Jeff Zaruba’s photographic style is defined by an artful appreciation for the shape, space, landscape, and composition of natural and manmade forms. In Kyiv he will present a collection of conceptual works that illustrate the intricate interplay of shapes, shadows, reflections and light. What’s On talks to the Chicago-born talent to discover more about his works and personality.
How old were you when you first understood that you would pursue a career in photography? What influenced your decision?
I was 19 and enrolled in architecture school at Arizona State University. Although I loved architecture and design, there was something about the classes that did not quite click. I wandered over to the art school, looked at their classes, and chose, among others, a basic black and white photography class. Within weeks, I was hooked and spending most of my free time shooting and in the darkroom.
What is it about photography that attracts you the most?
I believe it was the speed of creation that first attracted me, especially compared to so many of the other fine art classes that I also took in school, like drawing, painting, sculpture and design. At the time (mid 1970’s) photography was a very contemporary artist’s medium. I think that ultimately photography allowed me to frame and simplify the world as I saw it.
Though talented in colour photography, you nevertheless focus on creating black and white photos. Why is it the main theme of your art?
Black and white was my first love, and the abstractness and simplicity of it suits my aesthetic very well.
Where do you find inspiration? And what comes first the idea or image?
I find my inspiration in travel. I love to wander with my camera, away from my day-to-day responsibilities and concerns, and let my eye lead me to find photos. Having done this for over 30 years, I find that collections of similar images have grown.
Which places in the world inspire you most?
I appreciate places that have successfully married ancient and modern culture and design. The places that honour the past, yet still move forward with modern design and ideas. Since I do not speak any foreign languages, places where English is not common often seem to awaken my vision, as my hearing takes a break from processing conversation.
They say the idea is always bigger than its implementation. You’ve earned recognition worldwide. But are you happy with the results of your work?
Yes, I really am happy with a lot of my work, but always, always look forward to working on new images. One of the tests I give myself with my work is if I continually like it, even after seeing it over the passage of time, then it is valid.
Who do you consider the greatest photographers of our time? Who are your teachers in this sense?
The list is large and always growing. My early inspirations came from Paul Strand, Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, then more mid-century influences like Irving Penn, and Ernest Haas. I love the work of Sebastiao Selgado, and Sarah Moon.
What are you working on now? What are your plans for the future?
I have been working on a series called Sacred Landscapes, which is a beautiful black and white panoramic collection, and also another series that I may call H20, which is a collection of very abstract clouds and water scenes, that are quite romantic and quite a few are in colour.
What is your favourite subject to photograph?
I am drawn to light, shapes, patterns, patina, shadows and abstractions. It really does not matter what is in front of me.
What book is on your nightstand at home right now?
That’s a good question. I have a few books and no idea what their titles are. I used to read on airplanes all the time. Now I make sure I have a window seat and listen to music while flying. Ray La Montagne and Mark Knopfler are both good inspirations for my cloud photos and when I work on my images.
What is your breakfast routine?
Always up early, before sunrise. Coffee with half and half, the San Francisco Chronicle (our daily newspaper) and often eggs cooked in olive oil. Then usually some email work, yoga or exercise.
Exhibition of photographs by Jeff Zaruba (us)
11 December – 26 January Brucie Collections Gallery (Artema 55b)