Jon Krotinger took a beginning photo darkroom class at UC Extension in 1991. Things went well. Since 1993 his pictures have appeared in more than two dozen one-man and juried shows in galleries and museums internationally, most recently at the Collectors’ Photography Gallery in Corte Madera, CA and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, CA. The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin included one of his photographs in a 2014 show, where it was the show-catalog title page and and is now in the Museum’s permanent collection. Another of his photos was shown in the Artists’ Guild All-California Juried Exhibition at the San Diego Museum of Art in 1995. The Permanent Print Collection at the Center for Photography, Woodstock, New York; the AT&T Corporate art collection; and private collectors around the country own his pictures.
Reviewing his 1994 one-man show at the Aura Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, entitled “Night Lights: Industry After Dark.” the gallery critic for the Santa Fe New Mexican wrote, “The energy here has much to do with striving for perfection. Krotinger brings a picture-perfect response to his photographic work. . . His concern with printing groups him with traditionalists. But he’s not compulsive. Subtle is a better term. Krotinger feels no compulsion to draw the viewer’s attention to his skill, but one can’t help but notice.” (“Pasatiempo” Magazine, Santa Fe New Mexican, 11/18/94.)
An avid cyclist, Jon Krotinger holds bachelor’s and law degrees from Harvard University. He practices law in San Rafael, California.
Igor Stravinsky supposedly called Antonio Vivaldi a musician who did not compose 500 concerti but instead composed the same concerto 500 times. Whether or not Stravinsky actually said so, there is a risk facing any artist whose work displays recurring themes: is this latest piece something new or only the 500th iteration of a by-now very stale idea?
Old-school black-and-white film photography is a case in point. In the silver-gelatin print world there is limited room for image manipulation. Film can be processed to enhance highlights or deepen shadows. In the darkroom an image can be cropped and the paper exposed longer or shorter under the enlarger. Areas can be “burned” or “dodged” (manually under- or over-exposed in small patches) – Ansel Adams was a master of darkroom technique — and the print can be developed and toned in different ways. Special papers and alternative processes (such as platinum-palladium) can be used. Negatives can even be “sandwiched” to create images not seen through a single camera lens. But that’s about it. The virtually limitless possibilities of digital imaging do not exist with film. If the image is not compelling from the outset, and if the negative is not properly exposed and processed, the printing process may not be able to rescue it from the dust-heap of unremarkable photos.
Landscape photography raises the bar higher. Without motion to capture, without a human form to animate the “pure” elements of line and light, landscape imagery risks becoming static and repetitive (even if not repeated 500 times!). Henri Cartier-Bresson famously spoke of the “decisive moment” in photography, when the release of a camera shutter captures the essence of a moving, dynamic scene. But is there a “decisive moment” in landscape photography?
For me that moment is one of visual harmony, when light and subject-matter resonate, when the elements of a view come into symmetry and balance, even if only for an instant, to create a compelling and distinctive image that I can critically claim as my own. I have been fortunate to have a camera in hand at the right time and place a few dozen times over the course of thirty years of “serious” picture-taking. The circumstances are often accidental. But the accidental image is itself an honorable theme in landscape photography. One of the greatest examples of American landscape photography, Ansel Adams’s “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico”, arose by chance. Driving down the road in 1941, Adams saw the scene and quickly set up his bulky view camera on top of his car. He had time to shoot only one negative, calculating exposure in his head without benefit of a light meter. He later called it an “inevitable photograph.”
The twelve-shot film rolls in my nearly fifty-year-old Hasselblad provide a bit more latitude to “bracket” exposures, but the process is still slow and cumbersome. The camera is heavy and entirely mechanical. A separate light meter is required. I ordinarily shoot with a red filter, which boosts contrast but darkens the scene and so requires further aperture adjustment based on the initial meter readings. Mostly I cross my fingers and hope for the best: that I have found a workable exposure, that the film is not spoiled during development, that the negative does not get scratched or discolored, that the print survives the developing-fixing-washing-drying-flattening process without mishap and still conveys an image that resembles what I originally saw through the lens. And if all goes well, with luck and proper alignment of the stars, the final photo might be a thing of beauty — for me (as for the poet John Keats) a “joy for ever”.
So I yearn for visual pleasure, and hope to convey it through my pictures. These attempts to capture the beauty of the landscape world are my great joy.