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.
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.
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.
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