December 7th: Ed Firmage, Jr.

Ed Firmage, Jr.

Friday, December 7 6:00-9:00 pm 

and by appointment

Photography by Ed Firmage, Jr.

The guest artist for this month’s Gallery Stroll is Edwin Firmage, Jr.

Using large-format (Linhof Technikardan 4×5) and panoramic (Linhof Technorama 617) cameras, I specialize in making limited-edition, fine art prints of the American landscape that are notable for their sharp, rich detail and vivid, natural colors. In addition to my work as a photographer, I also write and work as an environmental activist.

Ed has been working as a professional landscape photographer since 1999, and has been the featured photographer in Yellowstone National Park since 2000. He has also been featured in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

Ed is the author of two award-winning books of photography, Simple Gifts (2002), which was featured at the Utah state capitol and at both of the official media centers of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, and Red Rock Yellow Stone (2005), which has won several international printing awards. Red Rock Yellow Stone also features some of Ed’s original haiku, a form of poetry that he came to love while producing Red Rock Yellow Stone. Red Rock Yellow Stone features some 80 haiku in English translation and accompanying Japanese calligraphy. The calligraphy was done by Japanese calligraphic master Michio Zushi.

Ed’s career in Yellowstone, with which he is particularly associated, began in 2000 with a visit to then superintendent Mike Finley, who later became the director of the Turner Foundation. Mike thought Ed’s work some of the finest he had seen of the park since the great fire of 1988. Mike arranged for several of Ed’s pieces to become part of the permanent displays at locations such as the Grant Village visitor’s center and the Mammoth Hotel. Mike also encouraged Xanterra, the concessionaire responsible for the park’s tourist facilities, to host exhibits of Ed’s work at locations throughout the park, including the Old Faithful Inn and the Lake Hotel. Ed has been doing regular exhibits in the park ever since, with season-long exhibits at the Lake Hotel and Snow Lodge. Ed’s close relationship with Xanterra also led to similar exhibiting arrangements at the lodges in Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park.

By his own description, Ed is a holdover from an earlier era of photography. He still uses film, and stranger still, put his film in an old-style 4×5 view camera (or box camera), the kind that comes with a bellows and hood. It’s the sort of camera that Ansel Adams and Edward Weston used.

On the other hand, Ed’s process for creating prints from his color transparencies is state-of-the-art and digital. He scans his film, edits it in Photoshop, and then prints it on a big digital photographic printer, which uses LEDs to expose conventional light-sensitive paper that is chemically developed just as in the darkroom. The result is the best of both worlds: prints that capture the detail, colors, and tonal range of film with the precision of a digital darkroom.

Ed says that in the beginning, when he was just starting out as a pro, he imagined continuing to work with both 4×5 and 35mm formats. That changed the moment he saw his own first 4×5 transparency. After that, he never used a 35mm again. One thing that made Ed fall in love with the 4×5 is the huge canvas it provides for capturing rich detail that can be greatly enlarged in printing without loss of sharpness. The other magical quality of the view camera is something that initially threw him off balance. The view camera projects an image onto the ground glass (viewfinder) that is upside down and backwards. When you’re looking through the lens, therefore, what you see is not the familiar world of mountains, sky, canyons, or trees, but an abstract composition of line, color, shape, and texture. Looking through the view camera forces you to see the world in abstract, which Ed says, makes for better compositions.

The combination of abstract composition, sharp detail, rich colors, and careful technique that go with view camera work make for spectacular photographic prints. Ed will have several framed and on easels for gallery strollers to look at, as well as a portfolio full of additional prints. We invite you to come and meet Ed and see his work. Thirty percent of all sales made during Ed’s exhibit will be donated to support the work of the collaborative so this is a chance to support a worthy artist as well as a worthy cause!

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