Thursday, August 5, 1999
For photographer Huntington Witherill, a highly regarded landscape photographer who served as a former assistant at the Ansel Adams Workshops in Yosemite, and as first president of the Center for Photographic Art''s Board of Trustees, the greatest challenge facing any contemporary art photographer is how to forge ahead with a new vision for the future without fully abandoning the legacy of the past.
"All the people working today, including myself, should and have to admit they''re standing on the shoulders of the great people that went before them," explains Witherill, commenting on the profound influence of such photographers as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.
"One of the things that is a trap is being classified as a West Coast landscape photographer," adds Witherill. "That can be very limiting, but those classifications are somebody else''s view of my work based on the subject matter I choose to photograph. There''s a lot of stereotyping in most art forms, and one of the reasons I moved to different types of subject matter is to try to rebuff that stereotype."
In his latest exhibition at the Ansel Adams Gallery, Witherill stands revealed as a truly independent artist with a peripatetic eye whose elegantly luminous prints of natural landscapes, still lifes and man-made objects seamlessly blend the aesthetic traditions of the past with the imaging technologies of the future.
All of the black and white gelatin silver prints in the exhibit are printed from both conventional negatives and digitally produced negatives that are manipulated with a computer and then contact printed.
Witherill likens his 30-year career as a fine art photographer to a creative odyssey, a journey of limitless artistic discovery in which the artist seeks no final destination and draws upon the past as a guide towards the future.
"The only way I can see where I''m going is to look at what I''ve done in the past," explains Witherill. "It''s like driving down the road looking in the rear-view mirror as a point of reference to give a hint where I''m headed. One of the greatest things about all art is one will never figure out how to do it. It''s a lifelong thing."
For Witherill, working with computer imaging techniques has given him greater creative control and freedom while staying faithful to the high standards of the "fine print" espoused by Adams.
"What the computer gives you is unlimited control of the contrast and tonal range," notes Witherill. "The process allows me to get a more refined resolution to the image."
Despite all the technological advances in photography, Witherill insists that it is the vision of the artist that truly determines the end result.
"To a certain extent, technology does drive the vision," comments Witherill, "but I''m an absolute firm believer that vision is what makes a photograph, not the tools. When I look at a photograph I don''t care how it''s made, but whether it evokes emotion and feeling and causes me to reflect. If it does, it''s successful and it doesn''t matter how it was put together."
"Photographs by Huntington Witherill" is on display through Sept. 15 at the Ansel Adams Gallery at the Inn at Spanish Bay, 2700 17 Mile Dr. in Pebble Beach, daily 9am-6pm. An artist''s reception will be held Saturday, Aug. 7 from 5-7pm. 375-7215.