Phil Eidenberg-Noppe July 5-28, 2018 Artist statement: The area surrounding the mouth of the Skagit River, where it enters into Puget Sound in northwest Washington State is a fertile farming region called the Skagit Valley. It is probably best known for one particular crop which is typically grown in the spring of each year – tulips. Typically during April of each year large swaths of land in the Skagit Valley bloom forth with a riotous bonanza of color. While the locations, colors and timing of the tulips vary from year to year, one thing does not – the draw for many, many people to come and witness the event first-hand. (Continued below)
It is a particular draw for photographers. Having gone with my camera for many years to capture the fields in a documentary style, I started thinking about how I could experiment with the image-making. I was particularly interested in using the rows of tulips as a palette of colors and my camera as a brush. And so I began an exploration of breaking all the rules of photography – focus, camera stability, and yes, post-processing (e.g. the frequent question: “Is it Photoshopped?”).
My field process involves moving the camera while the shutter is open. The result is that the camera records what it sees as it scans a large area. I use a combination of: 1) the expansive areas of color in the fields, 2) specific vantage points from which to scan the fields, 3) specific aperture (lens opening) and shutter speed settings, and 4) different speeds and types of camera movement to create images with large swaths of color. In some ways, this is like what a painter might do by pulling a paint-loaded brush across a canvas. However in this case it is the underlying canvas that offers the paints to color the canvas.
A second equally important step occurs in the post-processing. I almost exclusively use Adobe Lightroom to process my images. The camera I use is capable of producing images with vast amounts of visual information. Because of this I can explore images during the “digital darkroom” phase and bring out visual characteristics of the image that I find most aesthetically interesting and pleasing. In particular, I vary image “tone” – exposure, contrast, etc… and “presence” – clarity, vibrance, etc… to examine the range of possibilities of each abstract image. Sometimes changing one variable to bring out positive effects necessitates varying another variable to support the effect. It becomes a bit of visual dance, play in the digital sandbox.
Aspects of this body of work that I most enjoy are the unconstrained “free” process described above and the uncertainty involved in the outcomes. I seek to be surprised, and while it is possible to create multiple prints from the final image, I love the idea that there is no way to recreate the image in the first place. In addition to the un-repeatable field process I use, the tulips only bloom for 3-4 short weeks in March/April of each year. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. For me, unpredictability and temporal nature of events in the work are metaphors for life itself.