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David Zimmerman talks to ePHOTOzine

David Zimmerman's unusual work won him a Sony World Photography Award. ePHOTOzine wanted to learn more about his unusual landscapes and photography career.

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David Zimerman's work courtesy of Sony World Photography Awards 2009
© David Zimmerman, courtesy of Sony World Photography Awards 2009.

What type of photographer do you see yourself as and why?
"Many of my projects deal with the landscape and man's physical or emotional relationship to it. A barren wilderness photographed during a storm or at night; not simply as a depiction of a scene, but as Edmund Burke writes on his concept of the sublime, "the imagination is moved to awe and instilled with a degree of horror by what is dark, uncertain and confused." Beyond these remaining wilderness places I have been working in landscapes where man's presence and discards have left their scars."

Why do you take photographs? What do you hope they'll do?
"I had an interest early on in the arts, studying sculpture and painting. My own experimentation led me to photography quite young when living in Europe & the Middle East. The ability to record something I feel or to tell a story as well as to clarify my own thoughts about a subject are the primary reasons I take photographs . It takes many voices to change the course of certain events, whether environmental or political, and I would like my work to be one of those voices."

Do you like to tell stories with your work rather than having a random collection of single images?
"I think it works both ways. Storytelling is really the core of photography and that story can be told in a single image or in a series linked by a theme. Many times I don't have a preconceived idea prior to photographing a project. I try to stay open and respond to ideas and stories that I see."

How long do you spend on a project? And how do you decide what to work on? Does it take a lot of planning?
"Much of my work is ongoing. The ideas behind projects come in different forms and at their own schedules, it seems. There are times when an idea has been germinating for years only to be photographed when I have a grasp on the visual to execute the idea. At other times an event or seeing something new triggers an idea almost immediately."

There's a lot of symmetry in the work you produce. Is this intentional?
"I have been working with fairly formal compositions in some recent projects. Similarities in the compositions in some series help to focus the theme visually by limiting the variables."

A lot of your pieces have a clean, sharp, almost perfect feel about them. Do you go out with this idea in mind? And do you spend a lot of time looking (without the camera) to find the perfect place to photograph?
"My intent is to create a visual as an interpretation of what I see. Cameras, film, digital capture; none are really very capable of faithfully reproducing everything we see, without some help. I do spend time fixing the limitations of the process, whether in the colour correction of a shadow with a colour cast or the control of contrast so that in the end, what I see in the print most closely resembles what I saw with my eye. The only time I work without a camera to find a position for a photograph is when I'm working with a view camera. I would normally work with a viewing lens (or a hand on my eye) to find an exact position because of the greater complexities of setting up a view camera to check every position."

Do you know where you're going next? Do you miss it when you're not out there documenting?
"There are times when I'm working on a specific project that I'll do research on a particular location and go specifically to photograph that location. New ideas often come while I have no particular destination. These are times I pack up a small camper with some food and my cameras and head off with no deadlines and no destination."

What kit do you use and why?
"Most of my work now is with a digital back on a medium format camera or view camera. I also use a 6x12cm film camera for some work."

Do you do any post production work (If yes or no) why?

"I've always liked Ansel Adam's quote "the negative is the score and the print is the performance". There is always some post production work but of course it varies from image to image. Simply printing straight from a negative or a digital file involves some post production work in that we make decisions throughout the process. The decision to crop a little or to remove a little green from a skin tone is post production work. In my recent work most of the post production involves traditional techniques of colour and tone correction to create a balance within the image."

What's the best thing someone's said to you about your work?
"Mary Ellen Mark has said about my work "... a unique vision of beauty, poetry and power possible in great landscape photography"."

Visit David Zimmerman's website.

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