In the long-ago days of film, garden photographer Diane Pratt had been known to show up on a shoot with three loaded cameras: two in her pack with black and white and color films, and one in a cooler with infra-red.
Subjects, to her, demanded a certain treatment. They still do, even in this digital age, though the extra flourishes come in the printing – some on aluminum sheets, some on metallic paper with her choice of finish – glossy, matte or sheer – and some on watercolor paper that she hand-paints. In the past, she shot several series on black and white infra-red film, then hand-painted them with transparent oil paint or highlighted with pencil.
At some point Diane will go back to black and white when she returns to the landscapes in Arizona with rock formations with patterns. She’ll selectively color parts of it, leaving some rocks in black and white and highlight grasses and forbs at the rock's base. “It’ll take on its own life," she muses. "I may have an idea but it takes its own direction.”
Never one to sit back and accept the ordinary, Diane enjoys finding new ways to enhance her work, even if it means laying on the floor in a public building to capture a high-rising spiral staircase.
Her newest image done in the Valley of Fire in Nevada, was printed on aluminum. Its subtle colors demanded a matte finish. “I like patterns in nature and texture. The Valley is fascinating because of all the rocks and formations.”
For a castle on an island in the St. Lawrence River, she did a “double float” image on metal. The double float consists of two copies of the same image, one floating on top of the other, separated by metal blocks. Much of what she’s been doing is gardens and nature, many on canvas.
Diane is torn between her art and work. “I want to do this more of my time. When we started the gallery (Gallery 23 in Blairstown, NJ), I had a business background so I became the treasurer. I also work with my husband doing marketing and advertising. We built his industrial business together.”
What’s a woman to do?
Diane has been photographing nature and gardens for 40 years. After graduating from business school, she backpacked across Europe with a Brownie camera, but knew that camera could not capture what she wanted. “I came home and bought an SLR and took a class and that was the start of the whole thing. I bought Canon AE1s – one body with color film in it and the other with black and white and sometimes another in a cooler with infra red film in it.
“I always admired people who could paint. I can’t draw anything worth anything. So I took classes to be creative with photography – with chalk, pencil… When I taught basic darkroom classes I told my students the photo could be the end photo or the starting point for something.”
Does she ever take a photo to accurately depict something? “If I see something I want to show, yes. I like textures and patterns. Sometimes it can become something abstract with texture and patterns rather than an image of a scene.”
One of her first hand-painted photos was a castle in Europe – its doorways, arches in Old World style black and white. “I toned them in brown. I wanted to hand paint them in subtle pastels for the Old World feel.
“I’ve met photographers who do one style. I guess I don’t like to stick to one thing because I keep finding things I like the more I learn about photography.”
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published December 10, 2014