The Importance of Time in Fine Art Photography & Storytelling

March 12, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

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I decided to write this article because I am hopeful that by me sharing the way that I work, that I can help others be better storytellers and photographers.  I included the often overused and arguably abused phrase "Fine Art" in the title because I am, in fact, creating fine art and that is my aim.  I also included "storytelling" because I think that the ability to tell stories within our photographs is central to raising our images to an artistic level.  

The two concepts, fine art, and storytelling are intertwined in my mind.  I define art as bringing into existence the imagined.  I take my experiences in the field and follow the "flash" all the way through to the print that I make by hand in the darkroom. During my travels, I don't have a plan or notion of what I will photograph.  I respond to a process that I call "the flash" and follow it all the way to the print.  The flash is something magical that happens when I first experience a subject that causes me to stop and replay that moment in my mind. The two-way relationship between nature and that moment in time is what creates the opportunity for a flash.  I have to be present for the flash to occur.  The flash literally makes me stop in my tracks.  It only lasts for an instant, but that flash is the moment that I try and create in my fine art prints.  I try my very best to remain in the moment as long as possible and soak it in so that I can remember it.  I always have my journal at the ready to document my experience as soon as it has passed, but not until then.  Everything I do from that point forward is to recreate that experience based on the flash and my creative vision.  This is the magic formula that I use for all my work.

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I have been working on my 2015 Winter Tree Portfolio this past week.  I share this because I think it is a good example of how I apply the concepts that I mentioned above.  I developed the final 5 rolls of 120 Foma 400 negatives on Sunday and hung them to dry.  I quickly looked at them as I hung them and then I went to my journal and matched up the ones that stood out to me.  I make every attempt to journal notes about all of my images because this is how I ultimately determine my candidates for a portfolio.  I will cut them and place them in archival sleeves as a next step and then make the proper proof contact sheets. Based on the proper proofs, I will further narrow down my selection of candidates.  It is important to note that I have been reviewing my journal all week long, every since I developed the films last Sunday.  This delay between exposure, development, and making proofs is intentional.  I use these gaps to my advantage because it allows me to think and reflect.  

My intention is to create the highest quality print that I am capable of making and share a story that is based on my experience in nature.  Often times everything is in alignment except for the ability to produce a print that meets my quality standards for fine art.  

I hope you have enjoyed this article and I look forward to your comments and thoughts. 

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Follow me on my St. Francois Mountain Platinum Histograph Heirloom Fine Art Print Project where I am photographing the St. Francois Mountains that were formed by volcanic and intrusive activity 1.5 billion years ago.  By comparison, the Appalachians started forming about 460 million years ago, and the Rockies a mere 140 million years ago.

-Tim Layton 

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Tim Layton
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