[Kelp Journal] Can you talk about why you chose photography? What does this form provide that other media does not?
[Abe Winterscheidt] I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of memory, how it fades, how imperfect it is, and my desire to cement these fleeting thoughts into permanence. How can I know what I felt last week was real, what I experienced last year occurred as I recall it did? Photography became a way to preserve past experiences I wanted to remember but knew I would eventually lose. With that in mind, I think photography provides two main things over other mediums. One, it captures the world as is. Other mediums require you to filter images and ideas through your mind for you to recreate; in photography, you capture what is there when it’s there. Of the same virtue, photography can capture things the eye can’t see and perhaps we can’t imagine. Being able to manipulate light and timings lets you take pictures of things like the Milky Way or Andromeda galaxy that we cannot see ourselves and that any creation of the imagination alone cannot fully capture. We wouldn’t know how beautiful the stars are at night, how much more there is to them than what we can see without a camera.
[KJ] What do you look for when framing a shot? What draws you to the pictures you take?
[AW] Symmetry is a big concept for me. I know a lot of people like the idea of asymmetry, but I love having two trees bordering the edges, or a river split down the middle of the frame. Beyond this, I love to take pictures of nature. Being able to see the details of the world around me. I’ve always been drawn to stars in particular. To be honest, I’m not sure where it started; maybe I saw some pictures online. Regardless, one day in high school, I just said to myself, “I want to take a picture of the Milky Way,” and maybe a year later I met that goal.
[KJ] Should photographers be cognizant of the narrative they create of a place or time when exhibiting photos?
[AW] I think it depends on the subject. Certainly, in many cases, photos tell a story, especially when there’s action in the picture, a bird in frame, or a person. I’m also an author, and I think that the narrative behind a photo is usually critical to how art is interpreted. However, I cannot say I think this is a universal truth. I think there are instances where a picture captures a moment, and all that we want as the artist is to embody that moment, not what came before, not what comes after, just then, and I think that’s equally important.
[KJ] How has the digital age affected photography?
[AW] It’s certainly made it more accessible. When I see advertisements for phones that can do long exposure photography, especially ones that rely on AI, I’ll admit I get a little bitter. I know that, at least for now, phone cameras can’t do what a camera can, but they’re getting closer, and they make it very easy to take really pretty pictures, and I resent that a little bit. Being able to get the pretty shot of the stars without understanding the time and energy and money—my god, the money—that have gone into to the portfolios of a lot of photographers who take pictures for a living; it trivializes the art. Certainly there are benefits to increased accessibility, but I do think it causes people who’ve spent so long curating a collection of lenses and cameras and learning techniques to lose a bit of reverence when someone can take just as strong of a photo without the effort. I’ve taught myself everything I know about photography; if I’d been able to take the pictures I take with my camera with a phone when I started, I wouldn’t have appreciated it nearly as much.
[KJ] Are there any photographers that have influenced your work?
[AW] The first name I remember seeing and wanting to emulate was Ben Canales. Unfortunately, it seems like his gallery is down, and he’s sort of gone dark, but I followed him closely for years. Even once I got my camera and was doing my own work, I still looked at his work as the quality goal I aspired to.
Abe Winterscheidt is a photographer, author, and graduate student at Boston University. His gallery is located at www.imaginethesky.com, and his writing has been featured in Allegory Ridge.