This week’s guest blog is from Walt Stricklin (waltstricklin.com), Director of Photography for The Birmingham News. The Birmingham News has been a user of the Merlin digital asset management system since 1999. Walt recently visited China to exhibit some of his work, here is his report:
I have been a photojournalist for the past 35 years and since 1998, I have been director of photography at The Birmingham News.
It may seem like a huge leap to go from journalism to fine arts composite landscape photography, but let me assure you that for me, it is not. I am trying to put people and their surroundings into context – I believe that our environment shapes us as much as we shape it.
Composite landscape pictures started for me by accident in the late 1980’s. I was trying to shoot pictures that were impossible with any lens I had in my bag.
About 3 years ago I got serious about landscapes, I had been critiquing one of my better photographers, and I told him to remember why he had first gotten into photography in the first place – just for the fun of shooting pictures.
That statement resonated in me and made me want to shoot again. But I could not compete with my staff for assignments, so that only left one thing for me – fine arts and landscapes specifically.
In October 2010 I was one of 52 portfolios juried into a review at Atlanta Celebrates Photography. About half way through my review with Yan Li, a curator for Beijing High Noon Culture and Li Shufeng, Editor of Photo China magazine, they asked if I would be interested in coming to China to participate in a photographic landscape exhibition in December. I was to be one of 12 American landscape photographers invited to show (only 10 made it to China).
Right then the adventure started. Three months to get a cohesive show together, edit, print and make arrangements for framing in a foreign country. How do you get a 20 print portfolio (some prints 21”X 60”), a camera bag with laptop and an overnight bag through as carry-on baggage? Much less, get them through customs without being flagged?
I ended up carrying the portfolio in an 8”X 22” heavy-duty craft paper tube. When I finished getting it together, my wife said all I needed was a fuse coming out the end to make it look like dynamite … great just what I needed to hear as I headed into China.
The American group had a lot of communications with Yan Li about what to expect in China and Inner Mongolia. She warned us over and over to be ready for cold weather and we took heed, but there is only so much you can do when you are dealing with below zero temperatures. The worst day was -30C (-22F) and we were out shooting pictures.
The American contingency was a lead portion of the show that had about 100 photographers exhibiting. It was setup out in the desert in an inflatable dome they called the Art Palace. The Palace was 100 meters in diameter, unheated with a sand floor! I have never matted, framed and hung pictures in a meat locker before, but this was really close.
I could not imagine them getting anyone out to see the show, but I was wrong. The exhibition was great. It was the inaugural photographic conference being sponsored by Photo China magazine and it drew 300-350 Chinese photographers. They plan on leaving the exhibit up for 4 months which will be into the spring and much milder temperatures, plus it will get it into the tourist season there.
All in all, this is an experience I will never have again and one that I will remember as one of my best adventures ever!
Posted by Walt Stricklin