I recently came across the fine art photographer Jack Spencer and his book "This Land". Scanning the book's images I was initially not enthused; they were in a pictorial style - heavy and often dark, with exaggerated, faded colors. However, the interview of Spencer by the historian Jon Meacham was revelatory for my understanding of his work and stirred my interest in what he was saying photographically as well as the applicability of the "look" to digital images. While featuring few people, "This Land" showed both the beauty of America and Spencer's disdain for its jingoistic, shiny object-chasing society following 911 and our needless invasion of Iraq. He was clearly following his creative muse with an emotional impetus. When in another presentation he quoted from one of his (and my) favorite misanthropes, Edward Abbey, he had me. Spencer melded emotion and expressive art for me in a way that no one else has. Not all of his images appeal to me, but I think that's his point and the point of good art.
As stated above, Spencer's work harkens back to pictorialism, when photographers created images more akin to paintings by using soft focus, smeared lenses or other chicanery. The limited glass plate and film emulsions and processing chemicals of that early era also contributed to the look. Spencer stressed his prints with scratches and caustic substances. Some early pictorialist work was excellent e.g., Leonard Missonne; others not so much, but the proponents of "straight photography", Paul Strand, Edward Weston, Ansel Adams and others eventually forced them out of favor. However, some of pictorialism's "look" is still available today with digital technics, a "look" I will be pursuing as my own dark, creative muse, whom I call Miss Ann Thrope, nudges me - along with the morning news - in that direction. Other contemporary photographic artists have explored this genre, so my effort is not unique. It's not the stuff of 500px, Instagram or Facebook, but I only have to please my wife, my dog and myself! Anyone else is frosting on the cake!
The following images are a result of attempts at achieving a pictorialist effect by digital means. They have all been slightly blurred, toned, textured, bordered and vignetted, and they are all in my "Pictorialism" gallery which will be growing as I find more suitable images.
Lone Goose on Parvin Lake