John Lehet at Boston Athenaeum Exhibit Opening
I currently have prints in two shows right now: at the Pompanoosuc Mills showroom in East Thetford, Vermont, and at the Boston Athenaeum through September 3, 2017. Since the shows are different, I won't make this about either or of those hanging shows particularly.
My approach in some ways is a steady arc, going back to my start with big film in 1980. My core concerns are the same: I look for a resonance, something that we respond to as humans, even if the subject matter isn't a person or a domestic or urban situation. I want to go deep and not be distracted by surface concerns.
I won't articulate the connection between the objects in front of the camera and the human inner realm. I think the less that can be clearly explained, the more I like it. When I can't name it, I'm on to something. Something is going on, a resonance is struck, but it's beyond words, I hope. I can't distill the use of form, tone, texture, and color into a formula, but those are all I have to work with in the end. Something is in front of the camera, but I have to make that work as something on paper. I can borrow the color, tones, forms, textures of the manifestation, but these are the means; they have to work on the paper. Then I want that paper to not just remind us there was once something in front of a lens. I want that image on paper to work us, to transform us, to crack our heart like a nut and remind us that something stirs in us that is vast.
My photography has evolved constantly since I started working seriously with a view camera in 1980. Of course we develop based on the tools we are working with, and I'm grateful for all the transformative periods with different forms of equipment over these 30 years. I've also had many transforming experiences mentally and emotionally through my adult life, and these would be harder to talk about than the technical aspects. Meditation and my Buddhist practice is a deep and important part of my toolbox, working with emotional resonance as well as clarity and sharp seeing.
Most recently I'm falling in love with the subtle characters of the best vintage old lenses. "Magic" would be the wrong word, since it's engineering and craftsmanship of master past and modern materials engineers and optical designers that makes these lenses. When someone does something supremely well, it seems to transcend mere normal laws of physics and science. The old lenses provide a broad pallete with which to interpret, there is more nuance between that capture and my work toward the print; then finally the choice of paper -- from sharp and vivid to textured and subtle to suit the image -- yields a beautiful object. Like those lens designers that seem to create magic, I seek to do this so well that it leaps into another realm beyond the ordinary bounds of the all ordinary links in the chain that brought the final object to be.
I use technology to connect the outer realm of manifestations with the mysterious shifting forests and seas of our inner landscape; it happens through a beautiful print.