View Artist Statement
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Gallery Direct Interview with JOSH ANDREWS|
Josh Andrewsí photography takes the viewer on a journey to Greenland and Spitsbergen in the Arctic, Alaskaís Lake Clark National Park & Preserve, Death Valley National Park, and the slot canyons of Northern Arizona. Through his photography he creates a unique perspective of the world that is both artistic and environmentally conscious. Be on the look out for images from Escalante Canyon in May 2009.
Tell us a little about your early education at the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts and how it came to be that you attended an arts school at an early age?
I grew up taking pictures. My grandfather was an avid amateur photographer and he put a camera in my hands when I was about 10 and I remember getting assigned to shoot the "Junior Olympics" at my elementary school (which at the time felt like a big deal, of course). After that, I attended some summer programs in the mountains a few hours from my house and learned the fundamentals of black and white photography, from seeing to developing to printing the final image in a darkroom. I learned color processing and printing at that time as well. I always felt the most at ease, the most focused when I was taking photographs. As a shy kid, it was perfect for me to get away and see the world in a different way. What was great about those summer programs was that it really immersed me in photography - it was really a 24/7 experience there, and itís maybe why I enjoy focused photography excursions (and I think it takes me a few days to actually hit my stride and start ďseeingĒ again).
Is there any person or event that gave you the inspiration to pursue a career in the arts, specifically, photography?
I had a fantastic teacher named Barbara Lemmick when I was young who was so enthusiastic and encouraging with my work that I always felt I had an eye (at least she made me believe that, and it's important to nurture that in young people so they want to develop it on their own). It was really something I always knew I wanted to do, and even though itís not paying all off the bills these days, itís a primary element of my life and really drives me. Later on, it was my trip to the Arctic that really inspired me to try to turn this into something more. I think itís a great way to remind people how beautiful and diverse nature is, particularly these days, whether in some far off place or just outside their doorstep. Since those earlier days, Iíve had the privilege of taking photography workshops with Frans Lanting and Jim Barr, two amazing teachers and photographers. Seeing the diversity in their work has really shown me how important it is to develop your own voice, your own perspective in the images you capture, and itís something Iím constantly trying to hone.
Do you feel your formal education in the arts has benefited the way you view the subject you are photographing?
I do think that what I learned at a young age really helped develop how I create images. Iím constantly revisiting the basics that I learned years ago (exposure, light, composition) because those still make up a great image no matter how good the technology is. Itís easy to forget or to get impatient with your work (particularly with the progression of digital photography), so I do make sure I slow down and remember some of the really basic things I learned when I was growing up. Keeping things simple, removing unwanted elements of a photograph, finding the right light, try to show a different perspective that people donít see every day Ė those have always been important aspects to me.
Your work includes Landscapes, Close-ups of Nature, and Candid Portraiture. Tell us which subject matter excites you the most and gives you the most gratification?
I love all types of photography, but abstract images are what I look for the most. I think this is because there are always amazing subjects if you think in an abstract way, and amazing subjects can be anywhere. While I love traveling to more photographically exotic locations, I'm trying to expand on that so that I have more shooting options outside my front door. Abstract work makes me stop and look at things differently, and itís usually the places I think wonít prove satisfying that end up providing some of the most amazing abstract subjects. Some of my favorite images from my trip to the Arctic werenít of subjects one would typically associate with that area (icebergs, polar bear). Instead, it was a willow and a gull feather. But these images made me work for them, which is something I really appreciated. A ďfoundĒ image that we stumble upon is great, where all the elements come together and you just need to nail the exposure and take the picture, but ones that require more thought, more patience is what I enjoy most. One of the most rewarding things for me is not only coming up with a final image that Iím pleased with, but also looking back on the progression of that image. Usually my personal favorites were shot multiple times, at different angles and light until I arrived at the final, and seeing the various permutations of an image help me learn what works and what doesnít for the next time. Because of this I try not to have a pre-determined goal and desired outcome for a location (although I do have rough sketches of what I want at a minimum). And donít forget to look to the ground when you donít think you have interesting subjects!
Light is a very important aspect of photography. What times of day give you the best light and what time of day do you find you have gotten your best shots?
While it depends on the type of photography I am shooting, I do believe (like most) that the early morning hours and the end of the day provide the most pleasing light. As the light softens and intensifies, it really changes the perspective of a place. The same scene shot at high noon and dusk (or after) can convey an entirely different emotion. Cameras interpret light differently than our eyes, and some of my favorite images have come when my eyes said the light was gone. That said, macro work doesnít necessarily require such amazing light (sometimes you just want even, consistent light, which you can find in shade at midday), so there really are shooting opportunities all the time (although it might make for a seriously long day). I find itís helpful to have some items in my photography bag that help me deal with any situation. My favorites include a variable neutral density filter that gives you up to 9 or 10 stops, so that you can slow a moving subject down even in bright light, and a handful of split-ND graduated filters to help balance lighting conditions in-camera.
I understand you have made the move from film to digital photography. Has this made any kind of impact on your work?
I was resistant at first to make the switch to digital, but I do think it was the best thing I ever did in terms of my own photography. My images have definitely improved, primarily because I shoot more and have the ability to quickly critique my own work and learn from my mistakes. This is entirely personal, and I recognize there are many photographers who will never make the switch. For me, Iím more willing to experiment with different types of images, and having the ability to review real-time really helps me with my composition and to figure out whatís working and whatís not. While I would love to think that I am more of an old school photographer, my excitement for capturing images came back to me after being gone for a few years when I made the transition. My own photographic ďvoiceĒ has really grown up, and I feel like the continuity really comes through in my work in ways that it might not have otherwise.
What do you feel are the advantages or disadvantages to using digital versus film?
Thereís nothing that can completely replace a beautiful image taken with film capture, but digital is getting close. Some of the obvious advantages are what I mentioned above Ė the ability to learn, practice, experiment. The costs are, while heavy on the front end, probably less with digital if you really shoot as much as you can. Some of the downsides (at least for me) are more intangible Ė I really have to work at being patient, to slow down. I do try to remember to set up the scene, remind myself what I am really trying to capture, and get it right (or as right as I can), the first time, and then learn from that. There is a tendency to want to deal with it in Photoshop, which I think is an essential in getting the most out of any image, but usually you know if itís a great image the moment you take it.
You have photographed in many different areas of North America. What was your favorite place to photograph and why was it your favorite?
That would probably be Death Valley, and the reason comes back to my love for abstract nature photography. The shadows and textures in that place are unreal, and you really have the opportunity to create unique images if you think in an abstract way. It might something about the silence there too Ė it really gets me in a creative mindset. Iíll be shooting in Escalante Canyon, Utah soon, and I think it will provide similar abstract shooting opportunities.
In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?
Whether itís my own work or someone elseís, I want an image that captures my imagination, makes me stop and think about what the subject is. If an artist is able to shoot a common subject from a different perspective, I appreciate that, and I think it can help remind us of parallels in different subject matter (rock, water, sand, etc.). I think itís always important to shoot when the light is right (which is obviously different depending on your subject and what you are trying to convey to the viewer). I try very hard to remove unwanted elements from a scene, things that might distract the eye. In a more traditional landscape image, capturing the viewerís eye in the foreground, middle ground and background is always important to me as well. Iím a little less traditional though, and think there are so many different ways to make a good photograph that itís more personal and less technical for me.
As a photographer, what has been the biggest challenge for you so far?
I wish I could narrow that down to just one. One of the biggest challenges has simply been getting exposure for my work. As many people know, photography can be an expensive endeavor (and not just for the equipment), so balancing the need to show your work in places other than the internet with the cost of printing and framing can be a bit tricky. At this point, Iím more concerned with getting out there and shooting, to continue to improve my skills and hone in on that ďvoiceĒ Iím looking for. There are so many fantastic photographers out there (which is inspiring more than anything else) you really have to keep pushing the envelope to create something unique. Iíve always found it amazing that you can send 10 photographers off to the same place, and theyíll all come back with 10 very different images. That tells me that thereís plenty of room for all of us to work.
How do you think or want people to respond to your work?
A good photograph for me is one that takes me away to a different place, if only for an instant. The same image will conjure up different emotions in different people. In the end, there are just certain photographs that we connect with, and thatís really all I can hope for with my images. If people can forget where they are (even for second), and remember how beautiful nature is, thatís plenty for me.
If you were giving an aspiring photographer some advice, what would that be?
I still feel like I myself am an aspiring photographer, so Iíd give them the same advice I am constantly giving myself Ė keep shooting. While itís not the most original piece of advice, you wonít become a better photographer without taking pictures. Experiment with different types of subjects, things outside of your comfort zone. Find that ďvoice.Ē
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