by Craig Stephens
Ed Freeman’s lengthy, rich (at least metaphorically) career as a fine arts photographer has spanned over thirty years and seen him embrace a spectrum of styles and subjects from erotica and Hawaiian surfers to underwater nudes and recontextualized urban and desert buildings.
Now, with his new series, Faces, opening on July 21 at his namesake Chinatown Gallery, Freeman embraces an aesthetic far removed from familiar territory.
Unlike his previous, more conventional series which embody familiar techniques of posed subjects and an almost photojournalistic approach, Faces embraces a stronger sense of the abstract and experimental.
With Faces, Freeman strays so far from conventional photographic technique that the very word “photography” can barely be applied to the resultant images.
Using conventional portraits as a point of departure, Freeman distorts the images radically via digital manipulation. The images are reinterpreted to the extent that they barely resemble their original organic form. Instead they are transformed into sublime creations that lie somewhere between impressionism and abstraction, analog and digital, photography and painting.
They have an emotional intensity and insightful quality that is enhanced, not obscured by the extensive processing. Deceptively simple pictures are transformed into hauntingly beautiful, occasionally unnerving but inevitably memorable works of art.
Like many fine arts photographers Freeman employs digital manipulation as a key tool. Citing the likes of artist Anthony Goicolea and Andreas Gursky as masters of digital enhancement and as inspirations, Freeman is adamant that his use of Photoshop software as an artistic tool in no way discredits his artistic integrity or vision.
Freeman adds of his creative process, “I’m not in the business of dictating, I’m in the business of taking dictation. I have a whole lot less of a political or intellectual agenda than most people think; I just look at any given image and it talks to me, it tells me what it wants.
“You could accuse me of not understanding what I’m doing, and you might be right. I don’t understand a lot of other things either – I don’t understand why we’re here on earth and what love is and why there’s so much suffering in the world.”
“But I don’t think my job is to understand. That’s what critics and philosophers and clerics are for. My job is to just to get things done. And I’m absolutely passionate about what I do; in fact, I’m obsessed with it. But I’m not always entirely clear about just what that is.”
Freeman has exhibited internationally at various galleries and esteemed museums. When the tired economy permits, he also works on commercial assignments and shoots stock for Getty Images. His commercial clients have included Agfa, New Line Cinema, Miller Beer, Sony Music and Warner Bros. He also teaches Photoshop at Santa Monica College and has given seminars at Julia Dean Photography Workshops and WPPI.
His computer-enhanced artworks have been featured in over a dozen one-man museum shows, assorted photography magazines including Photo District News, Camera Arts, Rangefinder and Popular Photography, and countless general interest publications, art books, greeting cards, calendars and posters. Los Angeles Times Books released his first collection of landscape images, entitled “Desert Realty” in spring 2002; it was subsequently re-released by Chronicle Books in 2007.
A true Renaissance man, Freeman’s previous career saw him working as a performing musician, arranger and record producer. Highlights of his
involvement with the music business include serving as a road manager on the 1966 Beatles’ tour, arranging and conducting a touring orchestra for Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers, arranging Carly Simon’s debut album and producing and arranging Don McLean’s iconic “American Pie.”
Of his career transition, Freeman confides, “Many photographers started out as musicians, the most famous of course being Ansel Adams – some of his contemporaries considered him to be even more gifted as a concert pianist than as a photographer. Maybe it’s that both art forms require a certain innate feel for mathematics; maybe it’s something much deeper or more unexplainable than that. But the connection between the two is
Ed Freeman’s “Faces,” opens Saturday July 21. 6-9 pm at Ed Freeman Photography
945 Chung King Road Chinatown