john lehet photographyJohn Lehet Photography

Photos Posted in the Last Year

Artist Statement

john lehet at Boston Athenaeum exhibit
John Lehet at Boston Athenaeum Exhibit Opening

Since beginning with a view camera and large format film when I was a skinny young man in 1980, my photography has evolved in a steady arc. Over that time, my core concern has remained the same: I look for a resonance, a human response connecting to a natural situation. I want to look past surface concerns to find a deeper, less distracted emotional state. I make beautiful prints; sometimes beauty is enough, but I am trying to achieve something more.

Though I fooled around with 35mm film, my beginning to take photography seriously involved a switch to the exclusive use of a 4 x 5 film view camera. I'm not sure how much of that work I would print now, and I sure washed a lot of silver down the drain. But the good thing is that the view camera enforced a view of composition. Under the dark cloth, I looked at the ground glass upside down and backwards. If there wasn't something going on with the composition in terms of form, shape, color, texture, I tried not to waste a sheet of film. So my approach has always not been: "there is a thing in front of the camera that I will capture." Rather, my approach is that I am working with a composition that has to work out in the space of the composition. The eye moves across that space, the mind travels with it, and perhaps the heart and spirit can come on the journey as well.

Photography allows me to explore the connection between the world of outer manifestation and the human inner realm. Something is going on, a resonance is struck, but it is beyond words. When I can't name it, I'm on to something; that's the way I like it. Successful composition, form, tone, texture, and color can't be distilled into a formula, but I can use these characteristics as the means to an end. Briefly some situation of form is coming together in front of the camera, never to be quite the same again. I can use that, shapes, resonances, meaning, to make something work on paper. I want the final image to transform us, to crack our hearts like a nut and remind us that something vast stirs within us.

Most recently, I have fallen in love with the subtle characteristics of vintage lenses. They provide me with a broad nuanced palette with which to interpret the captured image as I work toward a print. I have lenses that are aggressively sharp and contrasty, and other great lenses that draw with light in a smoother and dreamier way. I play with the choice of paper that suits the image – from sharp and vivid, to textured and subtle – ultimately yielding a beautiful object. I combine the subject, lens, camera, and paper so that the final image leaps past the chain of steps that brought it to life. If I can get a beautiful blur in between or beyond the "subject," or whatever is in sharp focus, then I have a negative space that is as important as the positive space. There is a dance of form and emptiness, of what is obvious, and what is subtle. Without you seeing my prints, I can't properly describe how beautifully a well done blur (or "bokeh") can work with a nice paper texture. I hope you have a chance to see it.

My Buddhist meditation practice is a deep and important part of my toolbox, clarifying and sharpening my sight, and maybe more importantly giving me access to my inner world, clarifying the fluid connection between inner and outer realms. I use photographic technology to connect the outer realm of manifestations with the mysterious shifting forests, pools, and wild seas of our inner landscape; it happens through a beautiful print.