Golden Facade

In The Bag


Body:

Sony A7RIII

Lenses:

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM
Sony FE 70-200mm f/4
Sony FE 50mm f/1.4

Stephen Whitaker is a landscape, architecture, and travel photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Much of his work focuses on the scenes that make California a compelling place to live, work, play, and visit. He also has a passion for travel and capturing images from around the world. With a background in 35mm and large format film and digital photography, Stephen has been shooting for the better part of two decades. His work has been featured in publications such as Landscape Photography Magazine and can be viewed at Gallery at the VAULT in Springfield Vermont, at various arts and crafts festivals throughout California and New England, or onsite by appointment.



Artistic, Aesthetic, and Technical Influences


Painters


The Hudson River School and early adherents who ventured west, especially Albert Bierstadt, Susie Barstow, Grafton Tyler Brown, William Keith, William Coulter, Lucia Mathews all contribute a great deal to my landscape aesthetic sensibilities and love of seeking and incorporating a painterly atmospheric mood and contrast to grand landscapes befitting a contextual artistic legacy rooted in Western American scenes from the red rocks of Utah's San Raphael Swell and national parks, to the forests of the Pacic Northwest, to California's Sierra Nevada, desert, and coastal seascapes and the variety and grandeur the region has offered as endless inspiration and imagination expansion to artists and creators for centuries. I also enjoy viewing global landscapes beyond the American west through this aesthetic lens.

Additionally, I am especially (and increasingly) influenced by the incredibly extensive body of studies of the southwest landscapes of Utah and beyond of iconic Utah-based artist Royden Card, who I am fortunate to say is also my uncle. Royden was decades ahead of the curve in really discovering and exploring the beauty, range of intimacy and grandeur, and environmental love letter to the human soul of what are often called the southwest's 'badlands;' the pockets of landscapes that lay bear the contrast of fortitude and change in a geological open book, weaving a story and parable for those who have ears to hear if they can but sit still and listen, commune, and be fed. He often rendered these landscapes in vivid, almost neon-pastel colors to which I am also drawn. The settings of these kinds of landscape scenes are increasingly widely appreciated (and sadly, commodotized, imprinted, and damaged) across media in the digital space as armies of influencers and small-market digital creators and enthusiasts (like myself - I'll own what culpability I bear) alike, chasing the dragon of widely sharing undiscovered scenes in an oversaturated commodification of the next iconic locales, armed with the 'new eyes' perspective of drones capable of rendering fantastic aerial images and video. What is missing from this wave, however, and even (I am sad to say) from my own work to date, is the respectful reverence and ears to listen to the stories these scenes have to tell beyond our own replication of the stories told by others, projected back on the scenes in efforts to resonate in well-demonstrated ways with prospective likers, followers, subscribers, and collectors. Card's work has always compelled me to look for the tacit grandeur a layer deeper and closer to the core, which I think will be a larger part of the next phase of the aesthetic studies and explorations I seek out. The satisfaction and contentment that comes from hearing and sharing those intimate stories of the land and elements in ways that might resonate with others is my artistic drug of choice. I would love and intend to bring a flavor of that sensibility to additional environments, whether they be coastal seascapes close to home, the rolling hills inland from the Bay Area through the foothills of the Sierras, or the landscapes of global travel destinations like Iceland or Greece. If you want to make my day, tell me when you see this happening and hold me accountable in images I share on social media or my portfolio.



Photographers


Many of the photographers from whom I draw inspiration are themselves the spiritual and aesthetic heirs to the cross-media influences I mentioned above, from early photographers exploring the Sierras in Bierstadt-like fashion such as (of course!) Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.

Large, medium, and 35mm format film photographers of the late 20th century, many of whom transitioined to digital media in which they produce today, who influenced my formative years of landscape photography (particularly of the American West) include Willie Holdman, Tom Till, Thomas Mengelsen, Jack Dykinga, David Muench, Art Wolfe, and Travis Lovell.

I have also drawn heavily from the minimalistic long exposure seascape renditions of master Japanese fine art photographer Hiroshi Sugimota.

Contemporary Photographic influences include technical and field masters such as Marc Adamus, Alister Benn, and Ryan Dyar. I also learn a great deal from (and enjoy the influence of) landscape photographers and popular YouTubers like Gavin Hardcastle, Adam Gibbs, Nick Page, and Michael Shainblum, as well as friends (and frequent photo adventure companions) Nakul Bhatnagar and Reino Cruz.



Videographers and Cinematographers


Despite still being a developing novice and auteur in this space, I have learned from and been inspired by several master technicians (as well as great social media practitioners) over digital media, such as Matti Haapoja, Philip Skraba, and Stefan Forster.



Creators Across Other Media


Other creators across various media from whom I routinely draw inspiration include Austin Kleon and Gillian Jakob Kieser.



A Modest Invitation


I would love for folks to engage with my work (and if you have read this far, you are a rare and great candidate for this kind of engagement) by using this influence section as a guide for identifying those 'easter eggs' of influence coming through in my images and to share what they find when I post. Who knows - I may learn as much about myself from that kind of engagement as you are learning about me now! If you appreciate what I do but can't find a place in your home, office, or bookshelf for my work, this kind of engagment is more fulfilling than any income from a sale could ever be for me, and hopefully would be an enriching way for you to connect in that increasingly rare, but consistently beautiful interpersonal way that demonstrates the invaluable message "I see you."

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