When asked about our profession why do many of photographers choke on the word “artist?” That is because the root of photography is in documentation. The portrait. The shot of the ribbon cutting opening ceremony for a new rail way. The image of a man speaking at the podium that appeared in the news paper. Those are pictures and their captors’ profession is photography. At some point along the spectrum between photography and painting and you find yourself looking at the image above. It is not a photograph, it is not a painting. It is made from photographs, inspired in Hawaii. There are many who would be adamant about this not being a photograph at all. Ask them what to call it and they will draw a blank. I call it conceptual landscape photography.
Concerning painting landscapes there are two types of landscape artists: the artist that paints at home and the artist that paints in his element. As a photographers we have the opportunity to be both. I capture in my element. Waking early or staying out late I find a canvas and capture it frame by frame by frame by moment. Then I take reality, add a drop of my self to the canvas, and deliver an image. Sometimes literal, other times hyperreal. The composition, the horizons, the depth were all choices I made and tossed about across an infinite canvas.
For “Lana,” which means “adrift” in Hawaiian, I painted at home. At home I can take sea and make it rough or serene. I blow the clouds north or east as I please. At home, sunsets last weeks. Studies have shown that we see as many as 10M different colors. At home I can sample each one. I took several years of experiences and photographs and added a bucket of my self this time. I am delivering more than a photograph of a landscape. Lana is the conceptualization of my heart and the landscape of my imagination.
If I painted the above image you’d call me an artist. But if I tell you I captured it you would call me a photographer and then ask me where. Then I tell you, “Its a dreamscape, I created it.” I immediately receive a confused look and you don’t know how to identify me. Art is changing as fast as technology and in as sublime a way as the lines between culture are melting. We don’t all have to change with it but we do need to recognize that it is happening. I think of the image above as a photograph. I feel that definitions, while difficult, are important. What do you define Lana?
Jason Matias is a Honolulu based commercial and fine art photographer. He won Honolulu Photographer of the Year 2013. He considers himself an ‘adventurist.’ Photography has taken him from the Alaskan tundra all the way to the Afghani desert. You can follow his journey here: