River Walk
© Holden Richards

Holden Richards work was chosen as a 2020 Rfotofolio Selection recipent for his portfolio River Walk. We are pleased to share his work here on Rfotofolio.

Would you please tell us about yourself?

I was born in Raleigh North Carolina and I’m a life long North Carolinian. I’ve had a lifelong interest in art and painting and drawing. I also have always enjoyed composition, and since photography is mostly composing images artistically, it has been a perfect pursuit for me.

Where did you get your photographic training?

I’d say to answer this question we have to go back to trips to museums as a child. Looking at paintings and studying composition within painting and drawing is the basis of how I see photography. The art movements that proceded photography  have influenced it greatly. Think about cubism or constructivism and someone like Brett Weston. It’s easy to see how those styles have effected modern photography. I personally have always  enjoyed landscape painting and try to let some of the aesthetic of art movements like the Barbizon School into the thought process of my photography or at least I hope to.

When I started  photography I sought out the previous generation of masters of film photography  in North Carolina. I spoke with people like John Menapace, Elizabeth Matheson, John Rosenthal, and David Simonton among many. This previous generation of  film photographers was invaluable because I had few peers at the point that I started doing film photography. There was no one my age doing large format photography I could find. I later attended that Penland School of Craft and  studied View Camera with Jim Stone and later I studied Alternative Printing  with Jill Enfield. Having a place like Penland close by has been essential to my  growth as a photographer.

Who has had an influence on your creative process?

I think if you’re talking about master photographers the list is pretty short. People like Wynn Bullock, Paul Caponigro, Ansel Adams, Sally Mann, Emmet Gowin, and Robert Adams are some of my very favorites. Not to say that there are plenty of other photographers  that I have been influenced by seeing their work (esp. Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Gregg Condon). Also again  the North Carolina photographers I previously mentioned had a great impact  on my work because they were reviewing my work in it’s very early stages. This really helped me create a more coherent vision out of the nascent attempts at image making.

Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time.

Rather than talk about a single image I will talk about Sally Mann’s book, Deep South. This collection of photographs inspires a feeling that is very real and yet very ineffable, which is exactly what you want from a good photograph.  You can’t quite put your thumb on what you’re feeling but you’re feeling  something and it makes you wonder. That sense of mystery, of something hidden from the viewer in yet at the same time completely revealed. That seems to be the case with most of the photographs in this collection so I won’t single out one, but I’ll just suggest that the feeling this whole collection as a body of work evokes is a deep influence on how I try to see.

What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson?

I’d have to go for every image I have attempted or made. There are some images I have photographed 5 or 6 times until I have achieved what I thought was there  in the landscape. Every exposure, if acknowledged, correctly teaches you something  about what you’re saying and what your process is revealing or not revealing.  It is really important to move past being hung up by technicalities and get on with the seeing as soon as possible. Type of camera, type of developer, type of film;  all those things should become invisible after a point so that you can totally focus on what you’re doing. So I’ll just say every new exposure teaches me something.

Please tell us about the work you submitted to the Rfotofolio Call.

“Riverwalk” is my project of photographing the Eno River that flows through Orange, and Durham counties has been my focus for more than a decade. I have made photographs here in all seasons, at all times of day, in most locations along the river. The river has offered an ever-changing, constantly evolving  location for the making of photographs.

The growing collection is a portrait of a subject that won’t sit still. An attempt to photograph an evolving, living entity that has played a huge role in the history and development of the areas around it. It’s also a place where I find exceptional solace and meaning. So far the photography has been done utilizing at least six camera formats, with some cameras older than 100 years, developing and printing the results in the traditional wet darkroom.

What part of image-making do you find the most rewarding.

Lately I have been enjoying making large-format contact prints. There’s a real purity and clarity about them. What you see on the camera is directly translated into what appears on the paper. You go out with the camera and you capture a scene which is made into a negative, and that negative is directly printed on to photographic paper. There is very little in between what you saw and what you get in the darkroom. And I like to think some of the feeling you have in the field while making those photographs turns up in the prints.

How do you work through times when nothing seems to work?

Yes indeed that is something that does occur. I think the only solution is to attempt to recharge and to persist at the same time. Just keep the work going. Something will emerge. But my are those times trying, and can really bring you into questioning a lot of aspects of the work you’re doing. But, that can be a good thing.

What tools have you found essential in the making of your work?

I try not to put too much stock in equipment. So I find sources of inspiration are actually the most important tools. Going to museums, seeing silver gelatin photographs in exhibits. It is important that you are very comfortable with your cameras and lenses so that you can forget about them. You can go out and do the seeing instead of the physical doing. If I had to pick a piece of gear I would say lenses are the most important. Cameras are meaningless in the greater scheme of things, but lenses are everything.

Is there something in photography that you would  like to try in the future?

So many things, I have been immersed in alternative printing in the last couple of years and it is opened up a new avenue of expression and exploration. There are other types of photography I’d like to try mostly involving unusual lenses or cameras, so there’s a lot to look forward to.

How does your art affect the way you see the world?

It affects it in the sense that I’m always creating. I can’t just look at something, I try to frame it or put it in a photographic context. So yes, doing photography has made me constantly aware the artistic potential of the everyday.

How has the pandemic influenced your work methods ? Or has it?

Well I’ve done a whole lot more photography. Less printing because I have had less as access to my usual darkroom. But I’ve made a lot of photographs this past year and it’s been a very good outlet for a lot of frustration.

What’s on the horizon?

Immediately, a book based on this “Riverwalk collection” which I submitted to Rfotofolio. Exhibits ahead for the book and other material. I am so glad to be included in this year’s selection so thank you!

To learn more about the work of Holden Richards please visit his site at Holden Ricahards.


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