenstance to create images out of space and time. The Forged gallery gets you closer to the Shopcraft world by looking at individual pieces of hardware, all painted with light, to produce something that’s greater than the sum of the parts. A small crescent wrench leaning against a large bolt seems more like something you’d find in Ollivanders Wand Shop than on a Mac Tools truck. This series is similar to Ross’s take on Still Life, featuring the inevitable bits of fruit and cloth, but through his virtuoso light painting techniques imbues them with a Renaissance glow that makes them seem like they should be hanging in the Rijksmuseum, not staring at you on a computer monitor.
Keeping the Shopcraft theme going, Ross has a gallery titled Oil Cans that are lovingly photographed as if they are priceless objets d’art and once you see them you’ll agree; that’s what they are. Discovering the work of Harold Ross is one of the most exciting things that’s happened to me since starting this column and I couldn’t wait to share this to help inspire you to never, never overlook the mundane as a creative possibility, because it’s all about light as his images plainly teach us.
John Slemp photographs planes and the aviators who fly them and his artistic endeavors are housed in a website that’s as versatile and as much fun to navigate as the aircraft his images celebrate. His photographs are collected in five galleries starting with Aviation Fine Art; clicking a thumbnail takes you to a large image that can be supersized, allowing you to appreciate the quality and intricate detail that many of the images contain. Slemp is clearly in love with his subject matter and it shows in his affectionate depiction of all kinds of planes.
But you don’t have to know the difference between a Piper Seminole and a P-51 Mustang to enjoy these photographs. These are the kinds of Industrial Art images that were created by Margaret Bourke-White and can be enjoyed for their shape and design as well as the sheer artfulness of Slemp’s photography. Clicking an “i” icon produces caption data and also shows the reason for the exquisite detail in some of the images—they were shot on 8x10 film!
In Faces of Aviation Slemp applies his considerable talents to photographing aviation pioneers using a combination of toned monochrome images and straightforward color imagery to tell stories such as his group portrait of female pilots who were part of WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots). Their faces show the strength and dignity of women who flew support missions during WWII. Military Aircraft contains his photographs of historic and contemporary war birds, including an A-10 Thunderbolt with a paint scheme honoring Claire Chennault’s Flying Tigers. John Slemp conducts affordable ($50) workshops at fly-ins such as the Triple Tree Fly-In (www.tripletreeaerodrome.com/triple-tree-fly-in.php) in South Carolina.
The Blog-of-the-Month is from Brett Simison, an editorial, commercial, and fine art photographer based in Vermont. It’s a textbook example of what a professional photographer’s blog should look and feel like. Its classically simple design is attractive and serves as a showcase for Simison’s images, which run the gamut from fine art to commercial shoots, such as the above-the-call-of-duty group photograph of the Middlebury College Women’s Cross-Country Team that looks as if it was shot with as much care and precision as if it were for Sports Illustrated.
Simison obviously cares about what he does and it shows in the way he approaches his fine art work, too. His blog post for “Tree in Lake Pleiad, Hancock, Vermont” contains all of the technical details that any photo geek could ask for—it was shot on black-and-white 4x5 sheet film—but the image itself is elegantly simple and beautifully crafted, demonstrating that there is poetry in the simple things around us as well as demonstrating the huge amount of talent that Simison brings to his work. His color blog post “Phone Booth and Full Moon, Ripton, Vermont” shows a late winter moon rising above a telephone booth. A telephone booth! Yet Simison’s control of craft and unswerving eye for capturing beauty in even the most mundane subjects show that, yes indeed, there are great photo ops all around us if we just take the time to look. Brett Simison not only looks but also brings his technical mastery to bear on what he photographs, crafting images that make this photoblog far, far above the ordinary.