Portrait by Rick Cummings
My work has an outward perspective. Much art, and especially photography, is all about humans and our relationships to each other, as if humans are the only important things in the universe. I can’t buy that. I am more interested in the physical world outside the human form. Some of the interesting stuff is natural, and some is man-made, and may even be unnatural. I’m always looking for images, especially when I travel, and can see around me with fresh eyes. When I find …it, I get an indescribable, visceral reaction. I can’t call it a sense of beauty, because some of what attracts my eye is kind of horrible, but whatever it is, I crave it. I now recognize it as my personal aesthetic. It is generally not tied to any particular meaning or emotion in the human sphere, but I am compelled to try to capture and communicate it. Perhaps that makes it about human relationships after all, but what I am trying to say in images cannot be described verbally. I can only hope that my images will show you what my words cannot.
At the same time, I’ve found I can make pretty good portraits of friends and family by sticking a big lens in their faces, using natural light, and keeping the image limited to a few people. Often I do this as a service, such as for the EEFC Mendocino Balkan Camp, or for a special event. But mostly I’d rather just be present.
I have been taking photographs since childhood. I am old enough that my first camera was a Brownie. Then I graduated to my dad’s castoffs. I fondly remember a Yashica with an unusual 55 mm f/1.2 lens. It provided a view just a bit tighter than usual, and that aesthetic has stayed with me. In the late 1970’s I studied with Phil Davis at the University of Michigan, and learned how to make an image say what I wanted it to. A big part of that is only saying one thing in an image. Phil’s approach was quite technical, and I absorbed many tools; the engineer in me loved that part. For example, I gained an appreciation for the zone system and the requisite previsualization of an image.
Over the years I have worked with a 4X5 field view camera (didn’t Ansel Adams have a pack animal?) and a Stereo Realist, but have stayed primarily with the 35 mm format through its evolution to digital SLRs. Around 2002 I began to feel the need for a wider venue, to share my work with others. I purchased an Epson 4000 for printmaking and a Nikon Coolscan V film scanner. After I got tired of maintaining a printer I moved to sprinkling my work online, and use a print-on-demand shop, Whitehouse.com for the rare hardcopy. Cameras are changing so fast now and have become so cheap! I work with several, from a cellphone to a small superzoom to a DSLR. When I am doing thoughtful compositions I still use my Canon T3i; excellent sharpness with a EF 25 -105 lens, and great low light sensitivity, but it’s heavy enough that I think twice about taking it with me. The superzoom and even my iPhone beats it for macros anyways. Now I do a little work in video too. My work is in several private collections, and I’ve had a couple of shows around town, and a couple years on the Open Studios tour. I teach photography and flow visualization to engineering and fine art students at the University of Colorado.