“…Don’t seem the same……Seems you’ve lost your feel for me.” Dave Mason, We Just Disagree.
I’m a little disturbed tonight. Yeah yeah, I can hear my friends out there thinking “…a little?” But that’s not the point. I’ve just come home from the First Friday Art Walk at the Santa Fe Arts district in Denver and I’m confused and more than a little concerned. I spent some time there, visited a few photo galleries, and saw some really high quality photography. And almost none of it moved me.
My good friend, fellow photographer, and world traveler Rich Voninski, who is one of the most talented photographers I know, posted on Facebook that he was exhibiting some of his images at the John Fielder Colorado Gallery on 8th and Santa Fe and would be there for First Friday. Slam dunk for me. I greatly admire Rich’s work and I’ve been a fan of John Fielder for several decades so it was a great opportunity to have a short visit with Rich and his wife and see some great photography. After supper I headed north to see the show.
Parking was a nightmare. I ended up parking about 4 blocks away in the driveway of a body shop that was closed for the evening and I spent most of my time praying silently that I wouldn’t get towed away. Naturally the Fielder gallery was on the other side of Santa Fe from me so I decided to make the circuit and visit a few other galleries on the way. As I said, I saw some wonderful photography before I even reached the Fielder gallery but a lot of it was either not a style that I care for or simply repetitive of someone else’s style. But finally I reached my destination. I saw Rich through the front window and headed in. We spent a few minutes talking and discussing Rich’s new Sony mirrorless camera then I let him get back to work and meandered through the gallery. What a disappointment!
Don’t misunderstand me, there were several different photographers displaying their work besides Mr. Fielder and Rich and there are some amazing images adorning the walls. And these guys are all world class shooters. Not a runt in the litter. I didn’t count but I would estimate there are maybe 250 or 300 images in this gallery and all are really nice. But after wandering for a while and seeing every image in the gallery I came away feeling empty. Aside from Rich’s work and 1 or 2 of John Fielder’s images, I saw less than a half dozen images that really spoke to me. I spend lot of time looking at the work of other photographers and the highest praise I can give is when I think “damn, I wish I’d shot that.” But in this case, just a little over 2% of the images I saw elicited that emotion in me. I found myself thinking, “Oh…another image of changing aspens in the San Juan mountains.” Or “Oh…another image of Mesa Arch.”
I gave it quite a bit of thought on the way home and came up with an answer to the reactions I’d felt: I think I’ve lost my feel for the “grand landscape.” All of the images I was drawn to and really liked were more intimate, more detailed images. I said earlier that all the images in this gallery and all the photographers are world class but the grand landscapes simply didn’t interest me. And that’s what disturbs me.
For some time now I’ve felt my desire to photograph grand landscapes or some of the iconic locations waning. Yes, I know I just came back from the Tetons a couple of weeks ago and yes, I did photograph a couple of grand landscapes. But more and more I find myself drawn to detail shots like the one at the top of this blog. And in all fairness, the images from the Tetons had some spectacular lighting conditions that I hadn’t seen before. But looking over the Hayden Valley and Lamar Valley in Yellowstone and viewing the Grand Tetons from a distance I felt no desire to even take my camera out of the bag. I just wasn’t excited about making “….just another image of the Tetons.”
As photographers we all go through periods of being uninspired. We all have what I call “shooter’s block” from time to time. I’ve often gone months at a time without creating a single image and I find that I’m leaving the camera in the bag a lot more often these days. I recently spent a long weekend visiting friends and relatives in Kansas and the image at the top of this post is the only one I shot. And it’s a more intimate landscape. Other than the clouds in the sky none of the elements of this image were more than 100 feet away from me. Hardly a grand landscape.
Given these feelings and the fact that I consider myself a Nature Photographer, it is a little bothersome, this disdain for the grand landscape. I’m sure at some point I’ll snap out of it but for now, intimate landscapes and detail shots coming at you.