Monday, June 11, 2007
Art Wolfe - Master Of Illusion
World-renowned nature photographer Art Wolfe is moving in a new digital direction
“What I'm trying to do with this body of work is have people take a look at an image a second and third time to figure it out,” says Wolfe. “That's what any artist would want his or her audience to do; stay a little longer with it. When it's a pretty simple photograph, you may spend all of one second before moving on. It becomes a little too staid. I'm trying not just to replicate what has already been done, and it's a tough thing to do in this world. So I try to give it a painterly feel, an artistic feel, a romantic feel.
“I've always been interested in textures and designs and patterns and color,” he continues. “And with a lot of the urban stuff, that's what you've got. You have a lot more textures and colors and angles, so it's really rich material to work with. I look at myself as a generalist, really, and any subject is worthy of a shot if it's artistic and it's got some sort of intrigue to it.”
On his new urban journey, Wolfe brings along skills from his three decades as a nature specialist, and he expects this project will eventually pay dividends when he returns to the wilderness.
“The more open your mind is to all the different subjects that are out there, you can't help but become a more sensitive recorder of what's out there,” he says. “Don't limit your imagination. How many times can you shoot the same subject before it becomes boring, not only to you, but to the people who actually look at your work?
“The one thing I gained over the years shooting wildlife is instinctively reacting fast,” he continues. “If you don't, the animal is gone. And certainly, with people entering and leaving the frame, some of the best shots are those where I've just grabbed fast because I saw the potential, I sized it up, I seized it and I got it. And that came directly from shooting animals for so many years. Much of it is the same. It's looking at the composition, simplifying it and bringing order out of chaos.”
In the chaos of the ever-changing digital landscape, Wolfe has spent the last several years remaining patient. He didn't jump headfirst into any technological whim, preferring instead to wait until the time was right for both his artistic pursuits as well as his business needs.
“I waited until the technology was such that I wasn't surrendering any quality,” he says. “And certainly, it's true now with the Canon 1Ds. The quality of the image is every bit as good as any slide I've seen reproduced. So that was the right time for me to jump.”
The jump to a new system—using a CCD in lieu of transparency film—meant learning the ins and outs of new equipment. For Wolfe, the transition wasn't too difficult. He quickly learned to enjoy the side effects that come from being digital.
“I found it very seamless,” he says of the transition to a digital SLR. “The actual taking of the picture is easy because the camera feels like the old film camera. The ability to confirm an image is nice, and certainly the histograms help in looking at the contrast or exposure. That was very fast for me, and I'm not a real technical guy, yet I found it easy to take the photos.
“I tend to shoot less because I see the results right away,” he says of the digital SLR. “I'm less compelled to shoot multiples and multiples and multiples. I may shoot three shots of each subject, and if they look good enough, then there's no reason to shoot more.”
While the details may be different, the digital camera hasn't affected Wolfe's principal shooting methodology. He has always prepared extensively for his photographic expeditions, and this long-term urban project will be no different.
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