Jeff Cooper wins The White Hot Spotlight this month, which focuses on people's creative passions. Jeff grew up around photography. In the 1970s, he did the hobbyist thing – experimented with all the new technologies that finally trickled down to the consumer level (color processing). His first major project was creating several mural-sized prints commemorating Chief Henry Red Eagle’s life that decorated the Squaw Mountain ski lodge in Greenville. He wanted to live in the Camden-Rockport area since he first discovered it back in the 1960s, so he and his family relocated here in the summer of ‘95.
Q: Your photography has a distinct high-contrast look; in some cases it feels very moody, like this one, Full Moon Ford. What kind of emotion do you like to evoke in your work?
A: Interesting you picked this image as it is a bit “out of the box" for me . This was a “shoot now, figure it out it later" image. It turned into something totally different than I envisioned.
I saw this truck in Union as part of a fall/Halloween scene and photographed it in an effort to appeal to a more diverse audience. My goal is to create a variety of images and styles that viewers find both interesting and enjoyable.
Q: Explain how the process of hand-tinting works once you've got your photo.
A: This is a secret family process handed down from generation to generation. Nahhh. It's about attitude, really. The transition to digital processing changed everything.
In the past, I was a photographer and more than a bit frustrated that I couldn’t take my visions to where I wanted them to go, i.e. graphic arts/airbrush. Now I start with photography and can take images in a variety of directions. I am a big fan of Adobe’s Camera Raw converter, which allows me to change a number of aspects (non-destructively, which means changes are reversible). Hand tinting is actually easier if you think of it backwards–remove all the color you don’t want. Not every idea turns out to be a good one. I often work the same image differently and pick the vibe I like the best. Some are really quick and easy and some require multiple processing attempts.
Q: As a photographer who started out with traditional cameras and film, what's your opinion about digital photography, and in particular, how easy it is for people to now use them?
A: Bye, Bye, Kodak. The first time I used a digital camera I was hooked, though it took a while for me to realize it. The instant feedback provides a new way for everybody to improve, reducing the basic learning curve. With film, there was a lot of trial and error, as well as the time involved to have processing completed. With digital technology, feedback is instant and you can change what you don't like in real time, which dramatically reduces the learning curve. Digital cameras make taking lots of different exposures easy and affordable, which encourages taking lots of exposures and editing later for the best ones. Recently, cell phones are replacing entry-level digital cameras, making digital technology extremely convenient and the image quality just keeps getting better. There's not a lot I miss about film.
Q: Much of your subject matter seems to be classic Maine imagery of lobster boats and scenery such as 'This Bird Has Flown.' What do you search for to ensure your material is fresh?
A: I LOVE lobster boats–their shape, how they look in and out of the water, how they dance with the tide, how they show the character of how much lobstering is part of coastal Maine, and how demanding and dangerous it really is. I see all that every time I am around them and have spent a couple of the most inspiring days tagging along on board. We lived In Rockport almost 10 years before I figured how I wanted to capture the natural beauty. Images like “This Bird has Flown” are just part of the bonus material of being around the water. “Harold” hangs around Rockport Harbor and I was lucky to get that shot. The post-processing adds an interesting visual aspect.
To find more of Jeff Cooper's work visit jcooperimageworks.com or like his Facebook page: J Cooper Image Works
Want a chance to win a shot at The White Hot Spotlight? Like The Killer Convo on Facebook (facebook.com/killerconvo) and look for the monthly photo contest: "How Well Do You Know Midcoast Maine?"
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This blog is a is a killer roundup of all arts, entertainment, brewery & distillery, food trucks, happy hour happenings in the Midcoast Maine. Feel free to email me anything about Midcoast arts, entertainment & the creative economy.