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Sometimes a simple snapshot at a party or spontaneous photo of a tree becomes an unexpected source of inspiration, warranting the time and care to hone it into a piece of art. Or, at least, that’s how I view it; sometimes, where I see a candid, unposed photo of a friend as a beautiful, natural representation of someone I care for, they see it as a poorly composed photo of them with messy hair and a dumb expression. It’s all a matter of perspective, I suppose... But the photos are going to be shared anyway.
As any field guide author probably could tell you, the photography in your book is what sells it, as much as we’d like to think it’s the text. From my first book, in 2008, to today, I’ve been honing my rock and mineral photography skills to be able to best represent a specimen exactly as it appears in-person, flaws and all. While some of my first photos were admittedly “rough,” the work I’ve produced in my recent books is, by contrast, quite polished and stunningly accurate; I feel I am able to illustrate the specimens faithfully while highlighting those features and traits that are key to identifying the species.
Choosing which specimens to photograph for a book can be tricky. Of course you want the pieces to best represent the species and give readers a helpful representation of what to look for. But you also want your book to be attractive and show fine examples, both in terms of form and color. Balancing these two concerns within such a small space is something at which I’ve excelled, and my photography has garnered quite a bit of praise throughout my career. Just don’t ask me about that first book...
Apart from my “green background” photos, which are the photos used in my field guides and all use a green backdrop both for contrast and consistency, I’ve also begun exploring mineral “portraits.” These shots, all against a black background, are an attempt to achieve the best possible image of a specimen in extremely high quality with deep focus, dramatic lighting, and, in some cases, artful angles and perspectives. Every facet of these photos, from the color to the reflections, has been carefully calculated and planned, rather unlike my field guide photos (which may sometimes emphasize imperfections). While the presentation and setting may be coldly scientific, it allows the specimens the opportunity to “speak” for themselves, as again there are no enhancements to the color, aside from the polarized lighting used to tame scattered light reflections.
On this page is a sampling of my mineral photography, most of which is already published in one book or another. If you have any desire to use any of these photos on your website, please contact me before doing so.
...but for the trees
there then here again
a vapor then a flood.
crashed then sunk again
anxious in absence
a ruin in presence again.
those inscrutable vines;
ever upward twigs.
again, seeing the forest
Most everyone begins their artistic life with a pencil, crayon, or paintbrush in early childhood. Those first mediums tend to stick with us throughout life and hold a special place in our minds. But I was never formally trained in these studio arts, so when my artistic vision began to outgrow my abilities, I turned to photography, photoshop, and design.
Later on, working extensively with digital art in college, I felt a brewing rejection of keyboards and mice and soon was completing design assignments with a pencil and brush. Since then, I’ve found ways to marry digital and physical mediums, most evident in my series in which I reduce an object to two colors, relying on the interplay of light and dark shapes to recreate the illusion of depth and structure where there are, in fact, only a jumble of abstract shapes.
From my first 35mm point-and-shoot to the DSLR behemoths I use today, photography was always a means of artistic expression before it ever became a professional enterprise. The way it can compress light and shadow, depth and form, down to a flat plane has always been a compelling, if not slightly aggravating process.
In 2004, I discovered the work of Gregory Crewdson, which would mark a dramatic turning point in my photographic work (or, more accurately, the beginning of anything I could call proper photographic art). Though his enormous, lush, Hollywood-funded photos weren’t something I could replicate, they did teach me that photography didn’t have to express life as we knew it. Instead, photography could show life as we wanted it to be.
I began to build detailed miniatures, purposefully constructed and lit throughout hours of micro-engineering, all for a single shot. Some of my biggest frustrations in accomplishing a photographic concept I had born was finding a fitting locale, willing and able actors, and somehow lighting it all exactly as I’d imagined it. I didn’t want to photograph life as I’d found it, I wanted to craft the photo as I’d dreamed it; I wanted to paint with objects and people and light. Miniatures were a successful, attainable, and—among my peers at the time—a novel way of achieving the results I was looking for. These were freeing experiments, bending and expanding the expectations I had for my own art, and soon I was building and crafting other kinds of physical objects to photograph.
Today, I’m still constructing things to shoot, but they tend to be greatly simplified compared to those I used to build. Reducing an image to two primary colors by way of its construction rather than by post-processing in Photoshop is an interesting challenge, and using shadows to not only add depth to an image but in fact create much of the image has been fulfilling. But after years of carefully constructed, neurotic perfection and lofty self-expectations, I’ve now begun exploring the loss of meticulous detail in favor of ambiguous, out-of-focus and incomplete shapes and forms.
On this page is a mere sampling of some of my work, both recent and old; most are just single examples from various series I've done. I will add to this page progressively.
Though most of my professional and artistic pursuits fall in the realm of static visuals, I’ve always had an immense interest in more dynamic mediums. Since I was a teenager I’ve experimented with music and sound, and continue to do so to this day; video and film, on the other hand, was an ambition that I hadn’t the means to express until recently. While most of this work will never grow beyond a purely experimental diversion, I’m happy to share the most successful results.