Rfotofolio is pleased to share the photography and words of Roman Loranc.
Who inspires you?
I am inspired by beautiful painting and my first inspiration as a visual artist came from the paintings of Chelmonski, Stanislawski, Paniewiz and Zaleski. I was drawn to the richness of the work, the sense of drama and the use of light and dark. The darker color palate sets a deeper, darker mood to their work and I find this appealing. A painter interprets his subject before it is painted, filtering it through his mind and exposing it with skillful use of brush and color palate. I felt I could do the same photographically.
Early on I was also inspired by the work of Jan Bulhak, who was himself also influenced by painting. Like Bulhak, I always felt that photography can be so much more than a way of documenting a visual moment. Photography, like painting, should strive for an ideal and each photographer should use whatever level of craft they have to attain those ideals in his or her work.
Perhaps it was that feeling of having photography strive for an ideal that lead me to also be drawn to the work of Roman Vishniac. Like many Northern Renaissance painters who interpreted the daily lives of the people around them, Vishniac’s photographs captured the essence of the Jewish Shtetl with its Talmudic heritage. In the Shtetl there was a tradition of scholarly conversations between intellectual peers being had in incomplete sentences, hints, and gestures that could replace a whole paragraph of speech; Vishniac captured that ideal with his photographs.
Before arriving in America I did not have access to the high-quality photographic books that you can find so readily here. So I was not aware of what Ansel Adams work, or, for that matter, Edward Weston’s, Brett Weston’s or Morley Baer’s work looked like. What I most remember about the work I had seen in Poland was that it had a general dullness to the prints, and so when I first saw original works by these photographers I was in awe of the richness of tone, the depth of the blacks and the glowing light that seemed to come from the prints. I immediately knew that this is what I wanted to produce technically with my own work.
What challenges do you face as a photographer?
I face different challenges today than I did many years ago when I decided to make fine art photography my vocation. When I originally began to work solely on my photography I was challenged by not having a secure source of income. Now my biggest challenge is time. It is the essence of everything in life and how we spend it determines our level of happiness and personal fulfillment.
Of course, being a Tri-X film-based photographer is very challenging if I am traveling by air. I have to take great precautions to see to it that my film is not damaged. In recent years I have begun developing my European work in Europe so that I do not have the threat of the undeveloped film being ruined by x-ray machines on my return trip home. The world is not as easy for film photographers to travel in as it used to be!
I also want to mention another challenge I face with my work. In today’s world everything is shown on a computer screen. My work is not made digitally in any respect. Everything I do is by my own hand and the toned, silver-gelatin prints I craft are the final result, a computer display cannot convey everything that is in my prints; not the depth or richness of the blacks, the sparkle of the highlights, the subtly of the tonality nor the presence one feels when standing in front of a hand-printed photograph where one can bear witness to the soul of the photographer. The computer display and the hand-printed silver-gelatin print are not equivalents!
What in your eyes makes a great photograph?
A great photograph is a work of art and it must touch the viewer emotionally–it must be compelling.
The technical skills must be secondary to the overall impression of the photograph because they are craft and great art is more than technical skill.
I don’t follow the traditional theory that you must have all the shades of gray plus complete black and complete white in order to have a great photograph. Each photograph demands a unique print interpretation in order for it to have voice and to be compelling. The only thing all great art, including photographs, have in common is the intense passion of the artist for his or her work. So, I suppose, a great photograph is one that is infused with the artist’s passion.
Could you tell us about your process?
I photograph with a Linhof 4×5 field camera. A good deal of my work is done with a 210mm Nikkor lens. I only use Kodak Tri-X film, which I stock pile in my freezer because I feel uncertain about my ability to get film in the not-to-distant future. I develop my negatives with the Gordon Hutchings PMK formula from Photographer’s Formulary using a Jobo processor. I print with Ilford glossy paper which is archivally washed, selenium and sepia toned and then archivally dry mounted. I do all the work myself.
What is the perfect photographic day ?
I enjoy going out even without a camera. The camera for me is simply the tool I use to express what I feel about a place at a certain moment in time. I enjoy being in natural environments and also in churches and monasteries; both are the sanctuaries of the soul. I am passionate about both and often find myself struck with a deeply-felt awe as the changing light bathes the beauty around me in a perennial dance with time. No two days are alike visually, and yet when my soul connects with my surroundings in this way I have had a perfect photographic day.
What light do you wait for?
The light is everything to the mood and expression in a photograph. I do not waste film if the lighting is not what I am looking for, and I only know what I am looking for when I see it in context. Again, each photograph is unique and so it is with the lighting and atmosphere in each image. I look for the sacred essence in my photography subjects and it is the light that brings that essence out in the print. Often there is a special moment when the essence of my subject is revealed for a brief moment by the ambient lighting. Because each subject has a different essence I wait for the particular light that speaks to me and gives me an intense feeling of connection to the subject. At that moment I feel a fullness that I cannot describe in words because it is a visual and emotional experience and not one that I can verbalize. I can only refer you to a finished print to explain the fascination of any certain lighting conditions that surrounded the exposure of my film.
How to do you challenge yourself creatively?
Photographing in places that have been much-photographed and finding a unique perspective is always a challenge. That is especially true in Europe where everything has been photographed a thousand times. In the great cities, I will usually work very early in the day (or late at night) creating urban photographs that often leave an impression that there are no people living in these spaces. I do not photograph the throngs of people and automobile traffic that crowd the sidewalks and streets by day, rather, I let the photographs speak of these things by implication. My challenge is to capture the essence of these places by revealing human presence without incorporating overt human activity in the photograph.
I also challenge myself to find compelling photos in the Central Valley with its lack of grand scenery. Ansel Adams felt that there was nothing worth photographing between the Pacific Coast and the Sierras, and if you are looking for the magnificence of oceanscapes or snow-capped mountains I suppose that is true. But that is not what I see in the Central Valley when I walk amongst the oaks or along the river banks or in the wetlands hemmed by tules. To me these are vital parts of the Earth and every bit as beautiful as the more prominent landforms that dominate postcard photography. The challenge for me is to visually convey my feelings of the sublime in these forgotten places.
Is there a type of photography or a subject matter that you would like to try?
I have been thinking for a while of taking a long road trip and traveling north to Alaska to photograph the land. There I can find the raw, untouched earth as it has been for thousands of years, and I do want to photograph there sometime before I am too old to take the trip!
Would you please tell us about your book?
Yes, my latest book, ABSOLUTION, will be released by Photography West Graphics in the fall of 2013. The theme is my European work and encompasses 50 landscape and architectural photographs. The book will contain a number of photographs of my better-known work and a good number of photographs that have never been released until publication of this book.
The essay in the book is being written by Anthony Bannon, the former Executive Director of George Eastman House for 16 years. I have been very fortunate to have him review my work and to write the essay. Many good things have been happening with this book and being introduced to Mr. Bannon is certainly one of them.
Would you like to share any upcoming projects? shows?
I will be working in China next fall and winter and will be represented in the Timeless gallery in Beijing as well. My gallery distribution is expanding to include Europe and the Orient.
I will be having annual shows with Photography West Gallery and will have a special event to release the new book later this year.
Thank you Roman for your time and your art.
To see more of Roman’s work please visit his site at Roman Loranc.