Southwest Monochromes

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A collection of black and white photographs by Jim Wysong

For more information about the exhibit, please see the June 11, 2021 Press Release: SFCC’s Visual Arts Gallery presents ‘Southwest Monochromes – A collection of black and white photographs by Jim Wysong‘.

Santa Fe Community College Visual Arts Gallery will present a closing reception for ‘Southwest Monochromes – A collection of black and white photographs by Jim Wysong’ from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, August 12 at SFCC Visual Arts Gallery, 6401 Richards Ave. This is a free event, masks are required to attend.

My grandmother bought me my first camera when I was eight years old.  I quickly became fascinated with photography, and soon built my first darkroom in my clothes closet.  In high school, I refined my techniques and benefitted greatly from the instruction and mentorship of my photography teacher, Mr. Patrick Rose.  With his help and guidance, I was able to submit my work to regional and national competitions, winning several prestigious awards.  Foregoing a scholarship to art school, I chose another academic pathway, which led to a career in higher education.  Now after many years, life has returned me to the arts as the Dean of the School of Arts, Design, and Media Arts at Santa Fe Community College.  Little did I know all those years ago, that those seemingly divergent roads would meet again here in Santa Fe.

My work for this show features black and white images of the Southwest, primarily taken in New Mexico and the Four Corners region.  My challenge was to remove the vivid colors, which while beautiful, can sometimes mask the underlying richness of the forms and textures of this region.  I also hoped to recreate the feel of the iconic images of the West taken in the early Twentieth Century. Those photographs, often featured in magazines and railroad marketing materials, created what I call, “The West of the Imagination.” In an ironic twist, the “Real West” often bent to conform to the expectations these images created, reinforcing the fantasies and fallacies in a strange feedback loop.

To achieve the look that I desired for most of my photographs, I employed a minimum of image processing.  I primarily relied on the use of a polarizing filter, then subsequently desaturated the photographs and slightly boosted the contrast.  I feel that the results are reminiscent of the images made years ago using Panatomic-X film with a yellow Wratten filter.

I love this land for its beauty and majesty.  I also have a deep respect and affinity for the Native People of this area, and for the traces left behind by their ancestors.  There is an aesthetic quality manifest in their art and architecture that speaks to elements that resonate across cultures.  Capturing this is meant to honor and memorialize, not exploit.  The same is true for the images of more recent places of worship. Simple or grand, these are places that reflect the devotion and spirituality of those who built them.

Finally, I make no apology for my love of trains.  The history of the West is inextricably tied to the railroads.  Since childhood, I have been captivated by photographs of trains operating against the rugged backdrop of the Southwest.  My attempt to recreate the look of these photographs from the past has resulted in some of the images you see exhibited.

As a young man, I had the privilege to attend a talk by Ansel Adams at a workshop in California.  His parting words were powerful.  He told us that in the end, photography is about two people seeing something.  The photographer sees the image he wishes to make, the viewer sees what the photographer offers him.  They may not see the same thing, but a good photograph stands a chance of pleasing both.  I hope that some of these images may please you in some way.

Jim Wysong

Click on image to view full size.

Very limited access to the exhibition at Santa Fe Community College’s Visual Arts Gallery is available by appointment only. For more information about the gallery or to make an appointment, please contact SFCC’s Director of Art on Campus Linda Cassel at linda.cassel@sfcc.edu or 505-428-1501.