Monday, December 07, 2009

Pete Cosenza - Still Point Art Gallery Artist of Distinction

Still Point Art Gallery recently opened its latest exhibition: The Serious and Playful Sides of Light. The idea of the show is to explore the many ways that artists understand and use light in their work. Photography is all about light, something which Pete Cosenza, one of three Artists of Distinction in the show, makes very clear in the three photographs he submitted for the exhibition.

Landscape 2, Landscape 1, Landscape 5

Looking at and thinking about Cosenza's images, and being a photographer myself, I realize that I missed something when I titled this exhibition - the challenge that light presents for an artist! For example, when outdoors, a photographer has to worry about the intensity of the light, placement of light, effects of shadowing, and how to use one's camera and other tools to manage the lighting conditions to obtain the intended image. When shooting indoors or in the studio, a photographer has a similar set of issues to worry about, but in addition indoor light has to be generated and manipulated, and that itself can be quite a huge task. Lighting is very complicated and challenging for a photographer, and I have no reason to doubt that it is complicated and challenging for a painter as well, though in a different way.

Knowing the challenges, I see what Cosenza has accomplished in his three landscape photographs. He has managed to work masterfully with light and shadow to create images that are alive with color, line, texture, contrast, and rhythm. Landscape 2 and Landscape 5 show water reflecting the beautiful purple of the sky. In Landscape 2, the reflection is broken up by pylons as well as the movement of the water, and in Landscape 5, the reflection is broken up by the water's movement. This "breaking up" action creates the fabulous interplay of light and shadow that Cosenza captures so well. The fact that this interplay of texture and contrast is working within the framework of the vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines that Cosenza has found are what make these two images such wonderful creations. Plus, in Landscape 2, he managed to get a little bird to pose for the photograph. Landscape 1 is quite different. Here one sees a beach that is clean and clear of clutter, and the surface of the sand is smooth. The beach seems a bit dark, especially in contrast to the shoreline and some offshore rocks, appearing at the top and top right corner of the photograph, which are brightly glowing from sunlight. The viewer's eye is immediately drawn up towards that lovely light. But then, as one's view enlarges, one sees a lone figure walking along the beach. Of great interest in the photograph, the figure casts a very, very long shadow. The sunny shoreline and the long shadow are essentially two lines in the photograph - a line of light and a line of dark, and the two lines are nearly perpendicular to one another in the photograph. The use of light in the creation of these two lines impacts the compositional quality of this photograph in a really remarkable way. Cosenza's work shows us many things in the way he has used light in his photographs.

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I asked Pete some questions about his work...

Christine Cote: This exhibition is about the artist's use of light. Photographers have to think about light in so many different ways. Could you say a bit about the factors related to light that you had to consider to capture the images in this exhibition? From where do you draw inspiration for your work? What inspired the pieces in this exhibition?

Pete Cosenza: As a photographer I learned to think of "light" as how it would transmit to film...dimly lit objects needed more time or a wider opening. For "bright, sunshiney days" we were taught that to "properly expose the film" we needed 1/ASA at f16...so with tri x...that equated to 1/400 at f16 to get the correct amount of light to the film. Not so bright...open up the lens or set the shutter to be open for a longer time, etc.

Many exposures are set as to what is simplest. As a photographer, we know faster shutter speeds will stop action, and wider aperatures will be less depth of field...along with a bunch of other tricks and technical/artistic sorts of ways to capture the light and put it on film...

In retrospect I see that a lot of my work is framed by water...not something that I even tried to accomplish...except when factoring in that I grew up on the coastline of Southern California...spent summers body surfing and water skiing...got to sail in the Sierra, and chased waterfalls in Shasta...then found the camera. So in that respect I was totally enthralled by the beauty of the ocean and water, and the light that surrounds it...the inspiration that brought me into art...probably the memories and the amazement when I saw what a camera could do.

What inspired these three pieces? In trying to capture strikingly beautiful scenes...I used to call it Calendar Art...I became obsessed...beauty and clarity (sharpness and color) were always a motivating force.

The abstract piece (Landscape 5) was taken just after a storm...and most of that session was spent chasing a sunset and allowing myself to become involved with it. It's an available light shot, taken with a longer time exposure than normal in order to get some depth of field...late in the day...hand held and taken without much thought...again just allowing the light and the beauty to lead the way.

The other two images (Landscape 1 and Landscape 2) are sort of a theme I seem to fall into...solitary images (or even couples, or groups of similar items) against incredibly striking backgrounds. You can't beat mother nature in that regard. If you try and set up and pose people...or birds...it usually doesn't work as well as the impromptu random scene.

Maybe my eyes are trained, but I guess my brain still drives the bus, and probably always has. Most artists, I think, allow it to happen and as a photographer it helps to pay attention...and I'm always looking for my next image.

Back to Still Point Art Gallery

Christine Brooks Cote
Still Point Art Gallery
December 6, 2009


  1. I read your comments in the Paintings discussion on Linked In. I really liked what you had to say so I visited your beauatiful Still Point Art Gallery website. I'm a clay artist, do you ever work with 3D artists?

    Thanks, Liz Kitchens

    1. Hi Liz...thanks...I really like pottery and clay, stone carvings are amazing too...Michelle Chapin at Stoneworks is doing amazing stuff and I'd love to photograph her work...do you live in the Ventura area?