About - John O'Sullivan Photography

Statement

“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.”  Robert Frank


I photograph for the catharsis that comes from finding visual order in the chaos of reality. Coherence is the excercise, a photograph the product. This coherence is purely arbitrary and depends on the quirks of humans visual perception. I depend on the language of visual communication. A poet bends spoken and written language, I try to bend visual language in the same way. When it works, I get satisfying images rich in detail and visual interest. My most successful work balances layers of order and chaos. Architecture is a favorite subject because it creates a satisfying order based on the language of building a practical structure. Practical in the sense that buildings are built to stay built, not to fall down. Using this provided order, I can use photographic tricks like depth of field, or composition, to introduce some chaotic elements. The process works just as well this way as when I start with random subject matter and try to impose coherence, but backwards.

The end product is a (usually) large photo with exquisite detail. I hope the viewer finds delight in the visual stimulation and detail of my prints. A satisfying balance of visual elements. On the first level, I want my photographs to succeed as purely decorative artifacts that delight the eye. It is up to me to infuse enough meaning to carry the image beyond mere decoration. The extent to which I accomplish this is the measure of my artistic success.

I have two typical approaches to subject matter. Single images are the start, for changeable subjects and those not suitable for panoramic treatment. I blow these up to 18x12 as that is the largest size possible without image degradation. In future, much higher resolution cameras can push the size of single images up past 20x24.

For those subjects suitable, I take panoramas, assembling dozens of photos to create a much larger, high resolution image. Such an approach was very limited before digital. The ultimate aim is wall sized photos with contact print quality. This is my solution to the problem of carrying an 8x10 camera everywhere. I can get 8x10 quality with a flexibility not possible with 8x10 equipment.


I have been influenced mainly by 4 photographers:

Eugene Atget - Atget taught me the transformative nature of silence and stillness. The best among them elegantly play off numerous elements to create a moment of amost perfect balance.

Fredrick Henry Evans - Evans taught me to take my time and take control. Usually patience is not a virtue in photography, nor part of my personal make up.

Joel Meyrowitz - With Cape Light, Meyrowitz combined the gravitas and quality of 19th century photgraphs with a modern asthetic sensibility. He was the bridge for me between between Atget and what I could do.

Robert Frank - The Americans shocked me. Again, the beauty, the silence, but with people, movement and moden equipment. Frank also showed the majesty and beauty of everday things. How the artist could liberate these qualities in a subject through composition and timing.

Together, these photographers taught me that the commonplace can be transcendent, technique is critical to artistic expression, and the importance of going out into the world to find subjects.

Bio

Professional photographer in the 1980's. 

20 year career as a marketing executive.

Upon retirement, returned to photography.