All posts by Jeff Curto

Photographer Jeffrey Curto is Coordinator and Professor of Photography at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, where he has taught since 1984. Courses frequently taught include History of Photography, Digital Imaging. Compositional Structure, Color Photography and other advanced techniques. Prior to employment at College of DuPage, Curto worked extensively as a freelance photographer, specializing in event and public relations photography, architectural interiors and exteriors, portrait and product photography. Further, Curto worked in the photo-processing industry for two years, primarily as a custom photographic printer. Curto was awarded a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1981 and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Bennington College in Vermont in 1983. Additionally, he attended Ansel Adams' last workshop in Carmel, California in 1983. In recent years, Curto's primary photographic subject has been Italy; he has traveled there frequently since 1989. While it is the country's landscape and architectural qualities that interest him, it is not the large, expansive view which draws his attention. Rather, he chooses to examine selected fragments of the Italian environment, seen in quiet, intimate glimpses. In this way, luminously peaceful courtyards, sunlight on ageless monuments and the warmth radiating off of grapes ripening on the vine are all given equal importance as subject matter. Curto sees his choice of subjects this way: "All of my photographs are based on the medium's predilection towards making a mountain out of a molehill. The process of photography has a way of transforming ordinary objects into extraordinary phenomena." His fascination with Italy's landscape and architecture is further enhanced by a love for its food, wine and art, and by an appreciation for the deep and seemingly countless layers of history that pervade everything Italian. "I attempt to use light, lens and time to bring the country's cool mornings, hazy afternoons and simple beauties home with me", Curto says. His use of the large format view camera, which produces a negative 4x5" in size, combined with the choice of black & white materials gives Curto great control over the photographic process, allowing him to make prints of subtle detail and tone.

Camera Position 179 : Embracing the Almost

All of us make photographs that, for some reason, don’t quite work, even though we had high hopes for them. If we embrace those photographs that almost worked, but didn’t, we can find some tools to help us improve and grow.

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Here are some examples of images that are “almosts” for me (and that I discuss in this podcast):

Archway - uninteresting light and no solid center of interest make this an "almost" image.
Archway – uninteresting light and no solid center of interest make this an “almost” image.

 

Blue & Red Paint - if only I'd realized that it was the faded paint that I was most interested in and not the decoration, I might have moved in closer for a more abstract image in this "almost" photograph.
Blue & Red Paint – if only I’d realized that it was the faded paint that I was most interested in and not the decoration, I might have moved in closer for a more abstract image in this “almost” photograph.
Blue Door - Of course I see now that it was the blue door that attracted me and not the carved details of the door. But I didn't see that then and I have this "almost" image to remind me to be clear about my intention.
Blue Door – Of course I see now that it was the blue door that attracted me and not the carved details of the door. But I didn’t see that then and I have this “almost” image to remind me to be clear about my intention.

 

Camera Position 178 : Everyday Creativity

When you face something you think you can’t possibly do and then go ahead and do it anyway creativity is the tool you use.

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El Trovatore Motel, Kingman, AZ Photograph by Jeff Curto
El Trovatore Motel, Kingman, AZ
Photograph by Jeff Curto

Camera Position 177 : It’s Not a Pursuit, It’s a Medium

A lot of people who are “into” photography seem to think of the “doing” of photography as the end unto itself. While the mechanical act of making photographs can be pleasurable, I think of photography as a medium for self-examination, not a pursuit unto itself.

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Spiral 1, 2016 - Photograph by Jeff Curto
Spiral 1, 2016 – Photograph by Jeff Curto

Camera Position 176 : 10 Rules Rules for Getting Started

The American abstract expressionist painter Richard Diebenkorn (1922 –1993) is noted not only for his great work, but also for his thoughts about the creative process. Diebenkorn’s “Notes to myself on beginning a painting” is a list of 10 things to think about as we begin any creative work – we can think of them as “10 Rules for Getting Started.”

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Richard Diebenkorn’s “Notes to myself on beginning a painting”

1.  Attempt what is not certain.  Certainty may or may not come later.  It may then be a valuable delusion.

2.  The pretty, initial position which falls short of completeness is not to be valued — except as a stimulus for further moves.

3.  Do search.  But in order to find other than what is searched for.

4.  Use and respond to the initial fresh qualities but consider them absolutely expendable.

5.  Don’t “discover” a subject — of any kind.

6.  Somehow don’t be bored — but if you must, use it in action.  Use its destructive potential.

7.  Mistakes can’t be erased but they move you from your present position.

8.  Keep thinking about Polyanna.

9.  Tolerate chaos.

10. Be careful only in a perverse way.

Richard Diebenkorn - Knife in a Glass, 1963
Richard Diebenkorn – Knife in a Glass, 1963
Richard Diebenkorn -Cityscape, 1963
Richard Diebenkorn -Cityscape, 1963

Camera Position 175 : From One, Many

There’s an old adage in photography: “inside every 8×10” print, there is a really excellent 5×7” image waiting to be found.” That old saw is the foundation for an exercise that I’ve used for myself and in my classes over the years; take an image that you’ve made and search for alternate cropping choices that might strengthen the composition. Regardless of whether you find a “better” photograph, you learn a fair amount about how to see.

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Original Image - Grapes, Castiglione d'Orcia, Tuscany, 2014
Original Image – Grapes, Castiglione d’Orcia, Tuscany, 2014
Crops from the original image
Crops from the original image
Crop #1
Crop #1
Crop #2
Crop #2
Crop #3
Crop #3
Crop #4
Crop #4