Jim Schlessinger

I have been making fine art photographs for over 40 years.  During the 1960s I began studying photography at Carnegie-Mellon University, and by the mid 1970s, as a builder, instructor and co-owner of a photographic workshop center, I had worked with a wide variety of teachers and practitioners in the field, among them John Benson, Paul Caponigro, Robert Frank, Ralph Gibson, Aaron Siskind, Fred Sommer, George Tice and Minor White.  During the last decade or so I gradually transitioned into a completely digital workflow to take advantage of the latest computer technologies and pigmented inks.

My images are about illusion and allusion, meditation, and, sometimes, the magic I've found along the way.  I am intrigued with the sensation of abstraction; with how conventionally perceived 'reality' sometimes progresses or shatters, giving way to more essential forms.  In the 'forest' I've always found that I am as interested in the space between the trees as I am in the trees themselves. 

Back in the mid-1970s, I discovered that I compose photographs altogether differently, depending on which eye I have to the viewfinder.  I have been experimenting for 35 years now with the perceptual differences that I experience when using my non-dominant left eye.  I believe that this undertaking has enabled me to use the image frame differently and to become aware of less logical and formulaic solutions to compositional and metaphorical issues.  Similarly, I look for combinations of images (as diptychs, triptychs, or in series) which evoke intuitive linkages.

For me, the endeavor is primarily about perception – what it is that we bring to the act of seeing – and the processes that I use are a means to that end.  I combine conventional techniques of traditional photography with digital printmaking technologies to make giclée prints.  I strive to achieve similar effects to those that can be attained in a traditional darkroom, and am attracted to this approach precisely because it has a built-in 'reality check' which encourages visual awareness: Unlike what happens with painting, photographic negatives (and camera RAW files) can be seen as the base-line for making recordings of 'real world' experiences in that they render thin slices of verifiable time-space.  For me, this aspect of photography, in which the process itself provides a positive link between the experience and the final product, is what makes the medium a distinctively evocative art form.  It is in this sense that photography has a unique capacity to inform and instruct our visual awareness.  

Koyaanisqatsi (in Hopi, literally Crazy Life, Life Out of Balance, or A State of Life That Calls for Another Way of Living) seems the hallmark of our culture.  I'm trying to balance what I think with what I feel.  My photographs are meant to be lived with - and to help quiet the wearying clamor of our crazy world.

Jim Schlessinger, 2010