This month, from January 4 through 30, the Elisabeth C. Miller Library at the UW Botanic Gardens is hosting a photography exhibition, “An Intimate View of Wild Lands,” featuring Richard Dunford, the son of SEFS alumnus Earl Gerald Dunford (’35, B.S.).
Richard started as a large-format film photographer 45 years ago and just recently converted to digital. His primary photographic interest has always been in Pacific Northwest landscapes, particularly public forest lands, trees and moving water. He is retired from a career in medicine and science and is currently living in Bellevue, Wash., with his wife of 28 years and two corgis.
Read more about his exhibition below, and we hope you get a chance to explore his wonderful photographs!
My father, a graduate of the University of Washington College of Forestry, was career U.S. Forest Service. With him I’ve lived in and walked through some of our country’s finest remote wild lands, including the national forests of the Smoky Mountains, Rocky Mountains, Sierras and Cascades. My mother was from Oklahoma and not a forest person, but she was a determined amateur painter. This sentiment for forests and artistic DNA merged some 45 years ago when I picked up Ansel Adams’ book, The Range of Light. It was a new day for me and I went looking for a 4×5 camera.
This exhibition is mostly about trees, and I want you to see them differently from how you may have looked at them before. We mostly think of tree color at peak in autumn—full of color and beautiful to behold, but commonplace photographically and easily overdone. I only nibble at the edges of autumn because there is so much more out there. My best photographic time is from late autumn into late spring. Summers are best early morning and late afternoon even for backlit subjects.
These are primarily digital capture photos from the western and eastern Cascade slopes, Puget Sound and central Washington scablands. Many are from the soggy forest in overcast and rain where winter light is subdued and color vibrant and saturated. Others are from the dry eastern side where there is surprisingly expansive color. There you have to look for it in nooks and crannies and it can be unruly and difficult to control. In each region, there is a uniqueness that requires a customized approach for weather, time of year, time of day. One constant, though, is midday on a sunny summer afternoon. Those are best for a nap.
Forests are a confused and disordered visual experience. When we walk in a deep forest, we rarely focus on a single tree, there is also the environment. Where the tree lives is sometimes more important than the tree itself. Without an environment, one tree is not much different from the next. This is why my images rarely show a single focal point of interest. They are often an assortment of spaces in what might be called a “tableau” or “mosaic” effect. The tree must share visual interest with its cluttered surround. It is messy, to be sure, but it is my job as an artist and a quiet personal victory to be able to use color, light and shape to make order out of this landscape.
Photographs © Richard Dunford.