Monday, June 11, 2007
Pete Turner - Carried By Color
After pioneering analog color techniques in the 1950s and 1960s, Pete Turner has turned his attention to working with digital technology to create his most visually captivating images yet
“Today, I do most of my retouching myself, but when I have an image that presents special problems, I work with a wonderful digital artist, Mark Doyle of Autumn Color,” says Turner. “In the past, photographers who worked in color were forced to outsource their images to make a print, whereas photographers working in black-and-white printed on-site in their studios. For any photographer/artist, the end result is to make a picture you can look at on the wall. There was a period when digital prints weren't light-stable. Today, they have a life expectancy that rivals anything out there. Ultimately, I want to see what the work looks like printed big; it's so easy to do now with the Epson 2200 printer or 7600—they're just wonderful. It's a thrill to be able to pull a big print and to see things you just don't see small. It's mind-boggling—I've never seen blues like Epson blues.
“The digital learning curve keeps things exciting for everyone. The moment you think you know everything, there's a new application, a new upgrade, a better printer, and then you have to start learning all over again. Although I still use System 9.2 on my Macintosh for certain older applications where it makes sense, I'm running System 10 on my newer G4. I replace my computer system approximately every 18 months. Digitally, I have to be my own mechanic; that means it takes a couple of weeks on the phone with friends, assistants and Apple to apply all the existing applications into our new computer and get the new machine up and running.”
As Turner digitizes and prints his iconic archives, he finds that making photography is about trusting your instincts and your own taste. “Sure, I work with color levels and curves, hue and saturation, but I don't actively do photo composition on my system.”
In a field crowded with imitators, Turner simplifies. At a time when Photoshop allows photographers to push color saturation off the scale, his recent series of digital images from Mexico have a decidedly painterly palette.
“I just took a digital camera to Hawaii over Christmas and got interested in Japanese koi fish,” he says. “The transition between my Nikon F5 and the Nikon D1x was virtually seamless. The machines are basically the same. In fact, when I use film, I wonder sometimes why there isn't an LCD on the camera back. For me, the digital camera isn't very different from film. The thinking is the same—keep it simple; concentrate on the image.
“The other side of digital photography that drives everybody nuts is that you end up with a numeric system of image organization. In the old days, I just labeled slide boxes. But digital images are numbered and coded when they come out of the camera and put in folders. How do you visualize a code number? Sure, you bring them up on the screen, but it's totally different from putting them out on a real light box. The digital process is double-edged in that the volume of work a photographer can create is enormous, but if he isn't editing himself as he goes along, he's setting himself up for tedium when he downloads and archives his images.”
Whether it's the combination of chemistry and optics, or the application of digital photography and printing, color for Turner is still about what visually excites him in describing his images.
When one of Turner's mentors, Ernst Haas, said, “Photography is a bridge between science and art,” he could've been describing the foundation of Turner's innovative digital process. And his use of color? Turner still doesn't think about it. “Ernst said, ‘Color is joy. One doesn't think color. One is carried by it.'”
To see more of Pete Turner's photography, visit his website at www.peteturner.com.
Page 3 of 3