Today we are pleased to share the work and words of Fritz Liedtke.
Would you please tell us about yourself?
I am a professional photographer and artist, based in Portland, Oregon.
From childhood, I’ve always been one of those people who loves to make things, and to make them beautiful. From designing and building my own bedroom when I was 12, to drawing and writing and making music, I’ve always enjoyed creating.
When I was 14, my dad and I drove our little turquoise Datsun B210 around the United States, seeing 31 states in 30 days. That’s when I first remember taking a lot of photographs, looking for good composition, going through a lot of film. I kept a journal, and made a large scrapbook of photos and text from that journey. I became more and more passionate about it as time went on, taking classes, winning competitions, filling photo albums and bookshelves with photographs. I was hooked. A great teacher in high school gave me the tools and confidence I needed to think of myself as an artist.
Today I still love taking photographs, and also trying to push the envelope with the medium, incorporating more handmade methods of combining photos with other media.
Please tell us about an image (not your own) that inspired you.
I can think of several, but the one that pops up foremost is ‘Equestrienne’ by Keith Carter. I love his book, 50 Years, and have pored over it many times. When I first got it 20 years ago, I was struck by his use of the tilt feature to create narrow bands of focus in his images, which draws the viewer’s eye right to where Keith wants it to go. I also loved the blurry areas of the image and the moodiness it created. Something about it struck me on all the different levels that I love in photography: the moodiness, the intent stare of this innocent-looking girl with the beautiful eyes and the odd hat, the contrasts of the composition. In looking at my own work, I can see some of these same elements, over and over again.
Do you have a mentor or a teacher that has helped you on your creative journey?
I mentioned my high school teacher, Mike Demkowicz, who was a significant influence. He helped me see that it was okay to be an artist, to do the thing that I naturally loved doing but wasn’t sure if it was okay to do. This was huge. He was a great teacher, who even lent me his personal darkroom for many years after high school.
Please click on image to see a different view.
Please tell us about your process.
I seem to have a low tolerance for repetition, because every time I approach a new series, I want to do something different. So my process can vary from series to series. But mostly, I’m looking for a project that I can sink my teeth into, that I care about enough to pursue for a while. Once I have identified that, I look for the best way to create the images, based on the subject matter. Environmental portraits? Close-ups? Collage? Digital or analog? There is a lot of experimentation in this phase.
Once I find that I care enough about the project to continue, and have a format for the work, I try to create a sizeable body of work. Some projects are small (3 images, in Lost) and some are large (100 images and texts, like Skeleton in the Closet). I also work on finding a way of printing and/or presenting the work that is appropriate to the subject matter, such as the photogravures and handmade book for Astra Velum.
And then, at some point, the series is just done. Or I’m done with it. I pay attention to my inner clock, and note when it’s time to wrap up a series and put it out in the world.
How do you work through times when nothing seems to work?
There certainly are times like this, when I’m between projects, or trying to figure out a process. A few things that are helpful for me in this situation include:
Looking at art (in any medium) that is inspiring to me
Reading books about other artists and their journeys and processes
Giving myself permission to take a break
Asking for help; talking with other artist friends about what I’m struggling with.
Keep going. I have found inspiration in a quote from printmaker/painter Rick Bartow: “You got to move on.” Meaning: you can’t just sit in your stuckness; you have to keep moving.
What part of image-making do you find the most rewarding?
I like taking photos and working with the people I’m photographing. I like editing photos that I’m excited about. I like having a final product to show the world. I’d say these three distinct parts of the process are the most enjoyable part of making the work. But in the end, the most rewarding part of being an artist is seeing how my work affects others. Someone will tell me, “I saw myself in that image or story, and it made me feel less alone.” Or, “I also have freckles, and I thought I was ugly until I saw your photographs. Now I think I can be beautiful.” These sorts of remarks are the things I carry with me long after the work has been taken off the gallery walls.
What tools have you found essential in the making of your work?
Tools vary from project to project; as I mentioned above, I like variety, and am always open to trying something new. But some of the basics that I frequently use:
My 50mm f1.2 prime lens. I love the simplicity, the immediacy of a lens that is similar to the eye’s natural focal length. I love the bokeh.
Lightroom for cataloging and editing.
Exposure X software for post-processing and creating film-like effects.
Is there something in photography that you would like to try in the future?
So many things come to mind (some of these I’ve done in the past but want to do more of):
Exploring the potential for AI in photography and video
Getting a real wetplate large format setup for portraits
Pursuing alt processes like platinum in greater depth
Leading more travel-based workshops (I’ve led them in places like Tibet and Italy, and loved it).
What’s on the horizon?
A dancer I’ve collaborated with for years approached me recently about creating a series of images (and a video) about living with chronic illness. Since I’ve had my own long bout with chronic illness, it seemed like a perfect fit. We just applied for a grant for this project, and will begin working on it in the new year.
Thank you Fritz.
To visit his webpage Fritz Liedtke please click on his name.
Fritz’s IG account can be found by clicking IG.
A real pleasure to find this in my inbox this morning and be introduced to this wonderful work. Thank you Fritz Leidtke and thank you, Rfotofolio for the introduction. Norm Snyder
Love Fritz Liedtke’s work. And love the way you introduce me to so many wonderful artists. Barbara Bullock-Wilson