Review Me: Scott Ward: Intimate and Interpretive
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Thursday, September 2, 2021

Scott Ward: Intimate and Interpretive

Scott, We are so grateful that you accept our invitation to have an interview with you. Our readers are enthusiastically waiting to get familiar with you and your art. Tell us about your artistic background story and if there was a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your path as a visual artist?
I am perhaps atypical in that I came late to my artistic endeavors after a 35-year career in Finance. As a child, I was surrounded by creative family members, from painters, to sculptors, to architects, and while each of these influencers instilled in me a great appreciation for the arts, it wasn’t until a work colleague invited me to photograph her dance group, and those photos turned up in the local paper before I felt as though I had something to offer. I like to say that after several decades of dabbling, I found my eye for photography, but it wasn’t until I lost my job in 2016, that I finally found my voice. Since that time, I have been refining my visual expressions and connecting them to the written word to the point where I feel I have an integrated approach to my art.

So cool! I think art comes one day and that day it doesn’t matter how old we are. The important thing is to feel it with our soul and feeling, and that time is the right time. Was there ever a moment of doubt to question your art career entirely?
All the time! Some number of years ago, I entered several photo contests only to be rejected each time. When I was able to see the works that had been selected, I struggled to understand why these images were deemed more worthy than mine. Though at times the answers hurt, I began to seek out feedback and began to see that I was having difficulty translating the images I saw in my head to the printed form. It took a long time to develop the necessary skills of self-critique, but finally being able to articulate an artistic philosophy and goal gave me the confidence to continue creating images that conform to, and are consistent with, my aesthetic. Having others finally see what I see in my images is also validating, though self-doubt never really goes away.

That’s great. You never despaired and tried to find out by exploring, comparing, and thinking. What is your daily routine when working in your studio?
As I still work a standard workweek in my financial profession, my creative endeavors are generally relegated to evenings and weekends. This isn’t to say that I am not constantly logging possible ideas throughout the day, but my actual creative process happens only when I can devote significant chunks of time to it. Weekends will typically find me wandering around the neighborhood or local nature areas at different times of the day staring up at the sky, through the trees, or into the shadows. When I start processing my photos in Photoshop, I rarely work on one image to completion, but spread my attention across multiple images, sometimes going back and forth adapting one technique to another photo. I also spend time in my head thinking about an image overnight or over several days, coming back to the computer after I have imagined a new approach.

We are willing to know so many things about how a professional photographer works while creating a photo. So, take us through your process of making your artworks. How do you move from an idea to an artwork? Where does an artwork begin for you?
Since I take photographs of existing subjects rather than creating an object out of nothing, like a sculptor, the creation process for me is observation. Whether indoors or outdoors, I am constantly scanning the environment around me looking for some color, form, pattern, or texture that resonates with me. Lighting is a huge part of my process, so I either manipulate it if indoors, or wait for the optimal conditions in the field. Only then do I get behind the camera and begin the process of framing my subject, deciding what to leave in and what to exclude. The final process involves manipulating the image in Lightroom, where I might stick to the realism of the field, or decide that the image will be more abstract.

We know you adopted two taglines, “Part of a Bigger Picture” and “Look Beyond the Edges.” Is there a central concept connecting all your works together or each series or artwork is unique?
There are two separate paths I pursue in my photography. One is purely artistic in nature, wherein I work to identify some combination of pattern, form, texture, or color that I find captures a central truth about the image. I usually also focus on a sub-feature of the overlying subject, such as the valve portion of a trumpet, so that the image may not immediately identify itself to the viewer as to what it is. The second goal is to, with accompanying text, identify some social issues or unique attributes of the subject that are less likely to be known to the viewer. A social issue might be environmental health when attached to the Huron River photo or indigenous history when discussing Acadia National Park, and unique attributes might include architectural or art history as opposed to the location it resides such as the University of Michigan.

Some artists prefer to get the viewer’s mind involved in the massage of the artwork, while others make the message easier to understand with their explanations. Would you like to give a particular interpretation of your work to your viewers or you prefer to leave the whole interpretation to your audience?
Most of my images are identifiable after a brief reflection; however, my use of the composition or visual enhancement usually presents the subject in a way the viewer might not usually experience in the outside world. My goal is to entice the viewer into that closer look, for them to contemplate details they might overlook. I shy away from taking panoramic photos of a subject, such as, say, Niagara Falls, but would rather move the camera to the shadows off to the side and concentrate on some smaller subset of that subject. The viewer might identify the subject but would be presented with an aspect of it that they may never have contemplated.

Yes, you’ve already said that you want to encourage the eye to wander over the entire image and allow the viewer to take an individual journey of discovery about what the image might say to them. How do you get inspired, Scott? How do you seek and use inspiration for your works?
I want to avoid being derivative if I can knowingly avoid it, so I typically do not seek out ideas from other people, or printed materials with actual photographs. As I move about through my daily activities, I am constantly observing my surroundings. I have found inspiration in the way the light hit my son’s trumpet while he was playing, by water beads pooling on a downtown lunch table, or by the blue sky against white columns on a building. Nothing is off-limits to my imagination! Ice crystals, fountain grass, ashes, water ripples are all everyday sights that people ignore because they see them every day, but I look for the unusual viewpoint to redefine them as objects of interest whose detail can provide a path of discovery for the viewer.

What about your favorite subjects? How do you select your artworks subjects? Where they come from?
Building on 2.4 above, I usually do not seek out a particular subject, but respond to everyday objects as they present themselves. To use an example from the images in this competition, the evolution of Native Outcropping began with a trip to Washington, D.C. I came across the Native American Museum, which I had never seen before and though a beautiful building, I did not want to capture the entire fa├žade. I walked around it until I collapsed the view to a series of curves, then later in Photoshop, I pulled out the rainbow of color, which was there in the cascading shadows but not easily seen. By increasing the saturation and adding more contrast, I ended up with the final image which resembled, in my mind, a cover of the old 1930’s Fortune magazines, which were generally highly stylized images of regular subjects.

Many things can inspire photographers before clicking the shutter on a scene or subject to capture a moment in time. Is there an artwork or series that you would like to be remembered for? And if yes, what is it?
I’m not sure that I have a named series or specific image that outshines the others, but what I would like to be remembered for would be my ability to take ordinary subjects and display them in such a unique way that viewers are drawn into them in such a way that they make an effort to identify the subject and then to explore the corners of the images to make sure they have captured all elements. I make a point of bleeding most of my subjects off the edges, in an effort to invite the viewer to think about what might be beyond the confines of the physical image.

Since our readers are passionate about your photography, I know that my next question is definitely their question. Any upcoming works or future projects that you would like to share with our readers?
I have recently become more interested in architectural imagery. Two series, represented in this competition are from the Ann Arbor Campus of the University of Michigan, and Washington, D.C. There are additional images I would like to obtain for both these series, mostly now internal shots, capturing some of the ornate or unique ceilings and decorative works. There are also many historically significant buildings in the Detroit area that I would like to capture, as well.

Scott, let’s talk about your influences. What are your art influences? Who are your favorite contemporary or historical artists and why?
Charles Harper – A print artist who practiced what he called “minimal realism”. In his words: “I don’t try to put everything in, I try to leave everything out. His use of pattern and form intrigued me from the first time I saw his work. Ansel Adams – The original spark. Composition and clarity of images. Though I don’t do what he did, his work showed me what was possible. Maxfield Parish and Japanese woodblock prints, for the use of saturated vibrant colors. Vintage Fortune Magazine covers from the 1930’s for their stylized imagery and saturated colors.

And, if you could meet one of your ideal artists from the past, who would it be and what will you ask about?
This is a hard question. I think because I chose a professional career, not in the arts and only discovered my artistic eye and voice so late in life, whoever it might be, I would want to ask how they knew that this is what they wanted to do, and how did they have the confidence to do so, knowing that an artistic career is a difficult one to succeed at. The answer wouldn’t necessarily help me in my artistic work, but would help to put my life in perspective.

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