Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lewis Watts: a Photographic Artist and a Gentleman

The world needs photographers.  There are plenty of cameras, but that doesn't mean nothin'.  Making a photograph that matters to the general public is not an easy task, not by any measure.  What does a photograph need in order to live its own life?  The answer is simple: it has to have come from someone who dedicated vital time and energy to doing the work of a photographer.  It has to find its way into people’s minds and hearts.  This work divides into categories.  First of all, like William Blake's vision of art, it is a mixture of intellectual and manual labor, a marriage of heaven and hell.  Photography, like most art, requires the harmony between mind and body.  I’ll call this first work the achievement of balance.

It isn’t just a balance of mental and manual labor, though.  It requires an emotional, energetic, and spiritual equilibrium.  Making great photographs is not an easy task.  You gotta come wit’ it.  You have to have style and substance.  You have to show up with more than a camera.  You have to have heart.
You have possess the stamina to be in the right place at the right time whether that means traveling to Cuba during your time off, or staying up late to meet someone for a drink during a workday when you're down to your last dollar.  The photographer is like a private investigator.  You have to follow leads and make appointments.  It’s a rough gig, and the rewards are minimal.  It is no lifestyle for the timid.  You have to have confidence.  You have to believe in yourself in a world full of people who are quick to offer wooden nickels when you're handing them gold.  

The photographer is an explorer and embodies one of our most primary desires as humans.  The will to know, the will to see for one’s self what the world is like, drives this particular activity to its ends. 
I met Lewis Watts for a beer last week and had the chance to catch up with him a bit.  Since I last wrote about his work, he's made some major changes, including: working in Cuba, working with color, and working on a new book.  I’m excited to see his latest work, which he plans to exhibit again sometime early next year in the Bay Area at a location to be determined.  He also has a book soon to be released through UC Press, and will be traveling to Paris to promote it.  

Luckily for me,  Lewis Watts grabbed my camera and snapped this portrait.

I’ll be checking back in with Lewis Watts, soon!  He’s definitely a favorite artist, and I can’t wait to see his latest work.  In the meantime, you can look at some of his images online, here: http://artsites.ucsc.edu/faculty/watts/pages/noalbum1.html