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Tuesday, July 7, 2009


The legendary black-and-white imagery of Richard Garrod navigates a fine line between art and nature

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Tenaya Lake, Yosemite, California, 1955.
Moving Forward
While Garrod does use Photoshop for some of his color work, he works extensively in the darkroom to perfect his black-and-white images. He has a deep love for film, especially large format. He shoots both 4x5 and 5x7, employing his “outstanding” Canham view camera with two different backs for the two formats.

“There are times when this equipment is very appropriate to the subject and location and produces elegant images from very sharp negatives,” Garrod says. “There are also times when it’s very appropriate to use a medium format, such as my Rollei SL66 with a tilting lens for focus correction. Both the large-format and medium-format cameras allow the use of these methods for correcting focus of the subject beyond what you can do with a simple fixed-lens camera. A zoom lens or a variety of fixed lenses can also be major determinants of the final image quality and perspective. A basic, but essential group of tools for image making is necessary, but we must study the science and effects behind their purpose and practical use if we are to maximize their value to us.”

Tree Roots, Sunset Bay State Park, Oregon, 2005.
As a working photographer for so many wonderfully productive years, Garrod has matured alongside photography in many different aspects. He has certainly seen his share of technological advancements, but more importantly, he has been able to watch black-and-white photography grow as an art form.

“Originally, the early pictorial photographs were strongly related to the romantic feelings of the time where the subject was soft and ethereal to convey those kinds of feelings,” Garrod explains. “The transition from those soft images moved us toward sharper and less romantic photography. Today, photographers seek out far more powerful images that convey strength and dynamic movement. It’s still evolving towards a different kind of personal expression, more open and unrestricted in terms of subject matter, composition, methods of seeing and even political expression.”

Garrod’s landscapes work so well as abstract material because they’re so grounded in the real world. He employs straightforward, realistic representations of his visual subjects, manipulated through the use of technological tools and darkroom manipulation to present a world that’s real, yet affected deeply by the subtle nuances of his eye and, hence, his philosophy. When asked if he, as a teacher and mentor to so many other photographers, had anything that he’d like to say to future generations, Garrod concluded with this.

“Be true to yourself and your inner voice,” he muses. “Go with your photographic work where your background and personality lead you. Don’t take current trends automatically as your direction; however, continually study the evolution of photographic work and the history of the medium, as well as current work in order to start finding your unique place in this exciting field. Open up and avail yourself of the panoply of facets of photographic work from the range of necessary technical aspects to the many avenues of exploring creativity. This is an exciting field, so study it, explore it, and practice it.”

The Ansel Adams Connection
Richard Garrod has studied alongside some of the great masters, including Ansel Adams, Brett Weston and Minor White. Adams referred to Garrod’s work as a display of “great solidity and constant awareness of beauty.” Here, Garrod talks a little about his interaction with Adams.“

I met Ansel in 1954 at his home in San Francisco and discussed my work as a young photographer,” Garrod recalls. “He invited me to attend his first Yosemite workshop following World War II in 1955. I later attended his workshop at Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts in the mountains near Palm Springs in 1960. I moved to Monterey in 1962 a few miles from Ansel’s home near Carmel. When he helped form the group Friends of Photography, I was invited to be on the Board of Directors. In 1966-1972, I was an assistant at the Yosemite Workshops.

“During these many years of working with Ansel, I found him to be a very gregarious, supportive and compassionate person. He was very open to assisting and encouraging young photographers to grow and embrace photography as a way of life. He was seldom negative in any way, always looking for a positive way to assist photographers and photography as a whole to advance in a disciplined, professional way. Although his work included a variety from portraits to landscapes, he was at heart a conservationist/environmentalist, and his major work conveyed a love for this basic discipline. However, it was most amazing that the depth of his technical virtuosity led him to produce images with deep and metaphorical meaning.”

To see more of Richard Garrod’s work, visit www.richardgarrodphoto.com.


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