Forty years is a long time to do the same thing over and over again. But for photographer Scott Griswold, it’s been a pleasure.
“Frankly there are not a lot of people who have been in this profession for 40 years,” he says. “And it occurred to me as I was looking through my older work (and) I realized that I did this or that 40 years ago. It’s startling to say I’ve been doing this that long. Fortunately, it’s something I’ve loved doing for 40 years.”
That’s why Griswold, 64, has decided that now is the time to display a carefully curated exhibit of 180 of his works from the past 40 years in a month-long retrospective with a two-night opening from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 21 and 22.
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Many may recognize Griswold’s work from his former galleries in Cape May and Ocean City. However, Griswold says that this exhibit is not like what you would have found at either gallery.
“Those (photos) were more decorative art … things to match your walls or your sofa. This is all the good stuff,” he chuckles. “It’s not just three seashells on the beach. The images in the show may challenge you — I think they’re very sophisticated.”
A good portion of the images in the retrospective were taken during Griswold’s extensive travels to New England, the Caribbean, the Canadian Rockies, Alaska and California, as well as a few shot locally. The running theme throughout is the form of the subject — whether in nature or of a nude.
“There is an interesting series of images that show sand dunes in Death Valley and snow banks in Alaska taken years apart, but both with serpentine designs, that look like that they could have been taken at the same place,” he says. “It’s interesting to see how my eye has stayed consistent. All (my photos) have a simplistic form — that’s the consistency.”
He likens good photography to good writing or good painting — all of which have conciseness in common.
“It’s like (Edouard) Manet’s work or early Picassos — it’s just a line here and there. And if you move one, you realize that’s where it should be. It’s about knowing where something should be and where it shouldn’t be — just like writing or music.
“Art of all disciplines shares a common thread of simplicity, and it’s much harder to show and express a complex emotion with fewer notes or fewer lines,” he continues. “Everybody likes fireworks — bright lights and boom, boom, boom. But not a lot of contemporary photography is like that — it’s overdone.”
Having an eye for form instead of colors, an attraction for some novice photographers, was something that Griswold was taught by his father Scott Griswold Sr., a famous painter, who told him that you “can’t just throw things together.”
“It can be like a symphony where everyone plays loud, but it’s all the wrong notes. To me, color has to make sense in the composition,” Griswold explains. “Many (photographers) use color to hide ... an awful lot of stuff that might not be good for the picture.”
Griswold’s solution for knowing if it’s good or not?
“If you turn the photo into black and white and it looks good, it’s good.”
While his retrospective is open to the public in general, Griswold thinks that photographers specifically would be interested in it.
“I guess I’m hoping there are still some photographers out there who would enjoy seeing the transition from handmade black and white photos to digital images and digital paintings all by one person spanning 40 years. I think that makes it unique.
“It’s rare to see a work of 40 years as it developed. It will be interesting to see the flow and see how I’ve managed to do it over 40 years.”