The Parks Project
Stephen Johnson's historic photography of the national parks With a New Eye represents a superb realization of digital landscape photography at its highest resolution, executed with extraordinary beauty. This pioneering ten year all digital photographic project is nearing completion with production underway on a touring fine-art exhibition, a photographic portfolio, a series of posters, DVDs and a large-format photographic book. Johnson has traveled 75,000 miles, made over 2500 132mb (or larger) photographs from over 52 parks and has been featured in 40 journals in the US, Europe and Mexico since 1994.
With a New Eye is the groundbreaking digital photographic project by photographer Stephen Johnson exploring selected American National Parks from 1994 through 2004. This project will culminate in a photographic portfolio, a touring art exhibition, a poster, an electronic disk (cataloging the work, demonstrating the technology and discussing the National Park ethic and system), and an interpretive photographic book.
The project employs the Dicomed 4x5 and Better Light digital inserts, a Sinar-X 4x5 view camera, and Apple Macintosh laptops for completely portable digital photography of very high quality. These cameras are capable of color, black and white, and infrared photographs of extremely high resolution and dynamic range (Dicomed: uninterpolated 6000x7520 pixels, 135mp files with more than 9 stops of exposure latitude and the Better Light: uninterpolated 6000x8000 pixels, 144mp files with more than 10 stops of exposure latitude.) Medium and 35mm format digital cameras have been used along the way to both document the project and fill-in where conditions made the 4x5 impractical. These included cameras from Kodak, Nikon, Canon, Hasselblad and Phase-One.
The 4x5 photographs are previewed in the field, on screen, in order to determine appropriate contrast, exposure and color balance, and to check composition and focus. The final photograph is also examined after exposure.
For documentary and archival purposes, GPS have been used to record and latitude of every photograph. A simple compass is used to determine direction of view.
Previews of the exhibit have been shown in Kilkenny Ireland, Carmel California, Palo Alto California, New York City, London, San Francisco, Mexico City and Bedford Massachusetts. Original prints are available for purchase
A primary outcome of the 10 years of groundbreaking fieldwork on the Digital National Parks Project will be an exhibition-format book.
This fine-arts book includes an extensive collection of photographs from the project, the creator's field notes, documentary photographs accompanied by image notes and technical explanations of the digital photographic technology.
This state of the art digital photographic work will be printed with state of the art filmless direct-to-plate technology for the highest quality reproductions possible.
The fine-arts exhibition will consist of approximately 100 prints, with technology artifacts (scanning camera, GPS, PowerBook computer) from the project. Prints will be large, beautiful and carrying resolution and detail unparalleled in the history of photography. The exhibit will be designed for major museum installations and carry with it a panoramic walk-in display for 360 ° views, and computer driven interpretive kiosks explaining the project and technology, through text and video highlighting field work, printing workflows and lectures.
Prints will primarily be pigment inkjet on cotton paper at virtual contact print size of 20x25 inches to 27x34 (or slightly larger). Wherever possible, daylight spectrum lighting will be used for maximum simulation of real-world lighting conditions.
Tour plans call for a major US museum to premier the exhibition, followed by a national tour. A second copy of the exhibition may be constructed for near simultaneous exhibition internationally. These plans are subject to museum schedules and book response which will be published prior to the exhibition or in conjunction with its first opening.
The Multi-Media Display
The Electronic Disk- Exhibition Kiosk and DVD/Blu-ray
In conjunction with the creation of the large format book and traveling fine-arts exhibit, an interpretive electronic disk is being designed to expand upon and complement the dissemination of this photographic work.
Between the covers of the book, and within the walls of the fine-arts exhibition, the artwork itself must dominate as the core of the project. However, there is a rich story of the creation of this first-ever digital landscape project. This includes a large body of photographic work in numbers well beyond what the book or exhibit can present, information about the photographs (including innovative cartography), extensive documentary video, press coverage, and field journals, as well as the detailed story of the technology used. This important story is told electronically through the Interactive DVD.
The Documentary Video
The one hour video documentary project has arisen out of the ABC News coverage in late 1997, combined with a mini-documentary made by Apple Computer with eMotions Studios in spring 1998, and video footage from the field work during project trips. Editing documentary footage has already yielded a rough cut of the 30 minute piece on the 1994 opening Press Conference in Yosemite sponsored by the Ansel Adams Gallery. Continuing conversations with ABC and others have made clear there is an opportunity to expand on the project at completion and produce a major piece for airing on national television.
Johnson's photographic work of the national parks are among the most remarkable landscape photographs ever made in these lands. They celebrate the real natural beauty of the land rather than the superficial and often repeated scenes always bathed in golden light. There is a straightforward realism running through his images found frequently in our hearts, but rarely by our cameras.
In 1997 the Photographer's Gallery declared "His work births a "new realism," a post modern expression beyond the constraints of conventional photographic techniques and styles. Plunging into a rich pastel world rarely attempted in photography, yet uncannily familiar to human experience, he is doing battle with color photographic convention of contrasty, saturated renditions, forcing us to see a world we know, but which photography has largely ignored. His sensitive design and color take us into a remarkable world of sensual visual experience.
Contending that the real world is already "self-embellished" he prefers a straightforward attempt at rendering of what he sees, working hard to portray what is before the camera optic. This significant break from film's inherent distortion and recent digital trends of embellishment and enhancement reveals his affection for seeing beauty, compelling form and visual power in the world as he finds it."
See Print Qualities
With a New Eye Lecture at the George Eastman House Museum. June 2012.