Photography And Transformation
The photographs in this show are drawn from a body of work documenting Portland, particularly the old waterfront, in the 1980’s. Most of my photographs of this project were created with an 8x10 view camera as an inexorable demand of the subject matter. Within the boundaries of its unique physical and technical demands, the 8x10 lends itself to a rigorous, even formal, approach to composition. Its capability for hyper-real description is an integral part of this vision. The rich and lyric beauty of photographic tone and detail stands in sometimes ironic counterpoint to a cast-off environment in transition.
My approach to this subject matter was documentary and more, to infuse my personal vision into the project. The choice of where to point my camera conformed to no purely historical hierarchy. I photographed that which struck my eye, and assumed that the totality of my photographs would convey the larger truth of the subject. Like Atget, I found a landscape inhabited by absence. What I sought to capture was a sense of forces gathered, change poised in the breath-hold of a moment. Over many weeks I scouted subjects and waited patiently for the right promise in a day’s light and sky. Stratospheric clouds – evanescent in portent – hover over these wharves, piers, and industrial detritus. Mystery beckons within the image frame, transformed and clarified by the camera, tantalizing yet elusive in the unfolding of time.
– Jeffrey Stevensen
Notes on Photos
Merchants Wharf, Portland Sebago Ice, 7/1983
Late afternoon, 355mm lens, f/45.
Portland “PhoenixWalls” Diptych, 6/1979 and 2/1981
The term “Phoenix Walls” was chosen for implications of new life growing from the ashes. With the Sulky Lounge, this is literally true. Both photographs were made with a Sinar 4x5 camera and 90mm Schneider Angulon f/6.8 lens at f/22, deep yellow #12 filter.
Shurtleff Salt and Chemical company, TornShed, 8/1983
I was attracted to the tears in the sheet metal facade, which seemed incongruously soft, and the unusual clouds. My lens, a Caltar 210mm f/5.6, was a wide angle on 8x10 with no movements, barely covering the corners at infinity and f/22. Since I could not use a front standard rise, my only choice was to tilt the camera and accept the perspective distortion in the brick building. Deep yellow #12 filter, f/32.
VinnyCavanaugh In His Boat Shop, Merchants Wharf, 1/1982
Vinny Cavanaugh had a boat shop at the end of Merchants Wharf. I was poking around and set up the camera to shoot the end of the wharf, his shop. He invited me inside to talk a bit and take a look around. As soon as I walked in I knew I had to shoot his portrait. The shop was such an interesting mix of old, time-worn elements incongruously decorated with posters popular in college dormitories. Vinny sat in his chair at my request and picked up a bottle of some inexpensive whiskey, which he cradled comically in his arms with a wise-guy expression. I made that shot, then asked him to set the bottle aside for a shot. I took it from his arms, and he settled back with a most vulnerable expression on his face, as though he felt exposed without a shield. It was a very poignant moment. Sinar 8x10, 210mm Caltar, 1 second exposure at f/11 or f/16.
“Plas” was a tag artist common in the old port at this time. The building façade lent itself to a very formal composition, and the tag breaks the rigidity imposed. Deardorf 8x10. I believe the lens used was a 240mm G Claron, typically stopped to f/32 or f/45.
Further Technical Information:
Film used for all 8x10: tri-x pan professional, tray developed in HC-110, printed on Oriental Seagull and Ilford Multigrade, Dektol and custom-mixed paper developers, selenium toned, archivally washed.
Jeffrey Stevensen has over thirty years experience in fine art and commercial photography. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Photography from Syracuse University, 1974.
Photography, the Language of Light, is Jeff’s vocation, and has been his passion since he had his first darkroom in eighth grade. His point of view is that the world is a marvelous place, and it is his life’s work to capture and communicate that marvel with the camera – to make visual magic. His fine art work embraces the finest traditions of film photography and today’s digital media. Jeff is a master printer well known for the evocative beauty of his silver and gicleé prints. His photographs resonate with a charged sense of place and moment.
From Maine to Malaysia, Jeff’s assignment work has taken him throughout the United States and abroad for Fortune 500 companies, advertising agencies, architects, designers and magazines.
His work is held in private collections in the U.S. and Japan. Of particular note is the publication of the limited-edition portfolio THE WHITEBOOK, Nascence Press, 1989.
Jeffrey resides in Cape Elizabeth with his family.