March 28, 2013 By Lauren Seaman
The photographic work of William Carr has been equated to paintings: they have a quality about them that captures a true moment, but with a finish that is so perfect it appears surreal. His mastery in the field of photography is recognized worldwide and today he has sold over 35 million photographs. Las Vegas, Nevada is the home to his permanent gallery devoted to his bodies of work. Carr’s body of work includes spectacularly beautiful landscapes and architecture in regions such as the Western United States, Europe, and tropical islands including the Bahamas, the Hawaiian islands, and the Cook Islands. Carr utilizes a unique process he invented called Euroflex, an encapsulation process of a highly specialized photographic substrate, face mounted, with an optically clear adhesive, to a lite of high impact acrylic with substantial UV inhibitors. Don’t worry, we’ll let Carr explain that better himself, but basically it causes the images to appear to luminesce and alters its appearance in different lighting, creating an ephemeral visual experience. Sensible Reason sat down with William Carr to talk more about his inspiration, techniques, and advice he might have for budding photographers:
Your bio says that you were self taught. How and when did you start taking images? What inspired you to start and continue with photography?
I was living in Lake Tahoe, the year was 1985. I was working in a high pressure sales environment and needed an outlet for exercise and enjoyment. At that time my wife had acquired a small manual camera and I had just learned the bare basics of photography. I started hiking around the shoreline of Tahoe composing the beautiful crystal clear blue waters with boughs of Ponderosa pine branches framing the foreground. As I showed my fledgling 35MM transparencies to people they were very complimentary exclaiming, “You have a good eye!” At the time I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant but it motivated me to continue shooting.
Your biography on your website you state, ”[T]he artistic character is forged from the dual fires of struggle and persistence.” What is the greatest struggle you have encountered as an artist? What has kept you persistent?
I think struggle and persistence pertain to just about any field of endeavor if one is to be highly successful. In my case, as with a lot of photographers, the struggle usually comes in the form of an un-cooperative mother nature. The perfect image needs the perfect light and in so many cases the promise of an incredible sunset, for example, where the land becomes bathed in soft, warm, shades of magenta and crimson. There have been any number of times where I’ve hiked for miles to an iconic location and the sky goes grey – void of any color or character. That’s where the persistence comes in – I’ll hike those same miles again the next day and the next day until that image is captured how I imagined it. Another example of persistence is the case of one of my images called “Route De Vin” in the Alsace region of France. Through the course of four European trips I would make a pilgrimage to this quaint little village to capture it’s splendor. Narrow cobble stone streets lined with six and seven hundred year old homes with the typical “split beam” style architecture, flowers dripping from every window box. Each year it was one thing or another that eluded that perfect capture. Through struggle and persistence, I finally had what I felt was the essence of that historic village nestled within the Route De Vin.
Traces of Autumn
Your mastery of light and color shows in your images. What is in your head when you are taking that perfect image?
It would be more accurate to say what isn’t in my head when I’m taking that perfect shot. It’s important to clear your head of any distracting thoughts and preoccupations and become part of the landscape its self, to be an intuitive observer within the visual composition.
What would be your best advice for someone interested in becoming a world traveling photographer?
First and foremost, secure a passport. Second – decide which countries interest you and after that, I think each person’s journey is unique. Most of all, follow your passion because that is where creativity lies.
Do you prefer shooting digital or film? What types of camera do you prefer to use?
Obviously digital. With today’s advanced technology, digital cameras have a superior ability to capture images that have a much wider color gamut and fine detail.
Do you do any digital editing to your images?
Digital editing has different meanings to different people. There’s digital editing and then there’s digital manipulation. In my case digital editing is generally limited to a prescribed amount of levels and curves in pre-flight before the file is sent to a photographic printer. Some photographic artists choose to do more extensive work to their images perhaps in the form of radical color shifting, removing unwanted features within the image, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disparaging that type of work because any artist who creates an art form from within the digital palette is an artist.
Smokin’ Good Times
Tell our readers more about your printing and mounting EuroFlex process. How did you first get involved in this process?
The Euroflex Encapsulation System was actually born from the casino industry, more specifically slot machine manufacturers. I was visiting a friend one day in a graphics production facility. He was in the process of mounting a graphic on a piece of glass to be installed in a slot machine, which would be back lit from within the machine. I asked my friend if this could be done with a photograph to be front lit, not back lit. He replied – ‘Yeah, absolutely.’ So I gave him a photo, he proceeded to mount the photo as he did for the slot machine graphic and voila, the process was born. As I evaluated the finished product, it struck me that the fragility of glass would be problematic within the context of my particular application. So my friend said – ‘What about acrylic?’ We processed another photo, this time mounting it to acrylic the rest is history.
Does the EuroFlex process make the images more saturated? Does this process give that “painting” feel of some of your images?
Short answer is ‘No.’ The saturation or painterly quality of my images is the result of a number of critical factors, all of which have to come together for that magic moment – the time of day I’m shooting, the weather, the subject matter within the shot, etc. Basically – that’s my goal as an artist to capture beauty and share it with the world.
What is the substrate in the EuroFlex process made of? Does this process hold light in any special manner?
The substrate is a highly specialized photographic material that has a reflective quality and does not necessarily hold light in any special manner.
What can we expect in the future of William Carr? What new lines of work might we look forward to seeing?
I’m always searching for new opportunities to bring to light images which evoke an emotional response from the viewer.
Carr is openly artistic, sharing his point of view on issues and reflecting on his experiences. Someone with a different approach on life probably could not catch those split second images or come up with alternative printing processes like the Euroflex as William Carr does. Maybe that is the modern role of the photographer: the technical optimist, someone who holds onto the ideals of invention that turned photography into artwork and who feels passion for what he does. In the modern world, sometimes people are tempted to say, “Everything has already been done.” Then we get someone like Carr, with desire and inspiration, who introduces us to something new and ignites inspiration. Carr’s amazing and beautiful works take you on a flight through natural landscapes and speak for the natural beauty in the world. Sensible Reason is so thankful for having the time to talk with him and we look forward to seeing more from him!
Route de Vin
Traces of Autumn
The Road to Umbria
Smokin’ Good Times
Howling Wolf Mineral Terrace