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Monday, February 4, 2013

Interview, Part II

Darryll Schiff began studying photography at the Institute of Design in 1969.  At the time, the overwhelming majority of fine art photography was in black and white. Soon after he began studying there, color began to making inroads to the realm of fine art photography, through the work of artists like Stephen Shore and William Eggleston. Schiff, whose vibrant images now pulsate with color, worked largely in black and white until he began doing commercial photography, which led to experimentation with color in his fine artwork.

“When I started working digitally, more of my own artwork began to appear in color. That changed the images, and as an artist, the way I had to think about them. Certainly, the main consideration in taking a photo is still the quality of the light and composition, but with color, a whole new factor enters the picture.” Although Schiff does still occasionally work in black and white, color has taken precedent in the digital age. “Back then, when you shot color, a lab would print it out for you, doing things like contrast adjustment and cropping under my direction. Today, I have an array of printers, and with my computers, the possibilities are endless. I wholeheartedly expanded into color a number of years ago. I can refine my images so much more digitally. Although 95% of what I do to capture the basic image is in the camera, technology has dramatically changed the game.”

He recalls the printing process with film. “There were so many steps to achieving the final image I could not justify the time doing it myself.  Now I have my own digital printing “lab” and I have a greater appreciation of the whole process.  I certainly spend more time working on the images now than I ever did in the darkroom, black and white or color, even with my assistants helping out, but there are just so many more options with computers than there were with enlargers.”

The key, according to Schiff, is knowing when to step back from the computer, when to stop.  He calls it “the tyranny of Photoshop”. It does not mean that he never goes back to a piece a month later, or even a year later, and wonders if he should have changed this or that, but he avoids overworking the piece.  Schiff stops when he is at peace with the image, and when he feels the original intent has been expressed. “The rewards are definitely there. When I step back and look at the final print, my overall feeling is I’ve realized my vision and ambition.  Sometimes the result is even better than I had originally conceived, which is very satisfying.”

Schiff has traveled the world, taking photos in many exotic locations, but has a special attraction to Spain.  The culture, the landscape, the food, and the way of life are inspiring to him. “There are a lot of places I would love to visit, but as of now, I’m still very much fascinated with Spain.  In Madrid, a huge city full of life, the people are very friendly, and seem to go out of their way to help you. I feel very at ease there. I love the Spanish culture, and I’m fairly fluent in the language.  Although Spain is a “Western” country, their pace of life is much different than ours.” “The Spanish aren’t as concerned with hustling and hurrying, like many Americans tend to.  Many Spanish people still take a long break in the middle of the workday, or spend 2 or 3 hours at dinner without worrying about anything besides enjoying a meal and conversation.  It’s great.  After 2 or 3 days there, I get a different perspective on what I’m doing in my artwork, and how I’m trying to meld what I’ve been seeing and experiencing of another culture with what I’ve been working on previously.”

           Schiff tends to generally stick to the larger cities, because he is “a city boy at heart.” The last time he was in Madrid, visiting the Prado Museum, he was particularly taken by the Goya “Black Paintings” and the collection of Rubens. “Those pieces just enthralled me, they are so stimulating!  Although my work is very much a reflection of modern times, the works of the old masters are exceedingly inspirational.” When on vacation, Schiff makes it a point to go out and devote a lot of time to taking photos and working on current projects. “It can be very exciting to be in a different culture, and the experience has an effect on my art.”

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