No other photographer is more influential to me than Eliot Porter – save my father. I knew Eliot through my mother’s long collaboration with him designing and overseeing the production of over twelve of his books during my formative years. His influences on me are too numerous and wide-ranging to list them all here. A few stand out from the rest.
Eliot was a pioneer who elevated the use of, appreciation of, and collectability of color within the medium of photography, aligning his distinctive style with the subtle and complex palette of nature.
Eliot was probably the most widely published fine art photographer of his day. He was at the forefront of a handful of photographers that defined a style that would later characterize an entire genre of photographic environmental advocacy. It was during the production of Eliot’s book Intimate Landscapes where I was first introduced to digital imaging. When I saw the Scitex machines used in the 1970s I instantly wanted to use them for artistic rather than commercial purposes, but thought it might be a lifetime before I could afford what my mother called a “million dollar coloring book” until I got my own copy of the first version of Adobe Photoshop, which was a dream come true. The posters my mother designed to promote the book and exhibit ultimately became some of the Metropolitan Museum’s most successful, far exceeding the reach of the originals. I learned that an artist’s effectiveness could be dramatically extended beyond rare original works of art through publications made available to large audiences.
James Gleick’s (the author who popularized complexity sciences and fractal geometry in his best-selling book Chaos) choice to join forces with Eliot on their book Nature’s Chaos confirmed my opinion that Eliot had intuitively sensed a deeper order in nature than was conventionally seen and portrayed this in his images. Eliot’s background and continuing interest in the sciences informed his art.
Eliot described his book The Place No One Knew, a portrait of Glen Canyon before it was flooded by a dam, as a eulogy because it was released after the flood waters began rising and affected public opinion too late to stop the destruction of the canyon’s destruction. Hearing about both the successes and failures of advocacy through the arts, I decided that while I wanted to make my own contributions in this area, that there were plenty of other artists contributing in similar ways, and that new ways were also needed. He knew this when he threw down the gauntlet one day and said to me, “You know, it’s going to be your generation that decides whether we will hand down a habitable environment to future generations.”
Even more influential to me than his photographs was the man. In his 70’s and 80’s, Eliot was physically fit (walking 5 miles a day), adventurous (travelling to remote locations like Iceland and Antarctica), mentally sharp as a tack (loving intelligent respectful debates with anyone of any age or background and often playing the devil’s advocate just to see where the conversation and the other person would go), and actively socially conscientious (continuing his long-standing participation in organizations like the Sierra Club. He was a shining example in so many ways.
Find out more about my influences here.
People keep asking Seth Resnick and I why we keep returning to Antarctica.
We’ve made four trips and every trip was different. We visit new locations; there are over 40 locations cruises land at and with each visit we get to visit an average of 12. The ice conditions are always different; one month can make a big difference. Surprisingly, the thing that we’ve found makes the biggest difference is the weather, which affects the light dramatically. We saw riotous colors during four hour long sunsets on our 2005 Peninsula trip and “nights” where the sun only skims the horizon but never truly sets south of the Antarctic circle in 2009. Every time we go, we keep wondering how much more could there be to see and how different could the conditions be and every time we’re surprised that we discover so much more and that locations we know look so different. Each voyage has had an entirely unique character.
The two most sublime landscape experiences I’ve ever had were at Sossusvlei, Namibia and in Antarctica’s The Gullet. The Gullet was the remotest, purest, whitest experience I’ve ever had. It felt like being in a frozen heaven. Quietly cruising on mirror calm waters through the dramatic mountains of Crystal Bay to find the narrow channel through The Gullet (like seeing clouds cascade off high peaks to touch the water and be frozen in place) and through to Margueritte Bay lit up by endless hours of midnight color was one of the most beautiful 24 hours of my life. Many of us didn’t sleep that ‘night’ because we didn’t want to miss anything. We knew while we were there that few people on earth had ever had an experience similar to the one we were having.”
See more images from Antarctica’s The Gullet here.
There are still a few spaces available in our Antarctica 2013 workshop.
Email me at jpc@digitalphotodestinations if you’d like to join us.
My new free screensaver features images and facts on Antarctica.
Download it here.
Antarctica is stunningly beautiful! Explorer Roald Amundsen said, “The land looks like a fairytale.” The coldest, windiest, driest, highest, most isolated continent contains 90% of earth’s ice and 70% of its fresh water, regulating global climate and sea levels.
Learn more about Antarctica here.
Preview my book Antarctica here.
View my Antarctica alumni’s work here.
Find out about my 2013 Antarctica workshop in the Wedell Sea.
Having developed an international reputation for creating altered photographs with ecological concerns, in Antarctica I became interested in creating an editorial (relatively unaltered) body of work to compare and contrast these two modes of perception and expression. In particular, I was interested in seeing which mode of expression could be most effective for environmental advocacy, if this varies with the context they are presented in, and if they can strengthen each other.
I started using Photoshop 1 as an artist in residence at Kodak’s Center for Creative Imaging. I beta-tested Lightroom 1. I’ve used every version of Photoshop and Lightroom since their initial release. (Lightroom 1 was released during my second voyage to Antarctica.)
Compared to Photoshop’s capabilities, Lightroom’s capabilities are limited. Because the nature of my first Antarctica project was editorial, I was interested in working within stricter limits and Lightroom’s limits fit those. Lightroom also offered the promise of greater organizational capabilities and productivity, which was very useful while handling a high volume of images made on an extended voyage. Lightroom delivered.
Lightroom not only streamlined up my workflow and accelerated my productivity, it also helped me develop my projects conceptually by making it easier to find and organize patterns of thought and create continuities for their presentation. Collecting, comparing, selecting and sequencing images becomes much easier, and this in turn aids more sophisticated storytelling.
Lightroom helps me see my images better. It offers four ways to view your images: Loupe, Compare, Survey and Grid. Moving in and out of these views helps you see your images better both solo and in relationship to each other. Lightroom’s Collections are equally essential for seeing, creating, and refining relationships between images. With Collections I can easily group like images from multiple folders and hard drives, assessing relative strengths and weaknesses, identifying patterns of thought, and creating sequences to advance a story fluidly. Changing how you see your images changes what you see in your images. How you see your images is important. I can think of few things that are as important.
My Antarctica project and Lightroom brought me back to basics. This shift in focus encouraged me to further strengthen both my camera skills and my storytelling practices, and consequently my vision as a whole. This opened new avenues of discovery encouraging me to think about still images even more cinematically.
You can learn more about my Antarctica project – view images in galleries and slideshows, preview books, download screensavers, find facts about the region, read blog entries made live on site, and much more at www.johnpaulcaponigro/antarctica.com.
Sign up for my Antarctica digital photography workshops here.
Sign up for my Antarctica 2013 digital photography workshop by emailing email@example.com.
I’ll be presenting a free lecture sponsored by Canon tonight at 7pm hosted by the Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota.
In this two hour event I’ll present a set of separate lectures including an extended version of my TED talk You’re More Creative Than You Think You Are (above).
Find out more about the event here.
Learn more in my workshop Illuminating Creativity.
Discover fascinating facts about Antarctica.
Furthest south, coldest, windiest, highest, most isolated continent barely begins to describe this exotic region.
Find more Antarctica facts here.
Find out about my Antarctica digital photography workshops here.
Here’s a collection of panoramas from my 2011 Antarctica Voyage.
Read daily posts from my 2011 Antarctica Voyage here.
Find out about upcoming Antarctica digital photography workshops here. Read More
Here’s a collection of new images from my 2011 Antarctica Voyage.
Read daily posts from my 2011 Antarctica Voyage here.
Find out about upcoming Antarctica digital photography workshops here.
Our Antarctic alumni have produced some pretty impressive images and done some very fine things with them!
Find out about their images, projects, and stories in this series of posts.