Join me this Friday, April 9, 2021, for an ONLINE presentation The History of Landscape Photography (followed by Q&A) presented through the Los Angeles Center of Photography. The presentation is only $10 for LACP Members and $15 for Non-Members (please consider joining to support this worthy photographic institution https://lacphoto.org/member-info/join/). All photographers stand on the shoulders of giants. Come learn more about them with me on April 9, 2021.
Many thanks to photographer Matt Payne for inviting me to this conversation! Matt’s podcast F-Stop Collaborate and Listen is one of a kind, well known, and enjoyed by many photographers. Matt invited me Guy Tal to his 200th episode for a special discussion on the history of landscape photography. It was an engaging conversation with Matt and Guy and I hope it proves valuable to others. Thank you for listening!
I’m excited to be presenting my talk “Immense, Silent, and Sacred” at this year’s Art of Photography Conference! This worldwide online event brings 16 top photographic artists direct to you via the web. Find details and buy tickets at https://www.artphotoconference.com/buy-tickets/
If you are interested in attending, please contact me for a 10% discount code. I hope you will consider joining us!
UPDATED 16 February 2021: You will now find a recorded version of this webinar on YouTube. Thank you for watching.
Please consider joining me, Guy Tal, and Harold Davis for a January 16, 2021 webinar, Finding Meaning in Photography: Guy Tal and Michael E. Gordon [Benefits Project Coyote]. In Finding Meaning in Photography, the photographers each present their work and discuss how they have found meaning through photography, and how they use their photographic work to convey meaning. Following the individual presentations, Harold Davis will moderate a round-table discussion, and take questions from the webinar audience.
ALL proceeds will benefit Project Coyote, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to promote compassionate conservation and coexistence between people and wildlife through education, science and advocacy. Seating (on a first come, first served basis) is limited. You must register via Zoom to be enrolled in this webinar. I hope you’ll join us on Saturday, January 16, 2021.
My article The Sum of Influence with eight photographs appears in the November 2020 issue of Medium Format magazine. It’s a genuine thrill to share the pages with some of the top names in international landscape photography. Thank you, Medium Format!
I’m happy to announce my new book, in time for the season. Every Leaf a Flower is an elegant 8×8″ 66-page softcover book featuring twenty-eight of my favorite autumn photographs from the west. Books ordered from my website are personally autographed and shipped via U.S.Postal Service Priority shipping.
Digital downloads are also available. Every Leaf a Flower can be fully previewed on YouTube. Please be sure to choose 1080p resolution for the highest quality experience.
I sincerely appreciate your your purchase and support of my art. Happy autumn to you and yours.
I was recently invited by my friends Jack Graham and John Pedersen at ‘We Talk Photo‘ to talk about photography. It was a fun 46 minute chat, completely free of politics, and We Talk Photo quite possibly has the best bumper music in podcasting (straight jazz, not that Kenny G-style pablum). Thank you very much, Jack and John!
Is landscape photography a genre which the fine art world accepts? If it is a viable genre what are the first steps you’d recommend to break into this world? How can a relative newcomer find an audience for his or her work?
These are questions I am often asked by aspiring professional photographers/artists and they are rather difficult questions to answer. Every artist travels a different path. There is no ‘standard’ one-size-fits-all approach. The first thing to come to terms with is whether you seek artistic and creative success or economic success.
It must be immediately pronounced: It has likely never been more difficult to make an income with photography. The competition is greater than ever and the demand for wall art and professionally-sourced photography seems to be slipping in the DIY era (even Costco now offers metal, acrylic, and canvas prints).
In the “fine art world”, landscape photography might be the most maligned of genres: it is beautiful for beauty’s sake and rarely rooted in fantasy or the “human condition” (commodities for galleries); it is passé, and it doesn’t push artistic boundaries (some would suggest). Unless you possess a rather unique and distinctive style, process, or message, you will be competing for eyes with thousands if not millions of other photographers working in the same genre. Your website may never be found by Google (it takes time, effort, and strategy to rise to the top of searches) and you may never make a single online sale regardless of how beautiful your website is or how enabled your shopping cart system may be. These are realities.
I don’t mean to discourage you from the attempt. Know that you will have to work hard (forget about 40-hour work weeks), be tenacious, and be stubborn to find success – this is not a great avenue for quitters. It might only take ten or twenty years for you to become an “overnight success”. Or it may never arrive (again, define your own success). If you plan to chase a big income or fame or compete stylistically with other landscape photographers, you are likely to burn out and will almost surely fail.
But know that there is a market for everyone and everything. The supreme challenge is finding your market for your particular brand and style of work. No one can tell you how to do this or offer guidance; it’s your path of discovery to walk. By all means, contact art galleries who you believe might be interested in seeing your work but realistically expect no replies or success in this market. The Great Recession killed many galleries and those whose doors remain open are generally not seeking new artists to represent.
Consider this your artistic journey. “Fine art” is unlike any other business or business venture. You can’t hatch a standard business plan, find funding, and be assured of success – it just doesn’t work that way. The journey involves lifelong learning and growth processes which may continuously evolve and unfold into perhaps unimaginable and even beautiful paths. I will say this: it is the most rewarding experience and career for those that can find personal success. Making a sustainable income is the hard part. The latter might not be a huge concern if you do what you love.
Although upset by the 2020 Coronavirus, another viable option for your consideration is in-person Art Festivals, where the artist can bypass galleries and take their art directly to the public. Please read Art Festivals: Alternative Exhibition Opportunities for the [Fine Art] Photographer for more details.
The following books have all been helpful on my artistic journey. I wish you the very best on yours! Thank you for reading.
I watched the weather radar from home, frustrated by doctor’s appointments and other domestic obligations that would keep me away from the East Mojave during one of the first thunderstorm events of what had been so far a “non-soon” Monsoon season (storms and rain failed to materialize across most of the southwest during the summer “rainy” season). I would be there soon. It was August 15, 2020. You might think that mid-August is no time to enter the desert, especially solo, but the high elevation regions of the Mojave National Preserve (MNP) sustain mild-enough temperatures (dependent upon one’s comfort levels) through most of the summer to make life possible here. Even better, the higher elevations of MNP are dressed in beautiful juniper and Joshua Tree woodlands, offering plenty of shade, rich and diverse plant life, and abundant wildlife.
Appointments would keep me in town through the afternoon of August 19, and I would then depart for the Preserve to hopefully meet the next arrival of monsoonal moisture. On the afternoon of August 16, my stomach sank when I learned of the fire through a Facebook group. It began following a series of dry lightning strikes at 3:51pm on August 15 and was already burning quickly through Joshua tree woodland with unstable weather and high winds exacerbating the flames. In just over 24 hours the fire had taken 20,000 acres.
From home, sick to my stomach over the fire, I kept a close watch on incident reports and social media and quietly wept inside. Early on the 20th I received word that road closures had been lifted and I quickly departed for the Preserve.
It was named the Dome Fire (fire map) for its origin on the geologically unique Cima Dome, a symmetrical ten mile wide granitic bulge in Earth’s crust which is revealed in nearly perfectly concentric rings on the USGS topographical map. The fire had begun on the south and west perimeter of the dome and pushed east and northeast, directly over Cima Dome and Teutonia Peak, before roaring into the Ivanpah Mountains. Aided by improved atmospheric conditions, hundreds of firefighters, and air drops of water and Phos-Chek, the fire was mostly contained and extinguished by August 19. But not before the fire had consumed more than 43,000 acres of beautiful Joshua tree desert woodlands. In less than four days nearly the entirety of the Joshua tree forest on Cima Dome had burned.
As I headed southbound on Cima Road, I could see clearly the burn scar on the dome from more than ten miles away, but it was a smoky day with poor visibility – hundreds of fires were burning throughout California and the west – and it was difficult to make out any details from this distance. Within just a few miles of the northern fire line the true scale of the fire became evident. I knew exactly how many acres had been declared burned but had not yet converted it to a relatable number: before me was 68 square miles of burned Joshua tree woodland. Not just any Joshua trees, but the largest and densest Joshua tree forest we know (they are found only in California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah). I left the pavement at the northern fire line and in utter disbelief headed off onto a dirt road into the thick of it. I stopped and climbed atop my truck to survey the damage and what I saw appeared to be little more than a fire-blackened wasteland. All I could do was cry.
It is important to understand why I would write this story or why I would cry over Joshua trees. This place is dear to me. I currently serve on the Board of Directors for the Mojave National Preserve Conservancy and for more than twenty years I have been exploring and adventuring in the Preserve and this was one of its most special gems. Plants, animals, and ecosystems are my interests and subjects. I can’t tell you much about contemporary culture, sports, or cinema but I can name plants by their binomial names and birds by their songs. In 2011, I was Artist in Residence at the Preserve and I concluded my residency with an exhibition at the Preserve’s Kelso Depot showing – that’s right – my Joshua tree collection. Sixteen years ago I rescued my dog, Mojave, from the Mojave desert just eighteen miles west of the summit of the Dome. We spent a lot of time here together, reveling in its extraordinary beauty, climbing the mountains that ring this beautiful valley, and studying its starry skies. She crossed the Rainbow Bridge just two and a half years ago and this fire reopened a bad wound.
Unlike desolate alkaline basins which can feel uninviting and inhospitable, this is the most inviting portion of the desert, where Joshua trees and their shrub communities offer abundant welcoming shade and respite from a weary sun. This was the place that defied the typical expectations of the unwitting; where healthy jackrabbits, cottontail rabbits, and antelope ground squirrels would flit between shrubs or sun themselves in the open; where choruses of coyotes would yip and howl by night; and where even a committed bird watcher would find delight in the resident Gambel’s Quail, wrens, phainopeplas, mourning doves, mockingbirds, and black-throated sparrows – a comforting place of diversity, abundance, and tranquility.
For three days I walked through a charred landscape, revisiting familiar places and trees, only now dramatically altered by the fire – much of it a high intensity burn, with everything lying in its path completely consumed. The ground was scrubbed bare, left only with the black stains of complete combustion or white piles of ash. The wildfire had lapped at and barreled over large rock formations, reaching into crevices and caves and consuming everything: grasses, shrubs, trees, cactus, moss, lichen, even rat middens. Life seemed completely absent. These were incredibly difficult scenes to witness and process. Yet I felt I had an obligation to be here, to mourn and to grieve the tremendous loss of vegetal and animal life and an absolute transformation of a landscape I love, and to try to use my voice, my photographs, as a means to hopefully spark dialogues as to how to help better protect these trees and this landscape from the future threats they face.
Many California ecosystems and plants are fire-adapted (or dependent) and fire can be highly beneficial to them, yet it’s deadly for non-adapted desert ecosystems like Cima Dome. Where a lightning strike might have formerly taken out one tree and its surrounding brush, the extensive destruction of the Dome Fire is the result of several factors, most significant being a changing climate. For those of us who spend a significant amount of time out of doors, drastic changes in the natural world present abundant signs of impending climate change disasters. California fires have become increasingly large and destructive and will only continue in this direction under the current climate regime – at least until humans find themselves willing to accept and tackle our most existential threat.
I’m showing only a limited selection of photographs here. You can find here a growing gallery of my photographs from the Dome Fire aftermath; I hope you will return to the gallery for updates.
The Conservancy will be discussing with the National Park Service any possibilities for our involvement with rehabilitating the land. If you would like to be notified of ongoing efforts and potential volunteer opportunities, please consider following MNPC on its website or on Facebook.
TAKE ACTION: Reduce Your Carbon Footprint (the reader may be confronted with inconvenient truths)
What the Fire Took Chris Clarke by Chris Clarke
I am pleased to announce my second article (Photography is Easy. Art is Hard) and nine photographs in the July 2020 edition of Medium Format Magazine, the #1 magazine dedicated to Medium and Large Format photography enthusiasts. This monthly magazine is well-written, elegantly produced, and contains many great photographs from all genres in more than 100+ pages in every issue. Thank you for looking.