David Johndrow is a fine art photographer living in Austin, Texas. After studying photography the University of Texas, he began shooting commercial work as well as pursuing his more personal fine art photography. David’s continuing series, Terrestrials, combines his passion for gardening and photography and features macro nature photographs of animals and plants that inhabit his Hill Country, Texas garden. These photographs represent his attempt to give an iconic power and weight to beings that are small and seemingly insignificant. They are formal portraits in some ways, but because they are shot “in their element” they have an immediacy and wildness that can’t be captured in a studio. To realize his vision, he prints with silver gelatin, platinum/palladium, and gumoil. His photographs are part of the Wittliff Collection of Southwestern and Mexican Photography, as well as in many private collections.
How and when did you become interested in photography?
I got started in photography when I was an art student at the University of Texas. I took a darkroom class and was hooked the moment I saw my image come up in the tray. The first roll of film I ever shot, I developed myself, and I’ve done it ever since.
Is there any artist/photographer who inspired your art?
In the late 80s I worked in a bookstore and one day we received a copy of Irving Penn’s book Passages. I was totally blown away by the quality of the prints and the graphically simple style of the images. It inspired me to make better prints. Later he inspired me to work with platinum/palladium. For a long time, I used Ansel Adams’ technical books, The Print and The Negative, as references.
Why do you work in black and white rather than colour?
I always preferred shooting monochrome images because it makes it easier to distill visual information down to a simple essence. Things appear more dramatic and metaphorical when captured in black and white. Color photographs can be powerful too, but it’s harder when you add a third element, color, to basic darkness and light. The photo becomes so much about the color; it can overwhelm the other elements in the photo.
How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph/series of photographs?
I hardly ever have a plan to shoot photos; I just pick up my camera when I see something interesting. This is especially the case with my nature photos. I have a backlog of images but I’m printing all the time. The part of photography I like the most is making prints. I’m always experimenting and trying to print images in different ways and then I start to edit out the one’s that aren’t as strong and make portfolios of the good ones. It usually takes me about a year to get a good set of prints that go together well. I would rather show a few really strong images than a whole bunch of mediocre ones.
Where is your photography going? What projects would you like to accomplish?
It’s hard for me to say where my photography is going because I just follow my instinct about what I want to explore next. Or, I should say, what I want to show next because I always have the desire to share something interesting with people. When I make a good photograph I’m always thinking, “wait ‘til they see this!”