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 4×5″ 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.
An early influence on my ways of thinking about photography on a deeper level was the great writer John Berger. A poet, novelist, artist screenwriter and more, Berger, born in 1926, and died just a few weeks ago, in January of 2017 at the age of 90. A read of Berger’s work gives great insight into what meaning we derive from looking, seeing and photographing.
Walt Whitman’s poems in his opus Leaves of Grass mirror the actions of the photographer by beginning with facts and transforming those facts into ideas. I explore how both photography and Whitman’s poetry use simple language to convey complex ideas, giving any object or experience new importance by recording it on a previously blank page.
What drives and motivates photographers to do the work they do? I think that our unifying motivation is curiosity – an unrelenting, never-ending curiosity – an “itch” to know more about something and to learn about that thing through photographing it.
I was prompted to think about how we should cultivate the itch – our curiosity – and not the scratch by this quote from photographer Sabastião Salgado:
“If you’re young and have the time, go and study. Study anthropology, sociology, economy, geopolitics. Study so that you’re actually able to understand what you’re photographing. What you can photograph and what you should photograph.”
The creative act is worth taking the time for. It’s worth making the time for. It’s what holds us up and keeps us going. Thousands upon thousands of creative people are forced to make the time to create. It’s worth it because of what we give ourselves and what we give back to the world.