> Please introduce yourself, in your own words. What are your interests?
I'm a 37 year old New Zealander, born and raised in apartheid South Africa; not something I am particularly proud of. I work part-time as a real estate photographer, which I mostly enjoy, even though it is a purely technical exercise. In my spare time, I like to get creative behind the camera, just wandering around wherever I might be and opening my eyes to opportunities that present themselves. Apart from that, I like to be adventurous and enjoy hiking, camping and going on epic road trips!
> Where did you begin with artistic endeavours? How did you come across Abstraction or Surrealism?
I studied biotechnology at university but had trouble keeping a job down for long, mainly because I didn't handle stress very well in that time of my life. I have a very analytical mind that gets overwhelmed and exhausted at times and this has largely been the catalyst for pursuing creativity and art, in an attempt to find some balance. It engages a different part of the brain and takes one away from thinking too much! I was pretty-much ridiculed for my artistic skill at school, which was not entirely unjustified. I just thought that art was one big waste of time and I couldn't identify with it on any level. We are all creative people, we all have it inside of us I believe, it just has to be unlocked and given voice to. For me, it was as simple as getting an instructional book out of the library that teaches its readers how to draw pencil sketches: I was 21 years old at the time. It opened up a door for me to see the world in a radically different way; in terms of shadows, lines and texture, rather than preconceived ideas brought on by conditioning, past experience and the human habit of attaching labels or names to objects. From there, I bought my first camera and I was immediately captivated by the fusion of science and art and so my love affair with photography was born. Abstract and surreal forms of expression came more naturally to me over the years as my eyes started seeing more beyond the veil of preconceived reality.
> How would you explain the concept of Abstraction or Surrealism to someone with no experience with the genre?
Speaking from a photographic perspective, all photographs are by their very nature abstract. Even the human eye sees in abstract terms. We only sense a tiny fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum, namely that of visible light, or in my case a fraction of visible light, as I am partially colour blind! If we could truly perceive all frequencies of wave energy entering our eyes, reality would be a totally different experience. Apart from that, the human brain filters out a lot of what we actually see as insignificant so we don't really take notice of the totality of what is around us in any case. Our lives are abstract lives, we only sense a tiny fraction of the whole and we only experience a tiny fraction of what we sense. Likewise, any photograph is a gross abstraction of reality, in the sense that it only reproduces a mere slice of ultimate reality, an infinitesimally small portion of the universe; if indeed there is such a thing as objective reality. Abstract photography just takes that a small step further, by capturing an even smaller slice, to the point where the image might no longer be recognisable as an object as such. In a way - and quite ironically, I might add - the term 'abstract' is just another label we attach to a genre of art, which is something the abstract artist is often trying to get away from, i.e. the notion of labels and names and boxes we like to use to categorise 'things' and experience.
> What inspires you to use Abstraction or Surrealism in your work?
It just sort-of happens. I don't always know the reasons behind it, but I do seem to be drawn to it more and more at this time in my life. When I first started on my photographic journey, I focussed mostly upon landscape photography: the so-called chocolate box and calendar images - and there is nothing wrong with that, we need to be made aware of the beauty all around us. But it wasn't particularly satisfying in an artistic sense and it was incredibly hard work lugging a bunch of photographic equipment on my back for days on end on my hiking expeditions. By adopting a more abstract approach, one is able to make photographs absolutely everywhere, whether it be in your back yard or on the crest of a dune in the Namib Desert. There is beauty and intrigue in literally everything, in decay, neglect, despair and even death itself. All the images in my gallery to date were made over the course of the last 6 months; I have not uploaded any of my older work as yet and don't really feel compelled to do so. I have been going through quite a creative spurt, in part inspired by all the great work here on deviantART, and it has drawn me more into exploring abstraction and surrealism as a form of personal expression.
> What do you want to express with your artwork? What is the idea you're trying to put across?
The wonderful thing about abstract and surreal photography is that the viewer will add their own interpretation to the work, based on their past experience and neurobiological make-up. That holds true for other genres of photography as well but is especially true for abstraction and surrealism. No two people will perceive the work in the same way, so the work you created with your mind and vision is then interpreted in possibly a totally different way by the viewer and distilled into a feeling, emotion, thought or dream. It is almost as if the work is being created twice, once by the photographer and once again by the viewer. In this way, there is a meaningful interaction between the two parties, something I find valuable. So there is no real message I am trying to convey: the message is the one the observer arrives at.
> What are your 'tools of the trade'? How do you create your art?
I only started shooting digital in 2008: prior to that it was mostly 35mm transparency film. I now mainly use a Canon 5D Mk II, but still occasionally get out my 5D original as it has more of that film 'look' about it. My workhorse lens is the Canon 24-105mm f4 L IS but I have three other Canon lenses as well. Then there is my trusty but ageing Manfrotto tripod that will need replacing soon, as the sea water and sand has taken its toll. I shoot in RAW and process with Lightroom 4, mostly opting for subtle and gentle adjustments. I don't spend much time processing my images, I prefer to create with the camera as much as possible.
> Do you think the quality of a piece depends more upon technical perfection, or the message contained therein?
It depends on how one defines quality. I think the message or idea should be the primary focus but the message can be diluted if poor technique was used. In other words, you are better able to convey your intention by using 'proper' technique. Sometimes one can stumble upon something remarkable by not being conscious of technique and that is great, so it is not a hard and fast rule, but I admire a well composed and executed photograph that resonates with me on an artistic level as well.
> Who are your favourite visual artists, and why?
Among the masters of photography, I have great admiration for the likes of Minor White and Edward Weston whose abstracts or 'equivalents', as they were often referred to, helped push photography form a purely clinical documentation of reality to something more intangible, in essence using photography as a tool for creating art. The Canadian photographer Freeman Patterson had a big influence on me when I first started on my journey. His 1979 book Photography and the Art of Seeing which I first read in 2002, really helped me to break out of the box of conditioned visual perception and to really see in abstract terms for the first time. The more abstract, and perhaps less well known, works of New Zealand nature photographer Craig Potton served to inspire me to look past the obvious beauty of the country's landscapes to focus more on the intricate details and tighter compositions contained within. Here on deviantART I'm a big fan of the of, in alphabetical order: arctoa for his poetic and imaginative works; ChristineKalliri for her soulful depth and intensity, DpressedSoul for his expressive works, Einsilbig for his simple yet strong abstracts, EintoeRn for his prolific and perceiving eye, and Hengki24 for his epic nature abstracts. There are many more of course, so please don't feel offended if I have left you out; these are just off the top of my head!
> Which dA Groups would you recommend to someone looking to get involved with abstract and surreal art?
> What advice would you give to an absolute beginner in the genre?
Go stand in your back yard or in your room and force yourself to shoot at least 30 to 40 different unique and creative images from the position you are standing, no walking allowed! Look at what is above you, below you, next to you, in the distance, everywhere. Look at the shadows, the lines and shapes, the different colours and tones. Just experiment and have fun! If you can make a handful of really nice images of a seemingly familiar and 'boring' environment, you can do it anywhere!
> Any final words on abstract and surreal art?
Don't get too caught up in the words abstract and surreal, they are merely pointers to describe what cannot be described.
> In conclusion, pick nine works from your Favourites that you particularly enjoy.