Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Rob Van Petten - Master Of The Near Future
Hyperreality meets science-fantasy in Rob Van Petten’s striking imagery
Before being able to conceive and create such whimsical imagery, Van Petten had to master and become very comfortable with the new tools. When photographic technology went digital, he became completely reenergized as a photographer. “When I made my first digital print, it changed my life because up to that point, I had always been a darkroom chemical guy,” he recalls. “In early 1997, The Boston Globe wanted me to photograph the clothes that were used in the film Evita. I had one day to do the shoot and I had to deliver a print overnight. I bought an Epson printer, and the very first print I made—right out of the box—was beautiful. Right then and there, my life changed. I had figured out how to optimize that little printer. As newer printers were released, I continued to upgrade. Since then, I’ve never returned to the darkroom.”
Van Petten may periodically tweak an image after it’s done, but that’s not common. Instead, he usually prefers to work an image to completion and walks away from it to embark on the next. “Once an image has been published or is on my site, I let it live that way,” he says. “For those images that haven’t been published or posted online, I may occasionally enhance a few. To be honest, I’m hungrier for the next shot than what I’ve shot before. After I’ve spent an hour or two on an image, I’ve grown bored with it and am ready to move on to the next evolution. I remain eager to get back into the studio and work on the next shot.”
Van Petten has much to share on education in photography today, serving as the Co-Director of Photography of the Center for Digital Imaging Arts (CDIA) at Boston University. Van Petten, Chris Alvanas and original chair and mentor Cary Wolinsky from National Geographic, along with Executive Director Bob Daniels, have created an intense program. Aspiring young photographers can choose to study in the program rather than spend many years assisting a pro photographer, which offers them real-world preparation.
"CDIA offers an accelerated nine-month program of some two-dozen one-week workshops, and it teaches the business and practices in each of these communities. Such a program will put people way ahead of where they would have been had they been assisting for five years. The program was designed by photographers to prepare people for what it’s like to work in a photography studio. The program was defined by photographers who asked, What kind of school would we have liked to have gone to?"
To see more of Rob Van Petten’s photography, visit www.robvanpetten.com.