Digital photography has opened up an entire new world of possibilities to photographers, free of the hassles of box cameras, darkrooms and chemicals.
No one appreciates that more than the two photographers whose work is on view through Sept. 14 at the Box Gallery at Summit Artspace, 140 E. Market St., Akron.
Digital Infrared Photographs by Stephen Paternite and Digital Composites by Thomas Reiderman demonstrate how the medium has made so much more possible at much less cost, trouble and time than ever before.
Certainly, there will be the Luddites out there who will scoff and carp about the shortcomings of digital photography, of which there are more than a few. However, artists like Paternite and Reiderman have managed to avoid the minuses and capitalize upon the pluses, to the satisfaction of their own desires and the delight of others.
In this exhibit, we are treated to the magic realism of digital infrared photography and digital composites, neither of which would have been possible a decade or so ago.
There are a number of ways to achieve these effects, but Paternite and Reiderman use what could arguably be called some of the best methods.
Infrared photography records light that is just beyond the human visual spectrum. Reflected infrared light produces a surreal effect in photos — colors are different (for example, vegetation appears white) and human skin appears smooth and milky. Because infrared light penetrates haze, landscape images have a high degree of contrast and crispness. Skies appear dark, and clouds stand out strongly.
Paternite began his infrared journey some 40 years ago. His list of awards and accolades is huge. He has been called a master, innovator and pioneer of infrared fine-art photography.
In 1982, he co-edited and published the book American Infrared Survey, now coveted by fine-art book collectors, that explored artistic trends in black-and-white and color infrared photography, and resulted in a traveling exhibit of original photographs.
No less a light than former Akron Art Institute director and pioneer of the promotion of fine art photography, Robert Doty, called Paternite “one of the most original and powerful artists working today.”
In his hands, wrote Doty, “a sense of the marvelous, enhancement of the commonplace, completely captured and haunting landscapes, burst upon the mind, while the mastery of design and technique become a supporting revelation.”
Images from the midpoint of Paternite’s journey were first published in Below the Visible Spectrum, shown in 1985 at the Cleveland Gallery of Photographic Arts. In 1988, he received an Individual Artists Fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council.
His photograph Barn, Hale Homestead, Bath, Ohio, 1988, was chosen for the Forward Thinking Museum’s Infrared Centennial exhibit advertising campaign.
Paternite describes himself during these times as the last of the photography Luddites, who wouldn’t touch a digital camera with a 10-foot tripod.
Traditional film photography involves a lot of planning, setting up, darkroom work and an almost infinite list of ways things can go wrong. Infrared film photography almost doubles that list. Paternite was justly proud of his mastery of all that it took to get an infrared image from concept to print.
Then came the day that he found for sale on the Internet a Lumix pocket digital camera that had been converted to shoot infrared images. For about half of what it would have cost him if he’d bought the camera new, he got into the business of taking digital infrared images.
“It’s so spontaneous,” Paternite rhapsodized during a gallery interview. “A lot of these images could not have been done with a view camera because it’s too laborious.
“Many of these images were captured in a split second,” he added, going down the wall and pointing out image after image that he said had disappeared seconds after he captured the moment.
Nowadays, said Paternite, “clouds are my motivation.”
He still does numerous portraits and still-life compositions, but these days, he said, “if I see an interesting cloud formation, I’ll stop whatever I’m doing and grab my Lumix — it goes everywhere with me — and I’m immediately in business.”
The best part, he noted, was that with his camera he can see immediately what the image looks like, rather than having to wait until the image is developed or printed. The cost factor has dropped appreciably, as has the time and danger of working with darkroom chemicals, but the exquisite composition and printing has remained the same in each of the 42 images in this show.
Reiderman’s images are equally beautiful, but in an entirely different direction.
With Reiderman, the image begins in his vast library of close-ups that he’s taken of architectural elements, especially windows, in and around Akron, then is brought to fruition through his vast and extremely competent knowledge and use of Photoshop.
The 25 images in Reiderman’s exhibit display digital photo composites and collages from his storehouse of data.
As Reiderman sees it, “single images can be monotonous and static. Multiple images tend to tell more of a story.”
He has two approaches: through a predetermined concept, or by gathering images and arranging them to best effect.
Although his work is mostly done through the layering of images in Photoshop these days, he said he’s not averse to “the old manual cutting and pasting of photo images.”
Both of these artists have meticulous working methods and harmonious composition abilities, yet they have produced entirely different, but equally wonderful images.
Long live the creative mind.
Dorothy Shinn writes about art and architecture for the Akron Beacon Journal. Send information to her at the Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640 or email@example.com.