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best of 2015
Alan Perry
Seattle

Alan Perry is not married to any one photographic process — the fine-art photographer, whose work often explores the physicality of the photograph itself, works with whatever process the project lends itself to, from wet-plate collodion to digital manipulation through computer coding.

© Alan Perry

© Alan Perry


“All of my work starts with research,” Perry says, “usually in some remote corner of a library, but occasionally online, chasing after some seed of an idea.”

ASMP: What informs the process you choose for each project?

Alan Perry: I think the many photographic processes available to the modern photographer each have their own strengths and weaknesses in visual communication. I choose each process carefully to make sure there is a harmony between the process and the concept.

ASMP: How do you develop your concepts for your personal work?

AP: All of my work starts with research, usually in some remote corner of a library but occasionally online, chasing after some seed of an idea. I strive to inform myself of the ways other photographers have visually expressed or communicated ideas in the same category as my own, usually in monographs or exhibition catalogues from libraries. I also read books and articles on art theory for inspiration, typically in the form of aesthetics or the philosophy of art and photography. The first contact sheet or camera sync allows me to respond to my own photographs instead of exterior sources, which then starts a conversation with the medium itself about the idea. I modify my concept from there, and return to the contact sheet (or its equivalent) in cycles until I achieve unity within the work.

ASMP: Have you always had a focus on the exploration of photography as a medium? Which photographers have influenced your work?

AP: At Colorado State University I had a unique experience, for my generation, in that my education had a focus on the core mechanics of film photography. All the lectures on film density, how silver halides react with light to form latent images, the relationship between aperture and shutter speed, and so forth, left an impression and a strong curiosity about what exactly a photograph is, on a number of levels. The 21st Century is a wonderful time to be a photographer because so many different processes are available.

Perhaps the most influential photographer for me is Linda Connor, although Minor White and Jerry Uelsmann are very, very close behind. I have also recently become enamored with Hiroshi Sugimoto's work after being floored by a print of Catherine Parr at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle. It's such a beautiful print in the classical sense, but the subject matter — a very convincing portrait of a wax statue of a 16th Century Queen of England — really speaks to photography's relationship to reality, time and reproducibility.

ASMP: What is the concept behind your series "Methods of Manifestations?"

AP: While I was beginning work on that series, I was researching Timothy O'Sullivan's Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel. Fort Collins lies between the 40th and 41st latitudes, so I began making images that documented the geology nearby in a similar fashion. I had also just been exposed to Minor White's ideas on abstract photographs, specifically that subject matter points to a significance beyond what is depicted. Jerry Uelsmann's darkroom manipulation techniques were also at the forefront of my mind. I was experimenting with manipulating the negative separately from photographing the land, until I tried to combine both ways of working. In one sense, I started to use landscape images as a substrate for abstract imagery in order to elicit a shift in thought when considering the landscape, as well as what photographs can signify.

ASMP: Please explain how you made the images in the series.

AP: The photographs were printed in a darkroom from 4x5 sheet film that I had burned a hole into before using a heat press to crack the emulsion. I similarly burned a hole in a sheet of mylar (a devastating series of wildfires in Colorado led me to the idea of burning holes in materials), which I laid over the photo paper during printing. After developing the paper normally, I toned the prints with selenium and soaked them in coffee. Selenium subtly shifts dark tones towards purple while the coffee shifted the light tones towards a creamy brown.

ASMP: What do you consider your most valuable tool or piece of equipment?

AP: What a difficult question to answer! Photography is such a symphony of equipment. If pressed, I would perhaps have to answer my humble, worn-down tripod. Shooting with a tripod allows a psychological distance between the photographer and the camera that can be very useful. There's also a phenomenal amount of compositional control and consistency a photographer can exercise when using a tripod.

ASMP: How long have you been an ASMP member? What initially prompted you to join?

AP: I have been an ASMP member since late April of 2015, so around four months. I was interested in the networking opportunities after I had seen ASMP's orange logo on a number of photographers' websites, so I attended an informal event and made my decision that weekend. I feel that it's very important for creative individuals to belong to a community of similarly interested people, and ASMP has a lot of skilled professional members.

ASMP: What do you consider the most valuable aspect of your ASMP membership?

AP: ASMP has a very strong sense of business acumen and professionalism. As a member, I can access a wide range of resources about the industry's best practices, pricing guides, copyright information and model release forms. That being said, I think the most valuable aspect is the ability to meet other photography professionals in an atmosphere of camaraderie.