Interview with photographer Richard Auger, whose solo exhibit at Fifth Avenue Art Gallery opens Friday, July 4. 5:30 - 8:30. To read the interview... click on read more
Hello, Richard. Would you please tell us a bit about your passion for the Florida landscape in your photography?
There is something magical about the woodlands, swamps, and backroads of Florida; twisting trees over wood bridges, large birds and an abundance of wildlife; all with an almost haunted, mystical quality. Florida shares much of its landscape characteristics with other parts of the South and Gulf Coast states. While Florida has no glorious western-style mountain landscapes, my home state is nonetheless enchanting and loved by its residents, especially to those rare Florida natives like myself. With a focus on authenticity, craftsmanship, and conservationism, I’m building a collection of black and white film photographs of every major region of ‘Wild Florida’. I’ve titled this series “Florida Noir”.
What is your art/educational background, and how did you begin your career as a professional photographer?
Since I was 5 years old, I’ve always had a camera in my hand. While it was my dream in high school to get a photography degree in college, I took the safe route and went to business school. At FSU, I was the head lifestyles photographer for my college newspaper, and made art a hobby on the side. After a few years as an accountant, I realized that office life just wasn’t for me. I began spending nearly every minute of my free time on improving my photography skills, often staying up until 3AM editing photos and reading tutorials.
My full time career started suddenly on March 2010, when I was the Emerging Artist at the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival. I displayed my black and white images of ‘Wild Florida’. The reaction from the crowd took me completely off guard. By Saturday afternoon, I had sold every print and framed image I brought! I sat in a near empty booth, with a new determination. That summer, I quit my office job and started exhibiting at art shows full time. I haven’t looked back since.
Soon after becoming a professional photographer, you switched back to film. Why?
In the years after my high school darkroom classes, I was an early adopter of digital photography. Looking over my landscape portfolio in 2010, I thought something spiritual was lacking. With modern techniques such as HDR and Photoshop manipulation, photography has lost its authenticity and soul. People are starting to question whether or not photography is art any longer. In 2011, I decided to toss my entire digital portfolio and switch back to black and white film, with a focus on conservation and the way I see ‘Wild Florida’. People ask me all the time if “that image is Photoshopped”. All I have to say is it’s film, and the questions disappears. This allows the viewer to focus on the image itself rather than trying to figure out “how I did it”.
Although you do some color photography, your focus for some time has been on black and white images. How did you first decide to go in that direction?
Black and white film has a brilliant ability to realistically distort reality. I can focus on finding unique compositions rather than chasing sunsets, a trap into which many color photographs fall. With black and white, the bright blue sky, green foliage, and water are all equal participants in the image since a particular color can’t distract or lure you. Many people confuse my lake and river shots for the ocean since water is always silver.
Further, black and white film allows me to find good light at any time of day, which expands my creative abilities. Black and white allows a focus on composition and my own vision of Florida. You must slow down and focus on composition and light.
Tell us about your solo show at the Fifth Avenue Art Gallery, in the EGAD Arts District, in the month of July.
The show will run July 1-27 with the formal opening 5:30-8:30 PM on First Friday, July 4. The gallery will be serving the normal refreshments plus cooking hot dogs for the Independence Day celebration leading up to the annual fireworks display. I will be doing a “Second Saturday Art Talk,” also at the gallery, on July 12. Information is available at the gallery or on the gallery website at www.fifthavenueartgallery.com.
What’s next for you?
This year, I’ve started thinking of myself as a Southern Artist rather than a Florida Artist. This summer, I’ll be traveling through the Carolinas and the Deep South. For the first time, I’ve traveled to art shows outside of Florida, including Texas, which was a fantastic learning experience to see my images of Florida swamps embraced by people outside our state. After a 2500 mile round trip in two weeks, I was pretty exhausted, but I’m ready for more next year!
My show schedule along with images and other information are on my website at www.richardauger.com