(No one else’s photography has been used on this site. All photography by Craig Patterson. It seems odd to have to say that, but people just keep asking…
While it’s often said that the human eye is a work of art, the real power lies in the brain. No matter what the eye sees, a person’s mind, through experience gained over a lifetime of interpretation, manipulates what we see into something that is more meaningful. The brain removes your nose from your line of sight, for example, even though both eyes see it all the time. It also compensates for blurriness around the periphery of vision, less light sensitivity at the center, and odd color balances that result from varying lighting. It ignores the fact that you see two incongruent views of the same scene, instead interpreting that data to give you sensations in three dimensions instead of two. It turns the image upside down, to compensate for your eye inverting what it sees. And it does so much more, all in real time.
The brain can discern more levels of brightness than even the finest film, ink, or camera. It sifts through your life’s images to find patterns, to recognize distant objects you may have seen before, but cannot quite make out in the current view, to bring them to the forefront of your mind, instead of relegating them to a meaningless shape, like a camera would do. And it does all of this without you even thinking about it, to a degree that the rich tapestry that your mind constructs ends up bearing little resemblance to the imperfect reality seen by your eye.
The job of recreating this reality in the fumbling darkness of photography is more art than science, as it requires thinking about what someone else’s brain would have ended up with after a full analysis of a place or object they may never have actually seen.
In a raw photograph, I see a hilariously inadequate view of what my brain saw in the field when I took that picture. My job is to perform the translation your brain would have, changing the mere snapshot into a memory that you will keep with you forever.
One of the advantages of creating a black and white image is that it’s possible to force the viewer’s mind to start the interpretation process from the beginning. Once color comes in, you know what decade the image was shot (or what decade is being portrayed), as well as the season, and the time of day. Certain details will jump out, like the color of a building. These are all detriments, as you’re being told exactly how to view the image. With color drained and contrast taking over, it could have been taken fifty years ago or yesterday, during the morning or afternoon, and in any season. The entire emotional interpretation is now up to you, the viewer.
I missed having you there with me during the shoot, but I’ll bring you along through the translation, so you can see it too. Sometimes that means shooting 450 frames for a super-sharp panorama, and sometimes it’s just one frame.
In 1974, Craig got his start in audio engineering, with his first paid recording gig. He continued into the music business as a performer, touring nationally and worldwide. In 1991, he founded PME Records, helping to further the careers of over thirty bands and artists. With the collapse of the music industry in 2007, the label was shuttered in favor of an artistic vision that continues today with the assistance of generous donors, cultural institutions, and you, the recipient of these works.