Nester Gallery steps into the ‘Wilderness.’
December 16, 2014
Bay Area photographer Debra Bloomfield edits her art through the camera so there is no cropping or reconfiguration when it comes to the finished work.
"I come from the generation who knew Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham," Bloomfield told The Park Record during a telephone interview from her home in Oakland. "I studied with them and had dinners with them. So I have this purist belief with my abilities to respond, think, hear and see, that I have the ability to capture a scene at that right moment through a camera."
Park City will get the opportunity to see how Bloomfield sees the world when the Julie Nester Gallery opens "Wilderness" on Friday, Dec. 19. The works will be on display at the Julie Nester Gallery, 1280 Iron Horse Dr., and in the gallery’s smaller studio, located at 260 Main St.
Bloomfield will be in Park City on Saturday, Dec. 27, for an artist reception, which will be open and free to the public.
"Wilderness" is based on a photography book that Bloomfield published earlier this year. The images are of the desert and ocean.
"It was a journey that started for me in 1989," Bloomfield said. "I walked and drove to the Four Corners region of the United States. I needed to heal myself and move out into the land."
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She stayed there for 12 years.
"In that time frame, with help from the indigenous people and elders from certain Zuni and Hopi tribes, I learned to move within that landscape respectfully," Bloomfield said. "I started that and went from there to my oceanscapes."
When the photographer finished shooting the ocean scenes, Bloomfield found she missed being engulfed in landscapes and headed to Alaska.
"I have an odd way of working and I truly believe in the intuitive process," Bloomfield explained. "This project cemented itself when I was up there in Alaska walking the landscape."
Bloomfield’s friend, writer and conservationist Terry Tempest Williams, told her about an experience she had in an inspiring, wooded area.
"Terry said she sat down in these woods and wrote an entire poem," Bloomfield said. "I said, ‘Terry, if you wrote an entire poem there, I would at least have to honor you and see what this is all about.’"
Bloomfield found the woods and heard a strange sound coming from the top of a sitka spruce.
"I couldn’t identify what it was and just sat and listened to this unusual sound," she said. "Finally I saw a common raven swoop out of the tree and decided that I needed to take multiple trips to this place in the winter. So the project began with the ignition of recognizing a sound I didn’t know."
During each trip, Bloomfield would take photographs and decided to record sounds of nature.
"We take in sounds all the time, but since we’re so busy, we hardly stop to listen because we have an agenda to follow," she said. "When I’m working, on any project, I don’t have an agenda. I respectfully take in and respond."
The recordings were necessary for Bloomfield’s book because she needed to understand the place she was referred to.
"I didn’t have much knowledge of what wilderness was," she said. "I didn’t know what defined the word wilderness nor know who it was that defined what wilderness was. So, the work kept evolving and I kept learning."
After she had taken thousands of photographs and recorded hours of sounds, she spent the next two years in her studio organizing the book.
"That was painful," Bloomfield laughed. "I thought I was going to go out of my mind."
She started with the sounds and created an audio storyboard.
"I would list the sounds that I liked and would sequence them," Bloomfield said. "Then I made a visual storyboard with all the images."
It was the hardest thing that she had ever done.
"Over the two years, I would stop, look and breakdown and cry and asked myself if there wasn’t anyone I could hire to do this," she said with another laugh. "I would then go off with a long walk with my dog and come back and pull it all apart and put it back together again."
The sound component is included on a CD in the book.
"This was new to me," Bloomfield said. "I had always thought about sound but never thought of doing a soundscape."
Some have called the book a "performance book."
"The sound is a narrative and was carefully put together to open you up into the wilderness and prepare you to get out there," Bloomfield said.
The journey begins with airplanes, a ferry and the sound of a 27-foot skiff.
"I met a retired fish-and-game ranger and his wife who would get me to a place where I could walk," Bloomfield said.
Then the narrative continues with sounds of being out in the wilderness and then the photographer’s return to Oakland,
"It seemed to me that the journey and the amount of effort and time to getting out there was important for me and I wanted to have that in my book," Bloomfield said. "So there is a whole other layer in sound."
Adding to the nuance of the project, Bloomfield asked Tempest Williams to write the foreword.
"She is quite a wonderful human being," Bloomfield said.
The Julie Nester Gallery has 12 of the 55 photographs that were included in the original exhibit. Six of which are quite large and measure 40 inches by 40 inches.
"I make the photographs and spend months printing, sequencing and going back to decide which I will work on," Bloomfield said. "I do tests on the negative to see which size looks the best."
Regardless of the sizes, Bloomfield is passionate about her craft.
"I’m a solitary kind of person and looking at the world through the camera seemed to suit me," she said. "I liked to walk around and extract and photography is a subtractive process where you sit and look and edit, because the camera has the lovely ability to get rid of everything except what you want to look at.
"Sometimes I can be out photographing and tears will come to my eyes because I get so moved," Bloomfield said. "I experience the world in a very emotional way."
Julie Nester Gallery, 1280 Iron Horse Dr., will present "Wilderness," an exhibit by internationally acclaimed photographer Debra Bloomfield that will open Friday, Dec. 19. The gallery will host an artist reception on Saturday, Dec. 27. For more information, visit http://www.julienestergallery.com.
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