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A Record of Looking

A Record of Looking

Layers and layers of hills or mountains, misty or smoky sunsets, beams of light coming through trees or clouds, snow and ice...

The practice of photography, for me, has been a process of synthesizing several seemingly disparate paths. One of those paths is a lifelong obsession with the landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. From a very young age, the landscapes of this area have suffused my dreams and spurred my imagination. The result is a restless seeking for an ever deeper understanding and connection that verges on the spiritual. Another of these paths is an intense interest in art and aesthetics, particularly as a way of coming to terms with myself and the world around me. Somewhere along the line, photography became my tool of choice for trying to bring these paths together.

To this end, photography has been fundamentally an exploratory activity. Learning photography, as with any art form, involves a long process of mastering tools and techniques. Learning to use photography in the way that I aspire to has been a continuous attempt to balance technical standards and preconceived aesthetic ideals with an intention toward spontaneity, experimentation, emotionally honest response and true observation. I draw on these values throughout the entire process, from looking for an image in the field, to post-process.

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There are, for better or for worse, certain themes that show up again and again, or subjects that I go back to repeatedly. Layers and layers of hills or mountains, misty or smoky sunsets, beams of light coming through trees or clouds, snow and ice. I love conditions that make light look like a physical thing, and physical things look as ephemeral as the light. To me, a perfect image is one where the physical subject and the light itself have equal weight. So, while there are definitely some tropes that show up repeatedly in my work, my defense would be that those things have the purpose of supporting certain aesthetics and or emotional ends. I like a photograph to have a hint of questioning, mystery, something whimsical, wistful or dark, some haunting emotional quality that goes beyond simple depiction of a scene, subject or place. If and when I go too far - photograph the same sort of thing too many times, or over-edit an image, it is usually because I'm trying too hard to find this quality in every image.

Because photography for me is a record of looking, not only with a technical or artistic eye but also with an emotional, spiritual, searching eye. Since I was a young child I've been haunted by the feeling that the perfect place is just over the next hill, or just around the next bend in the trail, and I've often found great solace in the attempt to get to that place. This is the feeling that underpins my photography, and that I strive to depict in each image.

Matthew N King

Tags: Oregon, PNW