Larry Blackwood is a self-taught fine art photographer with over forty years of experience. Born and raised in Kansas, he has lived in Montana for thirty-two years. He earned a PhD on statistics and worked in the field for thirty years while pursuing photography part time. In 2007 he switched to photography full time. Larry has had major solo exhibitions in a number of venues, including Wichita Art Museum, Center for Contemporary Arts, Museum of Idaho, Hockaday Museum of Art, Art Museum of Southeast Idaho, Viewpoint Photogrpahic Art Center, Holter Museum of Art, and Emerson Center for Art and Culture.
His work his been published in major fine art photography publications including Lenswork, B&W, Shots, Color, and Best of Photography Annual. Awards in international photography competitions include the World Photography Awards and the B&W Spider Awards. He has also received grays sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the states of Montana and Idaho.
This summer you can find Larry's work at six different outdoor art festivals in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and California. As the dates get closer, more information and updates for these showings will be available at Larry's website, where you can also see more of his work.
Q: When did you get into your art form? A: As a young teenager in the sixties, like a lot of other kids my age, I was big into following the space program. I was fascinated by the whole thing, in particular the photos taken from space. Eventually, I started building model rockets that actually shot several hundred feet up. When they came out with a model that had a camera, I bought one. It used small circular pieces of black-and-white film (about 2” in diameter). Developing the film and getting prints of the images required special processing that I could not really afford, so my father showed me how to use his old darkroom equipment to produce contact prints. Later I bought an old enlarger to make bigger prints. At some point, on a trip to the camera store to buy developer and paper, I discovered some Edward Weston prints hanging on the wall. In particular I remember his famous nautilus shell photo. That was pretty inspiring, and since I was having so much fun in the darkroom, I borrowed my dad’s camera and went out taking photos of just about anything that looked interesting to me. I don’t know if I thought it was art at the time, but it was challenging and fun. Within a couple of years I took an abstract photo that I still like a lot today that was published in a Kodak-sponsored photography contest in the local newspaper. That pretty much validated photography as an art form for me.
Q: Were there other mediums you tried before? A: I did some wood carving for a number of years, and while I enjoyed it, it never really became an avocation the way photography has.
Q: Where do you find most your inspiration? A: My general interests and my photographic interests as well are very eclectic, so the inspiration for my work is I suppose equally eclectic and drawn from everything else that I do. I pursue subjects varying from street photography to abstracts, landscapes, nature, and architecture. Visiting art museums is one of my favorite ways to stimulate my photographic interests. I find that viewing fine art, no matter what the medium or subject matter, is very effective in stimulating the creative parts of my brain.
Q: Whom do you find has influence over your work? A: There is no singular person I could say has a huge influence over my work. Works by early pictorialist and modernist photographers such as Stieglitz, Steichen, Weston, and Strand shaped my approach to photography more than anything I suppose.
Q: How long does it usually take you to complete a piece? A: I work with digital photographic tools which people often assume to be a pretty simple process. But it can be really demanding and tedious at times. And of course the process also involves acquiring a good image to work with in the first place. I spend hours sometimes wandering around with a camera without getting any workable photographs. Other times interesting results occur on the spur of the moment. On the processing end of the effort, some images require very little work in the digital darkroom. Other images however take hours to perfect to my satisfaction. Recently I worked on a particular image off and on for several weeks and consulted a printing expert in regard to colors etc. before I was able to get a reasonable starting print. Even then I printed and tweaked the image 20 more times before finally getting it just the way I wanted.
Q: What do you enjoy most about art and its creative process? A: As an art form, photography gives me a way to express a side of myself that has no other outlet. It also at times provides a surprising portal to a connection with the world outside myself that seems beyond the usual. I think it is chasing and occasionally acquiring that elusive feeling that is the most enjoyable reward.
Q: What is the hardest part of doing what you do? A: I think emotionally the hardest part of doing any artistic work is overcoming the fear of inadequacy to the task. It takes a certain amount of confidence, of ego and perhaps at times even a bit of hubris to think that one has something worthwhile to contribute to the art world. Comparing my work to that of other artists can certainly be sobering but the real issue is internal; can I meet the standards of performance and progress I set for myself? On the worst days those thoughts can be debilitating and counterproductive. But in general the desire to meet those self-imposed standards is a strong incentive to keep plugging away in spite of whatever discouraging results present themselves.
Q: Do you work from home or a studio space? A: I’ve always worked from a studio at home. We recently built a new home in which more space than I deserve has been given over to my photography work.
Q: Do you have a favorite artist for any reason? A: I do not have a favorite artist I can identify. I think my interests are too eclectic for that!
Q: Do you have a set schedule for when you work? A: I do not work on a set schedule. Since taking early retirement from a scientific job eight years ago I have the luxury of working on my photography about any time I wish to, which usually amounts to 40 or 50 hours a week.