A B O U T T H E A R T I S T
P L E A S E N O T E
There are "about" links on each image page and series page of this site that elaborate on the details and thinking behind the work being shown. So, to increase your understanding and appreciation of what you're seeing, please try to explore those pages before you view the images.
Also, when you're done viewing my b&w work, you can see some of my color work too by clicking on the following link: <color-details>. (This link is also available on my DETAILS page.)
C O P Y R I G H T & U S A G E
All of my work is not only protected by my copyright signature, but is also tracked for any unauthorized commercial use by pixsy.com . So, please feel free to share my work with anyone you want to on social media sitesyou like. However, for commercial use, you will need to have my permission in writing.
P U R P O S E
My purpose with this fine art work not only includes my own desire to express myself creatively, but especially with my b&w work, to also bring beauty into our lives by creating rich and luscious images that are full of depth, emotion and meaning. In addition, I find purpose in helping people discover the pleasure of becoming more aware of the smaller and sometimes unusual details in life that suggest a new and deeper way of seeing that may even be life changing. My theme oriented, color, abstract-still-life images that I create in the studio express these same ideas.
S T Y L E & T E C H N I Q U E
I suppose my style could be described as austere, thought provoking, a little mysterious and even haunting at times, partly because most of my images have no people in them...only the evidence of them. However, I’m also attracted to humorous, ironic and odd imagery and use a combination of deliberate cropping and strong graphics to express that.
Technically I'm attempting to replicate the luminosity that is produced naturally when very bright tones are placed next to certain darker tones....commonly referred to as chiaroscuro when associated with the painting style of old masters such as Caravaggio. For example, when we view something on the extreme high-end of the brightness scale, in order to capture detail, the iris of our eyes closes down. In fact, if the majority of the image we're viewing is extremely bright, it then becomes difficult to see detail in the dark tones, even though our eyes do much better job then camera lenses and/or digital receptors do. So, this usually means squinting a little or even putting on a pair of sunglasses and, if you then look deeper, you'll see how some really bright tones that are adjacent to certain dark tones seem to be glowing. Ansel Adams was able to capture this phemonenom in some of his images using his Zone System. I'm just attempting to express it a little more darmatically.
Also, even though I’m very experienced with larger film formats, including 4x5, 6x7 and 2-1/4 x 2-1/4 square, as well as all types of studio lighting, I’ve found that the time, as well as the cost of shooting either film or using any of the larger digital formats dictate the use of the 35mm format for now, along with a preference for natural light, which I’m comfortable with, considering that was what I ended up using 90% of the time for commercial fashion and beauty work. Besides that, the progress that is being made in regards to small, mega-pixel 35mm cameras are now rivaling the quality of the larger format film cameras of before.
That said, I use Nikon cameras and lenses, I shoot in color in the RAW fomat and stay mostly in the 28mm to 21mm range lens wise. I then upload my images to Adobe’s RAW software for tone adjustments, cropping, and converting into b&w, then after saving the image as a 16 bit, 750 dpi file, I open it in Photoshop and convert it to an 8 bit, 360 dpi, b&w tri-tone that resembles selenium toning. After that I convert it to a RGB file and use a combination of the Curves Tool and the Brightness & Contrast Tool to adjust the tones to get as close to that glowing effect I like, and finally sharpen it with Photoshop’s Smart Sharpen tool for images up to and including 16 x 20. For anything larger, I use Genuine Fractals.
T H E O R Y
A good friend of mine, Kate Davies, the former director of the Downey Museum of Art, once told me that my b&w work was..."emotional, yet odd and beautiful at the same time", which I suppose is a pretty good definition. Furthermore, as I state in the welcome paragraph of my home page, I'm interested in capturing the beauty of light in the graphic shapes and textures of subject matter I find compelling, including the vestiges of man- made-objects in nature that can go un-noticed in our hectic 21st century lives.
To elaborate on this, the first things that usually draw my eye are either the subject matter itself....which, most of the time either has a strong graphics element inherent in it's shape.. Or it may simply have elements about it that, with selective composition, I'll be able to turn into a strong graphic composition. Or sometimes it's simply something that has a dominant theme of humor, irony, whimsy or just downright quirky-ness, such as the Famoso Motel series or maybe just some intriguing patterns, like the graphics of shadows laying on top of other shapes and forms. However, in the end, it's always about the beauty of the light itself and how it's represented in the print....along with strong graphics and compelling subject matter that defines how successful a photograph will be. You can have very interesting subject matter, but without the correct balance of light in relation to the various tones in the image, along with a compelling graphics and a compositon that subconsciously directs the viewer's eye, as well as challenges their way of "seeing", there is little room for emotion. And a picture that doesn’t elicit an emotional response is a dead picture. Along that same line of thinking, an image that is technically correct, with all the right tones and composition, but who's subject matter isn't particularly interesting, can also qualify as a dead picture.
For instance, most people are impressed with the work of Ansel Adams because of how he was able to capture the reality of nature so beautifully in black & white. However, most of Adams' work wasn’t about capturing reality at all because, because by the use of tools such as pre-visualization, the Zone System, filters and dodging and burning in the darkroom, he manipulated things to get the results he was after, and because of that, most of his work encompasses a great deal of emotion. (Consider the dramatic beauty of Moonrise Over Hernandez Mexico....... <http://www.afterimagegallery.com/featureadams.htm>.)
A photograph may have all of the technical attributes of a work by a great master, but if there’s no soul or inherent emotion that not only makes you feel something when you spend time viewing it, but acutally makes you want to spend more time with it to discover other things about it, it’s still a dead picture.
Even though I am personally more influenced by the style and choice of subject matter of mid-twentieth-century photographers Brett Weston, Paul Strand, and Cheq photographer, André Kertesz who also worked in b&w, I always combine that influence with a version of Adams' pre-visualization techniques to determine what type of light will best express the way I want to capture what I see. This means that many times I may have to return to the subject more than once to not only make those lighting determinations, but to also make the exposure when the light is exactly right. I also use a 21st Century version of Adams' Zone System techniques to get the results I want in prints....but now done digitally as post-production adjustments. In addition, I have also been influenced by the work of two lesser known photographers, Alvin Langdon Coburn who, in the early 1900s, worked in the transitional period between the Pictorialst and the Photo Secessionists or Modernist tradition, not to mention was one of the first photo-practitioners to produce purely abstract work with the camera
and Russian photographer Alexander Rodchenko, one of the first people to use dramatic angles of composition, such as the "birds eye view", as well as the sparse, graphic style of contemporary two contemporary genius' , Irving Penn and Robert Maplethorpe. I'm also drawn to the work of Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, the father of abstract art, especially his dynamic and colorfully graphic work from 1923 to 1928.
P E R S O N A L H I S T O R Y
When I was young I was never one of those kids who used to carry around a camera all the time and take pictures of my family or stuff like that. In fact, like many of the early practioneers of photography from the 1920s though the 1940s whose work I admire, who were painters before they were photographers, I came to photography though drawing. Interestingly, even though I was always sitting around drawing, I only took one art class in high school and only a lettering class in Jr. College, which, even though I was an art major, I found boring. So, apparently, I have been blessed me with an innate ability to not only transfer what I see or what I create in my mind to paper...as well as now, to pixels, though previously known as film....but also a unique sense of balance and composition that became apparent the first time I picked up a camera seriously and saw the results. In fact, I have such a strong, innate, graphic structure in the way I see that when I once took some magic mushrooms once in the seventies the sky turned into a grid-pattern with converging parallel lines. So, you can imagine how a picture hanging crooked on a wall can drive me nuts, to the point, where I can't fight the urge to straighten it!
In 1966 I graduated from Armijo High School located in the small Bay Area town of Fairfield, CA where my parents had relocated to when I was nine. At about this same time my father became interested in photography and picked up an early Minolta 7, 35mm SLR with a 50mm lens. As he began learning the craft I would see him setting up lighting in the house to photograph my mother and stuff like that, but, for some reason, I never paid much attention to it. However, the year after graduating high school my family took a vacation to visit some relatives at Myrtle Beach, Oregon and, because I’d discovered surfing a few years earlier, I asked my dad to take some pictures of the breaking waves. His reply, however, was to hand me his Minolta with the exposure settings he was using and tell me to do it myself. After the prints came back one of the photos I’d taken was simply awesome and right away I became enamored with this new “tool” to make art with.
As usual, I then proceeded to research what the best 35mm available at the time that I could afford was and, in 1965, ended up buying my first serious camera, a Nikon S rangefinder....to see if photography was something I’d might enjoy making art with. (The first Nikon F series had been released in 1959, but they were still too expensive for me then.)
After graduation I enrolled as an art major at Vallejo Jr. College, now known as Solano College. Of course, one of the electives was photography, so I signed up and a defining point in my life came when a class mate of mine ask me to pose for a portrait project he was experimenting with, because the results were in extreme high-contrast b&w, eliminating all of the middle tones, and that was the first time I’d actually seen “art” produced with the camera. I was hooked right then and there.
In the fall of 1970, after moving to Newport Beach, CA I signed up for photography classes at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, CA. OCC had a pretty good photography department and I not only discovered how to shoot product shots and even better, beautiful women, but was also introduced to the films of Italian film makers extraordinaire, Ingar Begman and Fredrico Fellini. I am still influenced to this day by Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberrys and Through A Glass Darkly and Fellini’s 8-1/2 and Amarcord...one of my all time favorites...because of their mastery of composition and lighting, surrealistic use of black and white and their clever story telling, including that hilarious and quirky Italian humor. However, one of the films that influenced my early interest in becoming a professional photographer like no other was Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 effort Blow Up, starring British actor David Hemmings and super model at the time, Veruschka and which was supposedly patterned after infamous British fashion photographer David Baily. Watching Hemmings drive his convertible Bentley around town picking up crazy looking props and sexy models and then bringing them all back to his studio to frolic with on the white seamless while taking wild, sexy photos of these now half-naked women...and then getting paid for it....was really heady stuff for a 21 year old.
So, after getting as far as I could at OCC, in 1973 I transferred to the Communication Arts department at California State University Fullerton and also found a job as a photographer's assistant for a commercial photographer in Cost Mesa, named Stan Sholik. Upon graduating in the spring of 1976, I was fortunate to be able to start picking up jobs right away with the portfolio I'd created in school.
It was also during this time that I discovered the work of Ansel Adams through an
exhibition at the Fullerton Jr. College library. Even though I wasn’t interested in making landscape type images, I can say with certainty that his is the only work I’ve ever seen in person that actually took my breath away. Not because of the subject matter, per se, but because of the gorgeous tones he was able to get between his light and dark values
using his Zone System. His b&w photographs actually glowed and I’m proud to say, now that I’ve become more interested in capturing images of the world around me in b&w, that I’ve discovered how to produce those same values with my Mac using Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop.
During this same period I ran across an article in Petersen’s Photographic magazine about creating the look and lost art of hand-tinting, like what how color was done in the 1930s and ‘40s before color film was perfected. My interest was immediately piqued and I decided that I wanted to produce a series of images that looked like they were from that period with vintage cars and period looking women....like you used to see in old family albums.
So, I began attending a lot of local classic car shows and, after showing some of the car owners my work I was actually able to talk one of them into bringing his 1938 Buick Limited Sedan out to a location I’d found so I could photograph it in this style, along some models in period dress, in exchange for prints. I then stopped into the local Barbizon Modeling School in Orange County, who at the time was the only model school/agency in existence, and explained to the receptionist what I wanted to do. She happened to be a model herself, with the exact right look I wanted, and not only volunteered to work with me, but got another girl to pose for me too. Then I found a vintage clothing store in Long Beach who said they’d loan some clothing to me and I was ready to start shooting.
The first shoot was simply an afternoon with that Buick and the two women, but I was able to get a number of different images I could use as a series. Also, to get that old look I wanted, first I used a very grainy, b&w, Kodak High Speed Recording film with an exposure index (ASA) of 1000 and also agitated it a lot during development to get even more grain. Then, after making 8x10 prints of each shot, I used potassium ferricyanide to bleach out the blacks and finally, I put them in a sepia wash, which gave them a nice period look. Even though the article explained how to use Marshall's Photo Oils for the hand-tinting, at first I hired another artist friend of mine to hand-tint everything for me. (I eventually taught myself how to do that though too.)
I was still working for Stan during this period too and one day he asked me to put a few of my shots on his wall. A few days later another artist came by to have Stan photograph her art work and, when she saw my images, decided to design some very cool, streamline style frames for me. I had those designs silk-screened onto the back of about 400 sheets of 11x14 glass, in black with the pattern in gold, shot some copies of my hand-tinted originals to have quantity prints made up, then even had some 1930s style, metal picture frame corners manufactured and began selling these period looking, framed prints to antique and art deco stores on Melrose Ave in LA in the 1980s, before it became....Melrose Ave. They sold very well and were even discovered by a greeting card company a few years later who, not only bought the rights to license that first set, but continued to commission me to produce more images in the same genre for a few more years. California Magazine also commission me to create a double spread in this style to illustrate an article called Return To Beverly Hills High and I also received a number of the same type of projects from the Guest Informant hotel-city-book publishers too. After thinking about it for a while, I credit this series with what began my commercial photography career, as well as introducing me to art deco and, especially the mid-1930s through the late-1940s Streamline style. In fact, I fell completely in love with streamline style architecture, (sometimes referred to as Streamline Modérne), as well as streamline style furniture and furnishings and even vintage travel trailers from the same period.
Anyway, in the fall of 1976, armed with my school portfolio and a new 400 sq. ft. studio and darkroom I’d built in an old garage in the backyard of a large, 4 bedroom, 1950s style ranch house I was sharing with three friends in Newport Beach, (I'd actually gotten married and even divorced during this same period), I began showing my “book” around. Right away, and much to my surprise, I began picking up work from local ad agencies, business owners, models and actors and even the then budding, Orange Coast Magazine, who not only kept me very busy, but did a lot to showcase my work as well.
At first I was shooting everything and anything from product catalogs, to architectural and interior work, to model portfolios, to record covers and even a little fashion. Then in about 1977 I happened to take a fashion photography class with another local, older photographer who introduced me to European fashion magazines that featured the bizarre and outrageous work of photographers such as the real David Baily, Guy Bordin, Chris Von Wagenheim and Helmut Newton. Being a bit of an iconoclast myself, I was immediately drawn to this extreme and sexy style and, with the help of a few local hair and makeup artists, started shooting “tests” in this style with models for my portfolio. (BTW: This, along with a business card to leave behind, was the only things you needed back then to get work.)
The problem was, I didn't realize that Orange County was extremely conservative, so even though lots of people eventually knew my name in the advertising world, I started getting a reputation for being “too creative”. This, of course, baffled me, because that’s what I thought this was all about...being as creative as you could be. However, what they really meant, but weren’t saying, was that my some of my work was too bizarre and “out there” and I guess they were afraid that they couldn’t control me or something. Who knows! In fact, a while later I was labeled as "bizarre" in a newspaper article in the Orange County Register that featured the top three commercial photographers in Orange County. So, I decided to move to Los Angeles where I thought they were more open minded. Years later, I realized that what I was trying to do was really more editorial related, meaning that magazines might be interested in it, though...probably not in America. However, advertisers wanted to reach as many people as they could, and therefore, wanted a little more conservative images.
Finally, in the summer of 1983, and on the hottest day of the year, I moved to a very cool 3000 sq. ft. loft located in the arts distirct of downtown Los Angeles, which at the time, was just getting started. Two friends from Orange County, artist agent Kate Davies and painter Sachia Long, had just moved there a few months before to open the Metro Gallery in another loft building and, later that same year gave me my first one man show. Commercially, however, I began concentrated on shooting a more accessible style of fashion & beauty and was fortunate enough to get work from various department stores. Also, after buying my first computer in 1990, (a Mac IIci with 80 megs of ram and that cost over $3500.00!) along with the first version of Photoshop and Quark Express, I was able to start doing both the photography and the graphic design, and even began brokered the printing, to produce catalogs, brochures, post cards, hang tags and so forth for local clothing designers and retailers. I was also able to pick up a number of editorial fashion assignments for magazines like Los Angeles Times Magazine, California Magazine, Style, Elan and others during that period. However, after a few years of barely making it, I realized that when a fashion designer would become successful they would then start using New York photographers. So, I wasn’t really getting to do the creative stuff I was yearning for, nor the big ticket jobs that would get me noticed. In addition to that, the conservative work that I was producing wasn’t my even best stuff but, I really didn’t want to move to New York or Europe because I didn’t think my work was good enough yet, though by then I'd actually won a number of awards, including the 1997 grand prize for photo-digital-illustration at the Mac World Convention Digital Art Contest in San Francisco. This was with a photo-montage piece that I'd created using both Photoshop and Illustrator titled "Beauty, Eluding Time".
That same year I was introduced to an art dealer/publisher by the name of Karl Bornstein who had discovered the sexy, graphic, colorful, women’s portrait work of illustrator Patrick Nagel a few years before and ending up making both he and the artist a fortune. That is, before the art market went belly up during the recession of the late nineteen eighties, not to mention the fact that Nagel had a heart attack and died about the same time. Bornstein, who had nearly lost everything because of it, was now in the process of starting up another art publishing house and had landed a contract from Time Inc. to reproduce on canvas the original art that was on early Fortune magazine covers to sell as framed prints and, not only wasn’t happy with the two, young, graphic designers he had, but was also interested in publishing, as posters, a collection of vintage automobile hood ornament images I’d been working on for years. Coincidentally, in addition to working on mastering the art of photography, I'd also taught myself graphic design over the years and had become pretty good at it. (In fact, I designed this site.) In addition to that, starting in about 1988, I’d also been giving myself an education in fine art, becoming influenced by the work of modernist painters such as Cezåzanne, the cubist thinking of Picasso and Braque and the strong chiaroscuro lighting effects of 17th century painter Caravaggio. So, I decided to get Bornstein to hire me as his designer, quit commercial photography and then concentrate on producing my own fine art, b&w work....which was finally become respectable and popular enough that one might even be able to eek out a half way decent living from it.
Karl finally hired me, but within a year his start up failed, because apparently Fortune didn't own the copyright to all that original work anymore. I lost my job, was soon out of money and ended up living in a series of different motels in Hollywood and Glendale trying hard to find some more commercial photography work. Then Karl showed up again with a new investor and another new start up along with a contract from National Geographic to produce posters of the work that had been featured throughout the years in their magazines of nature subjects. He rented a house in Malibu with an ocean view to serve both as our offices and living quarters, which was nice, but within a year that business failed too, i.,e., apparently, no one was interested in that sort of imagery. So, at 50 years of age I was out of money and had to move back home with mom in Fairfield to start over.
Now, it’s 2016, I'm shooting more than I ever have and I have this brand new body of work to show with a lot more coming. So, if you like what you see....please buy some of it and start a collection of your own.
- Scott Lockwood -