We all have our special touchstones. For me, one of the most influential photographers of my life has been Paul Caponigro, one of the leading landscapists of the 1970s and in my view one of the towering artists in the medium. His presence on the current scene has quietly receded—by all accounts he is a quiet and spiritually-oriented person—but not for me. I revere his books, especially The Wise Silence, and have pored over them—you might even say meditated over them—too many times to count. I have never met Paul or spoken with him, but he was certainly one of my teachers, through the prism of his work, which is as deep as the sky.
A bit of a digression, if you can abide it...I recently remodeled my small bedroom. All my life I've had problems sleeping, problems that have gotten worse in recent years. Following a sleep specialist's recommendations, I've endeavored to make my bedroom a peaceful, comfortable, quiet retreat, with no electronics, as few distractions as possible, and minimalist decor. In contrast with the rest of the house, there's only one piece of visual art in the room. Although "only" a poster, it's one of my favorite pieces of art, one that has followed me through thick and thin, and many moves, for more than thirty years. I love it today as much as I did the moment I first brought it home. There's a good story behind that old poster, and I'll tell it soon.
Paul is very fortunate in that his son John Paul is also a major photographer. It's amazing how much John Paul Caponigro is his father's son artistically, even though his work is essentially not derivative of his father's at all. John Paul needs as little introduction to digital photographers as father does to view camera traditionalists; virtually since digital became viable, John Paul has been at the forefront—among American photographers—of those continually exploring the newest artistic and creative possibilities of digital technology. He has lectured, consulted, and taught workshops about digital techniques, written books about Photoshop, and counted as clients many of the big-name companies. And yet he has never allowed his extensive activities in the field to interrupt his life as a practicing artist, or his ongoing growth as a creative person.
Nice guy, too!
Old and new methods
For the initial print offer of our Fall season, Paul and John Paul have created, between them, a unique single artwork combining one picture by each. From a phototechnical perspective, it is truly a contrast of old and new. It exemplifies and encapsulates in one work of art the "digital transition," the period in the history of photography we have just passed through.
Paul's picture, in black-and-white, was taken in 1957 with a 4x5 Deardorff view camera and an 8-inch lens. John Paul's color picture was taken last year with an iPhone 5 and processed with Google's Snapseed app.
As if that's not enough difference, the two images could not be more different in terms of subject matter as well. And yet the technical dimension and the subject matter are really just the surface. The visual interplay of the two pictures (which you'll see next Sunday—we don't reveal the images in our print offers before the start of the sale) is wonderful; you can clearly see the unanimity that exists between the artistic concerns and approaches of father and son, and the way the work of each of them echoes, informs, and (in this case) enhances the other's. Paul chose the pairing. It's really quite an amazing piece, from a purely visual as well as from a photohistorical perspective.
Both pictures will be printed by John Paul on one sheet and will be signed by both photographers, father and son. A unique and unusual original work, and one I am proud and happy to be able to bring to you.
Please stay tuned for more information. The sale starts on Sunday at noon, and orders close on the afternoon of the following Friday. As you might know, we take orders for our sale prints for only a limited time, and then the prints are made to fulfill the orders already placed. The work is limited to those prints sold during that time.
Please spread the word, would you? And please check in on Sunday to see the work.
Original contents copyright 2013 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Marcelo Guarini: "I met Paul Caponigro, in 1986 I guess, when I was commencing my Ph.D. At U of A. The occation was an exhibit opening of his recent work, at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson. Quite different technically from his view camera work, although the subject was again landscape, walls etc. The prints were large Cibachromes made from 35mm Kodachromes he made with a Leica M, and they were beautiful. I got the opportunity to talk to him for a few minutes where he told me about how his family arrived to the U.S. from Italy, and about how much he was enjoying that little camera (the Leica), we even talked some Italian, his much better than mine. From those few minutes, I realized I have met more than a top photographer, but a superb human being."
Bruce Van Valen: "I was very fortunate to have been in Maine in 2011 and to have been able to spend time at Paul Caponigro's show at the Farnsworth Museum in July of that year. That show was incredibly impressive to me as a photographer. I had been aware of his work before but this collection of his work blew me away! I also have a great deal of respect for John Paul's work, and would like to do one of his workshops one day. But I have to say that the notion of one of these photographs coming from an iPhone puts me off. Obviously, I haven't seen the photograph yet, but as a previous purchaser of TOP print sale prints, I can't see iPhone photography as being the pinnacle of the state of photography at this time."
Mike replies: Consider that in the early decades of 35mm, there were many who called them "toy" cameras or "miniature format," and wouldn't take work made with them seriously...there's actually nothing deficient about John Paul's image technically (I might even enjoy the contrast between the two a little more if there were), but I'd say the artfulness is in the artist, not in the device. Of course you must judge for yourself, so you're right to reserve judgment.
Steve Makin: "Hello Mike. Long time reader here. Just wanted to share my Caponigro story. The Wise Silence has long been my favourite, a shared passion with my good friend John. Imagine our surprise when out photographing trees at a local wood and we came upon the very same tree that Paul photographed and included in The Wise Silence (titled 'Cheshire UK' if I recall correctly). John and I had spent a whole winter photographing every Sunday morning at this place (Alderley Edge, Cheshire) with a view to putting together a joint exhibition. It was to be our last visit for this purpose and we both instantly recognised the tree! A magical moment. Obviously we have both attempted to capture something of the tree ever since but never managed to do so."
Mike replies: Man, I know what you mean. I tried once to mimic a Lee Friedlander photograph, which I initially thought would be a piece of cake. I spent a week perching my camera on the hood of various cars and posing behind the wheel, and I never even got close. Not even close.
Marilyn Nance: "I was on a photographic workshop to the Antarctic Circle led by John Paul and Seth Resnick this past February. JP is a wonderful, kind person in addition to being a great photographer and instructor. Hope to be able to attend one of his printing workshops."