How did you get started in photography?
I had a Kodak 104 Instamatic in 6th grade, but the moment came many years later when looking through my brothers OM1n and realized a whole world in the viewfinder. I’ve been chasing images with my 4 x 5 and following ideas ever since.
Which photographers and other artists work do admire?
Brett Weston, by far is my favorite photographer, sheer boldness in his prints.
Rod Dresser, a great photographer, teacher, mentor, and friend.
Edward Weston, you can see his style in all that followed.
Alfred Stieglitz, set the standard for photography as an art form.
Renoir, Cezanne, Degas.
When did you start to develop a personal style?
It was Rod Dresser who made the largest impact on my printing techniques and personal style. He said I was ready to get out there and follow where photography leads me. I remember that moment to this day. We met for a workshop in Death Valley. I hadn’t seen him since a one-on-one printing workshop in 1998. A few months after that workshop, I was involved in an automobile accident, and during the years of recovery I was able to focus on all he had taught me. When I returned to see him a few years later at the workshop he was very pleased to see the changes brought on by him…”a quantum leap”, he said. I will forever be in his debt. He passed away over a year ago and he is truly missed.
What challenges do you face as a photographer?
First, is time. I had been very prolific for years, but since 2007-08 I have lost two sisters and my parents in just over four years so everything pretty much has taken a back seat, but I’m slowly returning to it.
Secondly, taking an idea in my head and figuring out how to achieve it in the darkroom. The images from London and Paris for example took longer to get to the right amount of diffusion coupled with the right toning techniques than it did to print the series. A lot of trial and error, but well worth the time and effort. An added plus was exploring new ideas and techniques some of which I will apply to future projects. The darkroom is an opportunity to explore your vision long after the shutter has been released.
How do you overcome a creative block?
Rod recommended reading Art and Fear, a great insight. I go back to it now and then. I usually have an idea in my head versus just random shooting in an area such as Yosemite or southern Utah. Prior to the Europe trip, I knew I wanted a vintage look to the images so I knew what I was seeking before I even got on the plane. I also find the studio a great place the overcome this and work out new ideas.
Would you tell us about how you go about editing?
This always seems to be the hardest hurdle. This depends on whether I’m assembling prints from a location type shoot or studio work. With location shoots you have all the negatives right in front of you to choose from. With studio work you can go back and create the image you need to fill a gap or two in a particular series. A series will pretty much tell you what it needs if you listen. I like images that flow together and have the same qualities and feel to them. The first image leads you into the series and the last leads you away…like bookends.
How important is it to your art form to have “creative community”?
It used to be very important, but after what’s happened the last few years it’s more of what will I leave as my personal legacy. What will I pass along to family or donate. I think the images will hold up over time.
How does your art affect the way you see the world?
I think it’s the reverse. How I see or want the world to be affects my art. I lean towards a peaceful co-existence and peaceful images come from that. I’m not a fan of disturbing or provocative images. Too much anger in the world.
Is there another type of photography or subject matter you would like tackle?
I always have several ideas that are in bits of pieces, negatives, prints etc. I like the thought of moving from idea to idea and not be pigeon holed into just one subject matter. If you don’t explore an idea you never move forward. I follow the idea to where it takes me, not where I take it.
Any stories you would like to share?
I remember going to photograph an old barn in Ojai, California with a friend. I had my 4 x 5, a 150mm lens, and four loaded film holders. My friend, two Nikon 35 mm with several lenses. I got out of the car leaving my camera on the floor and walked around for 15-20 minutes trying to find an image or two. By the time I returned to the car to retrieve my gear my friend had shot four rolls of film. I took two negatives of each image. After returning to the car with my gear my friend shot yet another two rolls. Later that week I processed the film and printed one of the two images, the second was not worth it. I saw my friend a few days later and asked him how the proofs came out and he said he got nothing worth printing. Later that year, I place the image along with several others in a gallery exhibit near Glendale, CA. A week later the Los Angeles Times mentioned that particular print in their review. I guess there’s a lesson in patience in there somewhere.
Thank you William for sharing your work with us.
To learn more about the work William Rehm please visit his site at William Rehm.