Our Orms Photo Art featured artist this month is Alan Raubenheimer. Photo Art Consultant, Megan Sherratt caught up with him to find how he got started in photography, the creative process behind his work, what inspires him. Let’s take a look…
When did you start your venture in photography and what inspired you?
Long before digital photography appeared, I resigned as an Art teacher (1994) and the circumstances lead me into picture framing which is creative in a sense, but the bug to do one’s own thing doesn’t go away. So when digital appeared, I jumped in and that first little point-and-shoot was like an artist’s pencil - it opened up a whole new way of seeing and also a whole new way of collecting ideas and visual material. One of the main attractions for me was the fact that it was way quicker than painting or drawing.
To develop your skills, did you do formal training or are you self-taught, please share a little of your journey with us.
Mainly self-taught. At Art college in 1976, photography was a choice subject. The course was pretty formal as far as darkroom procedure was concerned, but not much on the use of the cameras because we all had different instruments and had to find out for ourselves about ASA 400 film and concepts like that. Yet the photography seed was planted. After college, as young teachers, photography was just-just an unwanted expense so it took a back seat except for special occasions and overseas trips where one budgeted for 5 or 6 36- shot films and that was it. However digital changed everything and having taught young people in an art class about reading volumes, seeing negative spaces, spatial dynamics and formal compositional aspects, it was second nature to see things in a different way to most other people. To me, the successful use of my camera depends 99% on what I am seeing - yes I have learnt about ISO, DoF, shooting in RAW and everything else with manual settings, but seeing is believing. The natural world around us has a myriad of opportunities to record the most beautiful abstract art ever and this is where I look for source material. Rock textures, bark “landscapes”, patterned surfaces etc - anything that I can record with my camera and can be used with something else completely diverse yet in a symbiotic relationship - like a rock with markings that will follow that profile or contours of a human head. So basically, I don’t do the “bigger picture” but zoom in for small gems.
You have chosen to place a selection of your work on Photo Art website, what has your selection been based on?
To be totally frank, it is based on what I enjoy looking at. It's what I enjoy doing and there is the sincere hope that others see it and simply feel “ wow, that looks cool “. I have seen in the formal visual arts such as painting and drawing, sculpture (and even in some photographic work) that the artist has weird and wonderful manifesto’s about the work and it’s relevance to society and all sorts of meanings and verbose explanations and descriptions, but to me, the eye has top priority. What one enjoys looking at is what it is all about. That is why I submitted what I have - I enjoy seeing it without any further social comment or explanation as to how or why I arrived at it.
Can you describe your work in our collection?
The collection of work I have submitted can in most cases be described as an amalgamation of the human form with that which can be found in the immediate surroundings; a face with a rock and an aloe leaf where the textures, patterns and shapes relate to each other in a sympathetic manner. I have taken it further in some of the submitted work where I combined the human head with a photograph of an abstract painting done on a piece of glass with spray paint, or a piece of textured polymer clay, but where the very same principles of choice apply - does the textured surface work with the shape and form of the selected head and what will the overall effect be?
Your work is very original, can you tell us something about your creative process.
The process I follow is actually quite laborious but in essence an exciting journey. Whenever I have downtime with just me and my camera, I take a lot of shots of whatever attracts my attention - little sections of bark, rocks, clouds, etc. Anything that shows it might have some meaning down the line. I also take random shots of people when there are crowds, at festivals, markets, in the streets, wherever I see a pose or facial structure or hairstyle or texture that is interesting. When I decide to do one of the artworks, I pour over all these files on the hard drive until something clicks mentally and I start combining images, rubbing out sections, adjusting opacity, contrast, burning etc until I reach a satisfying result. It is often the case that I have to delete everything and start again (just as a sketch artist would liberally use the rubbish bin).
You have a flair for transforming a photograph into something completely different; can you tell us something about this?
What I have been doing over the last 6 years or so can be ascribed to the fact that as a picture framer, I have seen the demise of the poster market because more and more people with digital cameras or smart phones discovered that they have an eye for a good photograph to print and frame. I gradually had the notion that with my own photography I needed to do something that would remove my own efforts from the “photography” world to somewhere less crowded, somewhere more exclusive in a sense, to a place where there was more of an artistic input. Taking various disconnected images and combining them in such a way that they create their own harmony or identity was the route with which I felt comfortable. In a sense this is not unique because Instagram has tonnes of images created from various shots but I have no interest in making a “landscape” from this mountain, that road, that lake, a giant moon etc. For me the need is to take various images and create something new without really destroying the integrity of each image used - the rock remains a rock, the face remains a face etc but the blending of the parts creates a new and satisfying result
Photography is not your only artistic platform is it?
My day job for the past 23 years has been picture framing which, as stated, has a degree of creativity. I have certainly had many customers who have given me absolute carte-blanche with their artworks or personal treasures, however, as a creative valve or outlet, it has it’s limits and the desire to do work beyond those limits is powerful. I am currently busy with one of these composite images on a canvas with oil paints - a completely different discipline which will take months to complete.
Have or do you feature your photographic artworks on any other platforms?
No! Hopeless at marketing as such and Orms Photo Art actually answered a dream by offering a service where I could produce the work, submit and not have to run around printing, framing, dispatching it. The only other platform is an annual exhibition held at home (where the framing business operates from) and in conjunction with the artwork of my wife. Not sure if Facebook is a platform as such, but there is an art page there too.
What is your vision for your work in the future, what can we expect to see?
One runs the risk of becoming stereotyped when producing this kind of image and as such one has to continually assess whether the limit has been reached and an alternative must be sought, or can a few more be squeezed out of the idea. I feel the idea is still not exhausted but I will continue to refresh the combinations of images used - ie. replacing rocks with reflections for example, or dissecting the human head in various ways. As for the future - I would love to see a small exhibition of this work somewhere and printed on a grand scale 1.5 or 2 metres tall each one - one day!
View his body of work on Orms Photo Art here.