New Intstructor: Min Enghauser Q&A

Min Enghauser Photography

Min Enghauser Photography

1. Who are your photo heroes? Whose work is an inspiration and a guide or model for your ideas?
I don’t have heroes really but if I had to pick out heroes of photography it would be the pioneers. People like Daguerre and the guys with the horse-drawn wagons full of plates and chemical. And Stiechen who knew that photography is art and made others realize that indeed that is true. And Edward S. Curtis because he was one of the wagon photogs and his photographs of our Native Peoples and the land are the most moving I’ve seen. As a young darkroom printer I admired the printing techniques of Mary Ellen Mark, her wonderfully full-bodied highlights and rich shadow detail. That had a huge impact on me as a young printer, It was her technique more than her subject matter. I think photographers make the mistake of looking at other people’s work too much. You do need to know the source of what you’re doing, know the history, the techniques and the images that defined photography. But if you spend too much time looking at others work your own work can become heavily influence by other people’s visions. I once heard Connie Imboden say that you have to just shoot a lot and then look at what your shooting to know what it is you should be shooting. That had a huge impact on me as well. That is when I stopped playing by the rules that others had laid out and picked my own direction. I learn that my heart should be my best guide.

2.  Does process or content dominate the starting point of your work?
It depends upon what you mean by “process”. There is the technical process and then theres the creative/mental process. The first step in my process is the act of making photographs by being inside the content, in my case, the landscape. In that sense content and process are inseparable. The technical processes need to be second nature so that it doesnt get in your way, so that you don’t have to spend precious minutes thinking about it. I shoot landscapes because thats where my heart lies and because all the answers to life are mirrored in nature, you just have to look. Photography for me is more about spiritual philosophy than anything else. My content seems straightforward enough and appealing to many but on a personal level it has been the source of answers and validation. I don’t know if that comes through to others or not, I think people sense it even if they can’t quite put their finger on it. The technical process is something you want to lay down early, get a handle on it so that it isn’t in the way down the road. By that I mean you don’t have to occupy yourself with diddling with buttons as opposed to being present and connected. I find it hard for those two things to be compatible. This is one reason why I still shoot film in uncomplicated medium format and pinhole cameras. I either have it or I don’t, not going to worry about that until the film comes back from the lab. But because I know the camera well, technically I usually have it. And if I stay present while shooting, the content presents itself.

3.How were you motivated to move from analogue to digital?
I have a foot planted firmly in both worlds. For me the organic and tangible qualities of film are what make it so appealing. Photographic film is an absolute and so absolutely beautiful in and of itself that I feel it reflects our natural world in both physical and philosophical ways. Light is energy and I like the thought that the light that bounces off my subjects ‘burns’ itself onto a little piece of film containing little bits of silver in it’s emulsion. Silver is of the earth. It all seems so right. I relish in the imperfections of film grain and film surfaces, the idea that a chemical reaction has to occur before images are created and that sometime the things that go wrong are just so right. Film holds a tremendous amount of information but it does so by its own rules. My move from the darkroom to a digital darkroom was because of my love for film. The wet darkroom, while absolutely beautiful, doesn’t allow for one to reproduce to paper the information that is carried on film. Photographic papers physically have only a fraction of the tonal range of photographic film. Scanning film and printing it digitally allows me to reproduce much more of the tones and details to paper. Essentially we are seeing film photographs like we never have before. Film is just getting good in my opinion. This is especially true with color print films. A color darkroom never offered the range of materials and techniques to make an image into something transcendent like you could in a BW darkroom. This is the other reason for my moving to a digital darkroom. Color. The papers available now allow us options for color photograph that where inconceivable 20 years ago. Because for me its all about the print, it is important to have organic materials to make and carry an image. Resin coated papers of the color darkrooms of the past left much to be desired so I stayed in the BW darkroom for the fiber-based papers and the image control. I have all that now in the digital darkroom.

4. Anything that you would like to add…a short comment about the class you are offering.
I had a photography professor in college who when he spoke of photography reminded me of a preacher. His passion and respect for the medium was a way of life and was deep-seated and deeply seeded. It was much later that I found out he was once in the seminary. I think there’s a certain level one gets to where the pursuit of a moving image is a calling of sorts. Where photography is so much a part of oneself that it is inseparable from one’s personality. I don’t know if its healthy or not, but it is who I am. Is there really such a thing as a bad photograph or is it just a photograph that could be better with the right direction? I know its not that simple but I find that so much of what people present are good but can be much better either through clarification of one’s vision, technical post-processing, presentation or making the painful decision to put in in the trash and move on.

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