NIGHT TRACINGS PHOTOGRAPHY


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CHAOS THEORY

When I began to take my first photographs I used them almost exclusively for informational purposes in the creation of my etchings and paintings. Because there was little to no intent of ever showing this work I did not concern myself with the types of quality issues that most photographers need to deal with. But after a number of years, when I began looking back over the thousands of slides I had accumulated I discovered among them all these stray shots that I had taken for no particular purpose. Onlookers spotting me hovering over some refuse or an unkempt corner of a yard would sometimes question me in a distasteful tone with, “Why are you taking a picture of that for?” My usual curt reply of, “Because it pleases me to do so” never seemed to reached satisfied ears. What none of them ever realized was that I was giving them a real answer.

Photograph

The rational behind some of the stray shots I took was easy to decipher; at first glance these pictures were attractive in a way most would expect from photography. Though no conscious philosophy was followed as I snapped away, these images that caught my eye were often composed in a manner that ennobled the landscape, no doubt helped along by my studies into Romanticism. Once I came to see that I was capable of capturing scenes that could hold their own as displayable images I became interested in creating more of them. But even as I began to put a whole new body of photographic work together I found myself still taking shots that did not fit into any Romantic notions and in numbers that could not be ignored.

What seemed like randomness in the moment proved to be anything but random. After examining all these stray shots with a fresh eye I began to notice that they also worked in their own way as finished pieces, and when seen as a whole they took on a thematic air despite my lack of intentions. The more of the chaotic and complex my work seemed to embrace, the stronger its underlying stream of order came to be seen, both in my method of taking these photographs and in the subjects I shot. Where a single picture might take on the appearance of a mistake, together they read as a coherent idea, each image reinforcing the understanding of the next. Their appeal lies within their careful compositional balance where color, form and line create unusual harmonies that overpower any sense of documentation or sentiment. Some of these pictures are nearly abstract while others contain enough loaded imagery to make it impossible not to draw some narrative associations. I am comfortable with my work falling within this range for I am no purist and am only interested in how well a piece works, not the philosophy behind it.

The ability to find order within chaos is basically an intuitive act, but even so it is not always easy to recognize for we all learn to frame the world in artificial ways. It becomes difficult to see the beauty in simple color and form when we apply meaning to everything before our eyes. But my method is not just a matter of reducing what we look at down to formal ideas; it’s about seeing into the soul of things. We replace the old with the shiny often without regard to anything but newness itself because most do not see things as they exist but only as ideas of them. While none of us can completely divorce ourselves from the values society imposes on things I have refocused my own efforts into discovering the poetry within what most of us discard in our daily lives as ugly, incidental or chaotic. I now consider this my most personal and important style and these types of photographs have become predominant.


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PORTFOLIOS

None of the portfolios on this page were planed while taking the actual photographs. They have all come together after the fact as a body of work was accumulated. Some share similar traditional Romantic notions about the landscape while others are more personal in style. In all cases I try to grasp a sense of things and place that exist apart from myself if not from human experience. Each of these images are meant to be able to stand alone as finished pieces. When taken together new meanings can be derived.

Each of these portfolios contain sixteen photographs within a theme. Many more photographs can be viewed in the Rambles section.


Acadia National Park

  ACADIA NATIONAL PARK - On this island is a perfect blend of lakes, mountains, forest, and seashore. Few places contain so many variables within so little an area.

Small Views of Acadia

  SMALL VIEWS OF ACADIA - While great panoramas are to be found on the mountaintops and high cliffs in Acadia National Park that which is sometimes most appealing is smaller in scale.

Atrophy

  ATROPHY - Without constant vigilance and repair those things created by the hand of man slowly crumble. These photographs are of places that were once the height of industrial efficiency or luxurious living.

Block Island

  BLOCK ISLAND - While visual drama is not forsaken here this is largely a land of subtlety. One must find beauty in the small.

Cape Ann

  CAPE ANN - Fishermen, quarrymen, and artists have all lent a hand in shaping this rocky outpost jutting out into the sea.

City Glass

  CITY GLASS - Our eyes are usually good at deciphering illusions, keeping us from walking into plate glass and other reflective surfaces, but this practical ability can also inhibit us from experiencing the marvel of these complex displays as we wander past them.

Cottage City

  COTTAGE CITY - This not so little community of small gingerbread Victorians within the town of Oak Bluffs creates a compelling abstract counterweight to the glass and steel structures found in our cities.

The Dead

  THE DEAD - The iconography of gravestones and monuments has interested me for some time but has little place in this collection of cemetery portraiture. This is only part of a larger series whose title, The Dead was inspired by the book of the same name by James Joyce.

Dead Pool

  THE DEAD POOL - As sail gave way to coal, and coal to diesel thousands of obsolete craft were abandoned along the back shores of New York. Most have disappeared under landfill but some remain. This has been the most dangerous location I have worked in but also the most haunting.

Hudson Highlands

  THE HUDSON HIGHLANDS - The mountains and river here loom as large in life as they do in legend. This landscape does not need to be over dramatized for effect for real drama can be had here as part of everyday life.

MacMillan Whatf

  MACMILLAN WHARF - A Provincetown fishing fleet makes the end of a long pier that stretches out over the shallow flats its home. This small piece of geography continually surprises me on every visit due to variables in weather, light, and texture.

Maine Coast

  THE MAINE COAST - It is difficult working with a landscape that has so much sentimental baggage attached to it and a great natural beauty that is impossible to pass by at the same time.

Mermaids

  MERMAIDS - Coney Island’s annual Mermaid Parade is one of New York’s great pagan festivals celebrating the arrival of summer. It also celebrates the eclectic artistry of the not so ordinary people that live here.

Mermaids

  MINDSCAPES - These images are montages of street art and textures that I’ve photographed over the years. They are meant to represent thought processes rather than actual places. This series is still experimental.

Monhegan Island

  MONHEGAN ISLAND - This small Island off the Maine coast has attracted artists and photographers for over a century, so many in fact that there is little new left to say about it. I have said something anyway.

Marthas Vineyard & Nantucket

  NANTUCKET TOWN - This old whaling town has cloaked itself in the guise of stability as great lengths have been taken to preserve and reconstruct old buildings with historical accuracy. A strange yet appealing dichotomy has been created between old and new on its streets.

Marthas Vineyard & Nantucket

  SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND - Here you will find a selection of images from Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts from places I’ve walked in New England that do not fit into any other category on this website.

Point Reyes & The Headlands

  POINT REYES & THE HEADLANDS - Just north of San Francisco is a very varied landscape of shore and mountains, pastures and primal forests, plus the remnants of coastal defense operations all combined into an environment challenged by ever changing weather.

The Small

  PREPONDERENCE OF THE SMALL - There is a great deal of order to be found in the natural world amidst that which is normally perceived of as chaotic. Textures, patterns and seemingly random mixtures are all part of a greater balance.

Provincelands

  THE PROVINCELANDS - This giant sandy spiral at the tip of Cape Cod was once held in common by the residents of Provincetown. Now as part of a National Seashore it can seem a near wilderness if you don’t wander too close to the tourists or the town.



TECHNICAL NOTES

The earliest photographs shown on this site were shot on a variety of slide films such as Ecktachrome, Kodachrome, Agfachrome, as well as spooled motion picture film. By 1982 I was tired of inconsistent results and began shooting Ectachrome 100 exclusively. While I continue to use slide film most of my work since 2007 has been shot with a digital camera. It is important to realize that many of the color and textural nuances of film are lost on these web pages since viewing on a monitor requires that all images be presented in a small digital format and that the choice of browser and settings can alter color and values more than film choice. The tonal values of the photographs on this site have been adjusted to be read on both Macs and PCs, which required some compromises.

Being weighted down on walks has always been an issue for me; the more I carry the poorer quality photographs I seem to produce. So while I have used a variety of lenses and other equipment over the years, nearly every photo on this site was shot with a single 24mm lens. I am attracted to the wide angle effect for it comes closest to capturing a composition as if I were to draw it. The weight issue has also kept me from expanding beyond 35mm film. While most professionals insist on large format cameras, the superior sharpness and clarity they can provide has never been the overriding issue in my work.



Copyright 2009   Alan Petrulis   All Rights Reserved