Philip S. Ulanowsky
"Susan" by Philip S. Ulanowsky
My professional life as a photojournalist, portraitist, and ballet and commercial photographer came to a close as the digital tidal wave swept in. After years away, I returned to my passion for black-and-white film photography, intent on focusing my more limited available time primarily on a specific portraiture challenge: using the 4x5 view camera (so designated for its 4”x5” sheet film negative) on location with only natural light to create a new series of portraits, images in which the setting in some way reflects the character of the subject.
After years of controlled lighting, this posed numerous challenges. I have slightly broadened my technical leeway since beginning, but the core remains.
"My Philosopher Friend" by Philip S. Ulanowsky
Classical art, as well traditional photography by artists that I admire, provides my conceptual and aesthetic mooring. My aim is not the merely pleasing portrait of which I have made so many in the past, much less the retouching facility that digital technology makes so seductive. I would rather attempt the uncertain currents navigated by nearly two centuries of photographic artists whose concerns have paralleled my own, who have found ways to illuminate and convey something of the inner person without resort to non-photographic means.
With all aspects of the medium, command of craft is prerequisite but no guarantee of artistic merit. Like a veteran, well-seasoned cast-iron frying pan, my limited selection of older tools is capable of producing beautiful results; the deciding factor is always my imagination and the craft to realize it. This is what I practice and what I teach.
"Repairing a Veteran" by Philip S. Ulanowsky
I believe in the enduring power of the single image and the universality of Classical beauty, a beauty illuminating something common to that which is essential in the human experience in this wonderful, living universe, irrespective of particulars of culture.
The traditional silver-gelatin monochromatic photographic print is capable of an aesthetic appeal all its own. I hope that more people will have the opportunity to view examples of master prints close-up; the web cannot substitute, and even today’s finest mechanical printing improvements, welcome as they are, make their imprint in ink or pigment, not silver.
My work today continues as an ongoing process of exploration and discovery, and the conceptual and technical wrestling to bring ideas to realization.