“These images are visually compelling with their interplay of dark and light, form and movement. Beyond this, are the intriguing ideas of the beauty and grace of “dead” and “decaying” things; of the energy and “life” of discarded objects; and the energy inherent in forms returning to the earth.” Barbara Bullock-Wilson
Rfotofolio’s annual call brings to our attention the inspiring work that is being done.
Today we share the work of Robert Treat, one of the selections in the2017 Rfotofolio Call for Entry.
Please tell us about yourself.
I was raised in Midwest suburbia with corn fields in my backyard. As a kid I
had a strong interest in fine art and architecture. It was my primary focus in high school and college and has been a major element in my life through present day.
It was in high school that photography entered my life. Darkroom work
became a magical escape for me plus helped augment college expenses.
Architecture, painting and printmaking became my majors in college.
My fine art background opened some doors at a small film studio in
Cincinnati where we primarily created local TV commercials and industrial
films. There, I got thrown into animation and film work by the “seat of my
pants”. It was a lot of on-the-job training that became indispensable to me.
Eventually, my professional life re-located me to LA to work as an animator and animation director in the TV and film industry. Even though I continued to paint, printmaker and photograph during this time, it wasn’t until an early retirement that I was able to pursue these interests more seriously.
Photographically, it has only been in the last few years that my aesthetic
has evolved from taking pictures to creating photographs.
For me photography is a very personal and intimate event; both in the act
of capturing the image and in the act of viewing it. Rather than making images of the grand landscape, I prefer to focus on small details, the ones that often go unnoticed, with the aim of transforming the ordinary into something extraordinary.
These details are usually nature driven and devoid of people…but not necessarily devoid of human existence. It’s my way of simplifying a complicated world. Recently I have begun to combine my long absence from printmaking with alternative photographic processes including photogravure and palladium printing.
How did you get started in photography?
By accident. In high school I used to hang out with my best friend as he
developed and printed pictures for the school paper. My parents noticed
and thought I was interested in photography and gave me a Yashica SLR
for Christmas. So as not to disappoint them, I started taking pictures and, to
my surprise, developed a love for photography!
Would you share with us one image not your own that has stayed with
I would have to say it is a Paul Caponigro photograph taken from the center
of a creek with reflected trees on either side. It was perhaps the first
photograph I remember as being fine art. He took the chaotic aspects of
everyday nature and re-organized them into a beautifully symmetrical
Image while holding on to a strong feeling of place.
Which photographers’ and other artists’ work do you admire?
Over the years I’ve been influenced by quite a variety of painters and
photographers, either from the images they make or from the thought
processes behind them. Among them would be: Joseph Sudek, Richard
Diebenkorn, Edwardo Chillida, Paul Caponigo, Martin Puryear, Sean Scully,
Robert Motherwell, Fritz Scholder, and Minor White.
What has been your most memorable experience as far as your photographic work is concerned?
I guess it would have to be the “ah-ha” moment when I realized just how much I could push an image to make it personal.
Please tell us about the portfolio of work you submitted to our call.
Earlier this year I received a grant from the Volcan Mountain Foundation to use a nearby mountain range as inspiration for my photographs. The area I requested is not open to the public. Its quiet and solitude gives me the opportunity to turn inward and explore my relationship to this environment. I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed working on a project more.
What makes a good day for you creatively speaking?
It doesn’t happen too often, but it would be anytime, whether it be painting or photographing, that I can get “in the zone”. It’s that mental place where there’s no sense of time or surroundings, where I’m totally focused on the creative process.
Do you have any favorite pieces of equipment that you find essential in the making of your work?
Not really. I try to keep equipment and materials to a minimum.
On any given shoot you’ll find me with only my Nikon 750 and a 24-120 lens.
I guess I’m a firm believer in less is more.
What is on the horizon?
Right now I plan to continue my project of taking photographs on the mountain.
And later this year I would like to start translating some of these images into different alternative photographic processes.
Thank you Robert for sharing your work with us.
To learn more about the work of Robert Treat please visit his site at Robert Treat.