Ode to Lift 9 | Brett Schreckengost: Exhibition Opening | December 7, 5-8pm

In December the Slate Gray Gallery features “Ode to Chair 9,” the art of photographer/filmmaker Brett Schreckengost. The show officially opens on Noel Night, December 7, when the artist will be in the gallery. Brett’s work is up through the month.

 

“The exercises of the artistic faculties are undoubtedly necessary in the production of pictures from nature, for any given scene offers so many different points of view; but if there is not the perceiving mind to note and feel the relative degrees of importance in the various aspects which nature presents, nothing worthy the name of pictures can be produced. It is this knowledge, or art of seeing, which gives value and importance to the works of certain photographers over all others,” said 19th-century landscape photographer John Moran in defense of the medium once considered an outcast in the art world.

 

According to The New York Times, right out of the gate of the now-famous auction of art from the estate of Peter G. Allen,

 

“…the first three lots sold well above their estimates. These included Edward Steichen’s dark, haunting 1904 “Flatiron,” showing the Flatiron Building in New York. At $12 million — four times the high estimate — it set an auction high for the artist. It was the second highest price ever paid for a photograph, after Man Ray’s 1924 “Le Violon d’Ingres,” which went for $12.4 million (also) at Christie’s last May.”

 

No doubt today photography is accepted as a fine art form. But once upon not so long ago, the medium was regarded as the Elvis of visual arts, fast and slick, but young, its history dating only as far back as the 19th century.

 

And while it is true that billions of photographs are taken every single year and there are hundreds who make faultless images, chemical and/or digital, only the teeny tiniest percentage give us the feeling that a one-of-a-kind vision has been imposed on the camera. That follows Moran’s contention the art is in the eye, not the device. Or, as world-famous photographer Nan Goldin famously summed up: “Cameras don’t take great pictures. Artists take great pictures.” Brett Schreckengost is one of those artists.

 

Titled “Ode to Chair 9,” the December show at the Slate Gray Gallery features Brett’s latest work, an homage to the infamous lift and its new incarnation, which is fitting since Brett is also the official shooter (and videographer) for the Telluride Ski Resort.

“In my fine art work, I strive to to create unique images, constantly exploring new perspectives and angles. I am mildly obsessed with the weather, always on the lookout for atmospheric drama to add to compositions. I spend a lot of time scouting and exploring, usually revisiting locations several times before I get the right conditions for the shot I see in my mind’s eye.”

 

Brett takes a photojournalistic approach in his artist work and and uses only simple color-correction, dodging and burning in his Photoshop enhancements:

“Composite images, focus stacking and sky replacement is everywhere these days in landscape photography. Although I can appreciate those processes, I prefer the simple approach of creating everything ’in-camera,’” Brett explains.

 

Brett got into aerial photography early in his photographic career. Today he is an FAA remote pilot certificate holder.

 

“I spent lots of time in the air with some amazing Telluride pilots in fixed-wing aircraft. I got into paragliding and started logging hours in a Cessna 172 in pursuit of my pilot’s license, all in the name of getting the camera – and my eyed heart – into new places. Once drones hit the market I went ‘all in,’ experimenting with new ways to fly cameras around.”

After 30 years exploring the backcountry of the San Juans, Brett has come to know lots of breathtaking places that were never housebroken. Places which put him in tune with seasonal transitions and local weather patterns and gave Brett the precious gift of refreshed aesthetic innocence. An innocence which awaits us all when we are set free in (relatively) uncharted environs.

 

Recently Brett started working with a new medium format digital camera system that he claims reignited my interest in still photography:

“Medium format film cameras use a much larger negative than the typical 35mm systems so the images deliver a much greater level of detail. Modern digital medium format cameras are similar in that the sensor size is much larger (over 100 megapixels) and therefore capable of much more intricate work.”

 

Using that equipment as his “brush,” Brett manages to coax the genie out of the bottle – before breaking the bottle and subduing the image to his will.

 

Recently some of Brett Schreckengost’s fine art photography was selected for display in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery as a part of an exhibition about Maya Lin, through April 2023.

 

The following is Telluride Inside…and Out’s interview with Brett about his life and work:

 

TIO: Growing up  in Pennsylvania what triggered your interest in photography? How did you nurture that passion? Was your family supportive? Mentors?

 

Growing up I was lucky to experience lots of outdoor adventures with my family. \My parents were ski instructors at Loring Air Force Base up in Caribou Maine so I started skiing at a very early age. We moved to Erie, PA, after my dad was out of the service. There I spent a lot of time camping and hunting with my dad, and skiing, sailing and windsurfing with my mom.

 

TIO: Ever get a formal education in your chosen profession? Did you ever consider another profession? In college say?

 

I was in the school of journalism at West Virginia University (WVU) and took some photography classes, but I was more focused on media and writing so I really had no formal training.

 

TIO: When and how did you wind up in Telluride?

 

After graduating from WVU, I set out on a western road trip to check out a bunch of ski towns. I moved to Telluride in April 1992 in part because Telluride had the cheapest one-bedroom apartment I could find at the time, only $350 a month. And it was in town right next to the historic Depot.

 

TIO: Once in town, you worked for a now-defunct One Hour Photo. When did you land a place at the Daily Planet and what was your job description?

 

I started working as a photo editor the Planet shortly after my move to Telluride. I shared the job with two other amazing photographers, Ben Knight and Jeff Lipsky, who both went on to have great careers in the field.

 

TIO: Please talk about what inspires you and how you work.

 

The mountains and wild open spaces have been and remain constant sources of inspiration. My favorite subjects tend to move fast and demand an intuitive, journalistic approach. My small production team thrives in the most challenging environments and difficult-to-reach locations.

 

As to how I work, I started out pretty “old-school,” learning the craft of photography in the darkroom for many years before coming into the light and embracing the digital age of image creation.

 

TIO: What distinctions do you draw between the work you do for Telski and your fine art photography?

 

Most of the professional work I do now is shooting motion for commercial advertising. The content I create is generally owned by the clients, so I rarely get to share that work. The creative work I get to do ‘on the side’ provides a lot more artistic freedom because there are no proscribed boundaries. And Telluride is the place I like to work more on my still photography, exploring my subject matter with the eye of an artist. As you may know, fine art photography happens when the vision of the person behind the camera gets presented, rather than simply the objective reality of any given subject.

 

 

Written by:

SUSAN VIEBROCK

Susan is Telluride Inside… and Out’s founder and editor-in-chief, the visionary on the team, in charge of content, concept and development. Susan has covered Telluride’s cultural economy, which includes non-profits and special events, since 1993. Much of her writing features high-profile individuals in the arts, entertainment, business, and politics. She is a former Citibank executive specializing in strategic planning and new business development, and a certified Viniyoga instructor.