Focus on Photographers - Carolyn Guild

Carolyn Guild (www.carolynguild.com) currently splits her residences between Mexico, California and Utah with her husband. She travels extensively to capture her transfixing black and white photographs, which have gained International attention. She has won numerous awards including B&W Magazine’s Gold Award for Seascape/Water (2010) and Landscape/Nature (2007), Silver Award for Metaphor/Abstract 2012 and Bronze Award in Abstract, 2007. Carolyn’s work can be found in public and private collections and is exhibited in galleries and museums.

Carolyn:  "I currently work in a digital world, with a Nikon D3X camera body. It is a state-of-the-art body, capable of recording great detail. Several of my lenses, on the other hand, are old manual focus Nikkor lenses, or Zeiss lenses.  All of them are manual focus and all are prime lenses. My computer is my darkroom, and I do all of my own printing on Epson printers (7880 and 7900) using mostly Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Baryta Photo Paper. I’m what is considered a 'straight photographer.'  I don’t do digital art. I do nothing in my digital darkroom that I couldn’t do in a wet darkroom. I’ve studied (and continue to study) many of the great masters of photography (Minor White, Edward and Brett Weston, Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Wynn Bullock, Paul Caponigro and more)  hoping by understanding the past, I will be able to influence the future.

"I’m a third generation San Diegan. My husband Whitney and I  spend our summers and the fall in Encinitas and Mexico.  Then we spend our winters and the spring in my old log cabin that sits at 8000 feet in the Wasatch National Forest in Utah.  My father, Dr. Carter, always had a RolleiFlex around his neck and is responsible for passing on his love of photography to me.

CONNECTING WITH NATURE

"A poem by Lord Byron, a British Poet, who lived from 1788-1824, has always inspired me:

*There is a Pleasure in the Pathless Woods*
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
          There is a rapture on the lonely shore, 
          There is society, where none intrudes, 
          By the deep sea, and music in its roar: 
          I love not man the less, but Nature more, 
          From these our interviews, in which I steal 
          From all I may be, or have been before, 
          To mingle with the Universe, and feel 
      What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.

"I can’t express myself with words like Lord Bryon. My chosen mode of personal creative expression is photography. Photography is about seeing. Seeing the light wrapping around the still earth. Seeing the light in dark places. Seeing a story unravel in place before my lens.  Even more so, photography is about feeling, about creating a photograph that speaks to my spirit. This makes me feel something: good, bad, but not indifferent. A physical reaction.  A connection. An affirmation, affirming my spirit here on earth alongside the spirit of nature.

"Communicating with my photography means establishing a connection with you, the viewer, trying to bring each of us a little closer to our untamed wild mysterious side, that side of us that does communicate with the spirit of nature. Too often in the helter skelter of every day life, that gift gets buried. If I can connect with you on some level with my photography, hopefully I can awaken in you a desire to help protect these natural places and the wildlife that calls them home.

"Minor White said and I quote, "One should not only photograph things for what they are - but for what else they are" Keeping that in mind, I try to still my mind and look at things for what else they are. That’s when the feeling part might start to happen, and when it does, I do my best work. An empty mind --  but not a static mind -- actively receptive, waiting and looking and feeling – then click.  The moment  of "seeing" is captured, but not preconceived. Henri Cartier Bresson called this the decisive moment.  I try not to associate what I see with what I know. I think that allows me a more clear, pristine vision, unaltered by limitations set by my so-called knowledge of what I’m "looking at."

COLOR IMAGES

"I’m frequently asked if I make images in colour – or simply why do I make my photographs in black and white? To see in colour is delightful to the eye, but to see in black and white delights the soul. No colour to attract or distract. Only the sensual lines, the shadows and highlights. Lines, light, and shapes repeated. That’s what delights my soul.

"Ansel Adams said there is always two people in every photograph. The photographer and the person viewing it. Viewing photography has been discussed at length by photographer Alfred Stieglitz, and his thoughts on the subject were picked up, expanded and taught  by Minor White.  They talk about a viewer having a reaction to a photograph – and describe that reaction as an Equivalent. It is a lengthy, deep discussion, but I’d like to end with this excerpt:

"'When you as the viewer, look at a photograph… and it brings back a feeling, or you are reminded of something, that photograph is functioning as an equivalent. It (the photograph) is a record of something in front of the camera… and at the same time, a spontaneous symbol or metaphor to you the viewer.'

"This doesn’t mean you have to start searching for deep hidden meanings when you view photography, just enjoy it, and if you do experience spontaneous feelings unrelated to what you are looking at then you’ll have a bit more understanding of why.  And maybe you could follow those feelings a bit just for fun.

LONG EXPOSURES

"Many of my photographs are made using long exposures. My camera is on a tripod. I use a cable release, and I set the amount of time I want my shutter to remain open. At the chosen moment, I press the shutter release and wait. Our eyes and brain record what we see in the instant. You can stand all night staring up at the night sky and not see the trails left by the stars.  My camera, however, over time, records those instants we see and all the instants between, giving us a glimpse into what I call the 'unseen.'  This transforms the natural world over time into a world where stars do leave their trails in the sky, clouds resemble the northern lights, and water becomes vaporous, creamy and dreamy. Long exposure photography for me is like a trip down the rabbit hole with Alice. I can make photographs that feel like I’ve entered an enchanted landscape that is full of magic.

"Then there’s photographs I’ve made that show off the balance of nature, the juxtaposition of dark and light, hard and soft, feminine and masculine. And still others where the flow of water is a constant release of energy, and when I look up into and through all the angles of falling water, I let go, as this is an occasion for me to find an element of peace.

"Minor White (you may have gathered he is my muse) sums it up perfectly for me. 'Be still with yourself until the object of your intention recognizes your presence. Then, don’t leave, until you have captured its essence.'

When everything lines up for me:

"Occasionally I will envision something
I’ll hike around until it lines up just so…
I’ll sit down and wait for the light to fall – just right – no matter
How hard the wind is blowing – the sand stinging my legs –
My arms – my face
And it will become my favorite photograph for a while… until
The next one touches my Spirit
And I have seen something for what it is
And for what else it is
And I have captured it essence
The Spirit of Nature"

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