eyes wide shut I gaze
the sun hides behind the clouds
light burns its shadow
— Dennis Ramos —
Nathan: If you had to describe your overall photographic vision in 25 words or less, what words would you choose?
Dennis: Simplicity. My creative vision expressed through simple and minimal approach to create a fine art image.
Nathan: Why do you prefer black and white photography?
Dennis: I always love color portraits and landscapes images. However, black and white images have this timeless classic feel to them. Whenever I create my images, I always previsualize them in both color and monochrome.
Nathan: Describe your connection(s) to the subject matter(s) you photograph? For example, if you are drawn to landscapes, what about the landscape, or nature, draws you to photograph it?
Dennis: It’s the calmness of the scene that always draws me to photograph a landscape, a seascape, and even an architectural subject. Once that feeling of peacefulness surrounds me, I know I have to record that point of time and bring it with me so that every time I look at the photograph it will bring me back in time. I realize that these connections only happen when all the right elements come together. I will only photograph the subject when I “feel” it.
Nathan: Photography is many things … but one of its most important facets is the connection between what a photographer sees and how he or she chooses to capture it. This relationship typically changes over time— so much so, in fact, that many photographers feel it changes how they see. What are your thoughts about this?
Dennis: As I evolve in my photographic style, my vision and composition changes with it. I do believe as an artist that once we set our mind out of our comfort zone, it enhances our style and perspective in how we create images. This does not necessarily mean to change our photographic style but these challenges improves our creativity whether we change our style or not.
Nathan: Do you (a) previsualize what your photograph is going to look like, (b) discover what you wish to create as you create, or (c) engage a little of both?
Dennis: I think most of us have done all 3 of these phases in creating fine art images. During my earlier years in digital photography, I would take a portrait or landscape photo and just play with it in Lightroom or Photoshop. As I learn to edit, I take the looks that I discovered to my mind and play with my camera shots. These creative phases help me to evolve into how I previsualize the final image before I look through my camera’s viewfinder.
Nathan: When you process your photos, do you listen to music? If yes, what music do you prefer to listen to and do you think that music influences how you process your images?
Dennis: I prefer quietness when I process my photos although I sometimes listen to ballads after hours of editing. It puts me in a good mood to edit photos and soothes my mind afterwards. It doesn’t influence my style and editing but it helps me to relax my mind.
Nathan: Who are three of your favorite photographers, and, more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
Dennis: Michael Kenna’s work introduced me to black and white photography. His minimal approach to composition has greatly influenced my style. Along with the minimalist style, I discovered Keith Aggett’s works during my early days of integrating long exposure to my minimal compositions. It was a big turning point in my photography that made way to what I do now. The works of Alexey Titarenko has taught me a lot about emotions in every image I create. The series “City of Shadows” inspires me even to this day.
Nathan: Select a single photograph by another artist that inspires you. Explain why you are drawn to it and how it has inspired you.
Dennis: This image is full of emotions so much so that it draws me in and puts me amidst the shadows and wonder what story each of those shadows have. This kind of emotion is what inspires me to create images.
Nathan: What artistic influences, outside of photography, have had a significant influence on how you approach your photography (for example, painters, filmmakers, musicians, poets, etc.)? (I am specifically interested in the how and the why.)
Dennis: The baroque paintings of the 17th century have had the greatest influence on how I create my images. I have always had this great admiration for how these paintings were created with their strong lighting and stark contrasts. Caravaggio’s painting ‘The Calling of St. Matthew’ and Johannes Vermeer’s ‘Woman Holding a Balance’ are two of my favorite chiaroscuro paintings– both of which have influenced my portraiture and architectural images. In fact, I have recreated through photography two of Vermeer’s famous paintings.
Nathan: What are your thoughts about trying to find the best gear possible versus working on making the best possible image with the gear you already have?
Dennis: I don’t believe having the best photography gear will produce award winning photos. Composition is king. No equipment or gadget can create, decide, and identify a great composition. My gear is just right enough that they work well to do my craft. Nowadays, with the always advancing technology, I can see that it’s so easy to become a gearhead.
Nathan: How would you define fine art? Is it just a label?
Dennis: I always have a hard time trying to define this art term since every person’s view of an art is different. A fine art image evokes an emotion to the viewer. Although, not all viewers will feel the same as others; therefore, one image can be called fine art but not the other. Art is subjective, as we all know. Personally, fine art is an artist’s vision of his own world expressed through the artist’s aesthetic processes.
Nathan: If you had to come up with one very important lesson that you think every photographer needs to learn, what would it be?
Dennis: I think everybody will agree that the most important lesson to be learned as a photographer is about composition and lighting. Nothing is more important than this; even the greatest gear will not produce a well-composed image. These two elements go hand-in-hand to create powerful compositions. Guiding the viewer’s eye with composition and lighting is a hard skill to develop.
Nathan: What are your thoughts about the benefits of online sharing? Are there any particular social media or image sharing sites you prefer or do not prefer?
Dennis: Without the presence of social media and online photo sites, our work would not so easily be seen and admired by so many people throughout the far reaches of the world. There are some few handfuls of image-sharing sites that I recommend at this time like Flickr. This is where I discovered most of my favorite photographers when I first delved into minimal long exposure photography (for example, Keith Aggett). Instagram is also great to showcase works that can be seen potentially by millions of general viewers. I also upload images to a smaller but targeted-community site like Art Limited— where many artists go to get inspired by other exceptionally talented photographers. To showcase my series, I go to Behance.net where one’s work can be seen by art collectors and galleries. However, I have noticed that I lately get more and more messages from “vanity” galleries coming from Behance.
Nathan: What are our thoughts about photography contests? Do you think they are (a) a true measure of artistic success or value, (b) just an opportunity for a business to make money off photographers looking for exposure and validation, or (c) something in-between a and b?
Dennis: I have had a fair share of experience submitting my images in photography competitions. In fact, in 2014, I became the Photographer of the Year at Epson Pano Awards with my image as overall winner. Personally, I don’t think winning competitions is a measure of one’s success in artistry/photography. Success in artistry, for me, is the ability to evolve and be able to achieve what you wanted to become. It is not measured by how many likes, followers, or comments you earn / gain. Although, winning photography contests can help you build the confidence to reach your goal towards becoming a successful artist.
Nathan: What photographic cliché or common photography question, if any, irritates you the most?
Dennis: The one thing that really gets me upset in the photography world are those so-called “purists” and elitists who constantly argue, criticize, and devalue the works of photographers who use Photoshop for editing. In general, I have realized I don’t want other people to tell me what is correct and what is not correct if I don’t ask them their opinion. I create my images based on what my eye is pleased with.
Nathan: If you were stranded on an island, and you could have one camera, one lens, one filter, one tripod, two books, and ten CDs, what would they be and why?
Dennis: The one camera I would like to take to this island would be a medium format camera preferably the portable Pentax 67 with 80mm lens mounted on a Manfrotto 190XProB tripod along with a 10-stop ND filter. The 2 books I will bring will be a book on how to extract and mix chemistry to develop the film and create a paper to print. The other book will be a DIY book on how to build things using natural supplies around the island to build a house, darkroom, and a boat to get off the island. While I wait for my long exposures, or developing, or building a house, or while sailing off from the island, the 10 CDs (or albums) I will be listening to:
1. U2 – The Joshua Tree
2. Depeche Mode – Construction Time Again
3. Tears for Fears – The Hurting
4. Tears for Fears – Songs From the Big Chair
5. Prince – Purple Rain
6. Journey – Escape
7. Foreigner – Agent Provocateur
8. Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction
9. Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory
10. Michael Jackson – Thriller
Nathan: Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
Dennis: My long term goal in photography is to stay inspired and motivated as long as I can. For a short term goal, I want to create and publish a photobook.
Nathan: Is there any specific place that you would like to visit to take photos?
Dennis: Looking at some images I find on Google, most of the breathtaking sceneries I have found were photographed in the Faroe islands right in the middle of Norway and Iceland both of which are also high on my bucketlist. These countries are the epitome of the great landscape experience with exceptional valley views, magnificent rocks, and pristine waterfalls and beautiful seascapes. Hopefully I can visit these places soon!
Nathan: Is there anything else you wish to add?
Dennis: I would like to thank you, Nathan, for the opportunity to be a part of slices of silence. Your time spent to promote other artists is greatly appreciated. I wish much success to you and this project.
A Spotlight on a Few Images