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Wherever I go I explore the world visually with a camera. Sometimes this is during a walk. Sometimes this is during a workshop. Other times it’s while I’m making a body of work. You might think it distracting to think about one thing while you’re doing another but I find that working on two different ideas at the same time often leads to a fertile cross-pollination. I find new ideas this way.

Of course, you’ve got to stay flexible. Recently, while I was leading a photography workshop in Maine’s Acadia National Park I went looking for the cairns so many visitors leave behind. I don’t like them in public lands, because when I go there I want to be able to experience the land uninterpreted. Still, I appreciate the playful contact people have with the land when they make cairns. So to work on my ambivalence I started making art out of the cairns. But this time, they weren’t there. I was pleasantly surprised and a little disappointed, which also surprised me. So I started to make my own cairns to photograph, intending to scatter them before I left, and never got to it because the first two stones I picked up were all I needed that day. The relationships between them and their environment were much richer than I expected. It felt like arranging still lifes, which I did for hours – and I’m sure I’ll do it again.

These studies relate to my series Alignment.

View my Maine Cairns studies here.

View my studies of Maine Artists here.

View more studies of Maine here.

Find out about my Maine fall photography workshop here.

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For years I’ve used my iPhone as a sketchbook to play, make images more spontaneously, and explore ideas. I’ve always been fascinated by how the tools we use change our perception. Yet, knowing it wasn’t the tool that made the difference between a study and a finished work, I’d been challenging myself to create a series of images with my iPhone that had as much depth of content and feeling as the images I’ve made with cameras that make higher quality files. Land In Land is the first series I’ve done this with. Here’s a quick look at how it developed.

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I knew I was onto something when I saw this first image in New Zealand.

I got confirmation that the idea could be sustained with this second image.

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I found that meaningful variations could be found in other locations like California.

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This process of discovery was repeatable in Utah.

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This new way of seeing finally became intuitive for me, leading to increased productivity in Spain.

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My mother (an artist, a picture editor, a designer) has an exceptional eye. When she asked for a print of this last image and hung it near a prized Tibetan tanka, it was confirmation for me that I’d achieved a real depth that carries through to others.

View the suite of images from Maine here.

View the video here.

Listen to the statement here.

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Kenneth Nolan

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Eliot Porter

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Alan Bray

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Wolf Kahn

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Alex Katz

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Lois Dodd

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Dahlov Ipcar

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Jamie Wyeth

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Andrew Wyeth

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Louise Nevelson

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Eric Hopkins

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Fairfield Porter

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Alan Magee

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Robert Indiana

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Peter Ralston

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Paul Caponigro

For years I’ve been photographing postcards of artworks made by master artists in Maine. Each artist has their own strong connection to the same place and their own way of seeing it. Do they find what’s iconic about Maine or do they make it iconic? Photographing images of their works in locations that feel relevant to their works provides a unique way of looking into Maine, what they make of it, and what I make of it.

View more studies here.

Find out about my Maine Fall Foliage photography workshop.

 

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See new images from Spain and Portugal in my social networks.

Instagram

Facebook

Twitter

View new prints during my 2018 Open Studio event.

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Two of my recent studies (experiments made and processed entirely on an iPhone) combine historical photographs with contemporary exposures.

Exposures for Antarctica Now & Then were made at Whaler’s Bay, Antarctica on the active volcano Deception Island.

View more here.

Exposures for Greenland Now & Then were made in the East Greenland village of Ittoqqortoormiit.

View more here.

I’ve been wondering if there was any connection between these explorations and the work that was foremost on my mind during these voyages.

At first glance we seem to make many unrelated images, but often it’s just a matter of finding the connections. Sometimes we find the connections between what we were thinking and feeling while we are having the experience; sometimes we find the connections long after; sometimes we never find them. At the very least, doing one thing provides a rejuvenating break from the other. There’s usually more going on than we are consciously aware of.

What connections have I found? I was looking into the spirit of the land in these locations and these two experiences provided stark contrasts to that sensibility. People concerned with the spirit of a place wouldn’t kill whales in the way they were slaughtered in Antarctica; thankfully this activity has stopped. That bygone members of Greenland’s indigenous population had a stronger sense of the spirt of the place and practices for interacting with it than the quickly westernizing current members do was made evident in the art they left behind. Was my experience limited by my cultural inheritance and current circumstances? Could I, a westerner living today, also participate in more sacred ways of relating to the earth? I think so.

The finished images I produced on these trips, for my series Revelation, are evidence of this.

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Find out about my exhibit New Work 2016 here.

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It’s worth seeing these images at larger scale here.

“Many writings on creativity stress the value of play and experimentation. Using techniques such as multiple exposure, camera movement, layering and compositing, this series improvises on the traditional landscape.

Elements of water, stone, forest and sky become counterpoints in much the same way as a jazz musician improvises on the melody. The music is transformed but the underlying chords remain recognisable.

So with Improvised Landscapes the basic patterns, textures and forms of nature are visible yet blend in a web of inter-connectedness.

As Bill Evans said, ‘It bugs me when people try to analyse jazz as a theorem. It’s not. It’s a feeling’.

I believe the same is true of photography.” – Olaf Willoughby

See more of Olaf Willoughby’s photography here.

Find out about his Lightdance workshops here.

Read more Alumni Success Stories here.


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