John Trotter – Brief Statement – February 2020

I built my first darkroom before I was 16 years old, where I printed photos taken in and around New Haven, Connecticut. My first job was at a portrait studio in New Haven. My second job was in the Ophthalmology Section of Yale Medical School. I was hired as a technician to set up and operate a photography lab in support of eye research using light and electron microscopy. During this time I studied and experimented with the Zone System delineated in books by Anselm Adams and Minor White. During this same time I had the good fortune to become friends with the artist Louis Aiello, whose abstract expressionist paintings and sculpture, and whose life devoted to the search for meaning through art, inspired me. Lou remained my mentor and guide until his death in 2004 at age 92.

I continued to pursue interests in both photography and biomedical research as an undergraduate student at Johns Hopkins University, and then as a graduate student at the University of Washington, where I obtained a Ph.D. degree in Biological Structure in 1976. While a graduate student, I was a member of PhotoGroup Northwest, and exhibited as part of a group show at a Seattle photo gallery owned by Letcher Ross.

After doing postdoctoral research at the National Institutes of Health, I joined the faculty of the Department of Anatomy, University of New Mexico School of Medicine. I have published more than 50 scientific papers describing the results of original research in the structure, biochemistry, and physiology of muscle and connective tissue.

In 2005 I retired from the University to devote the majority of my time and effort to contemplative photography. If they are successful, my photographs point toward “the world hidden in the world.” This way of photographing is healing for me, and I hope for the viewer as well.

During my childhood, three books seem to have been constantly present on our coffee table. They were Life’s Picture History of World War Two, Art Treasures of the Louvre, and The Family of Man. Somehow these first sources stirred in me an awareness of meanings beyond words. I am still in pursuit of these meanings, using the camera and the digital darkroom to find the way.

In the beginning I worked exclusively in black and white. I was inspired especially by the photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Gene Smith, Ansel Adams, and Paul Strand. In those days the domains of black and white and color photography were physically and chemically separate and distinct. With digital photography these material separations no longer exist, although in most people’s minds there are still esthetic distinctions. Rather than dwell on these distinctions, I have chosen to explore the spectra of both tones and colors in my photographs. I would like to think that meaning in my photographs may be experienced without ever raising the question whether it is a color or black and white image.

The galleries displayed here represent themes that I have been working with over the past several years. Desert Light involves the sensuous surfaces of the sand dunes of Death Valley and White Sands in all lights, as well as other mysteries that are seen by the light of the desert. The photographs in The Sky gallery express the music and poetry in the ever-changing relationships of clouds and earth. The gallery In the Company of Trees contains photographs that explore the strong connection I feel with trees. And Screens explores the visual experience that occurs when I look at what is directly in front of me that could easily be ignored or dismissed, something that may seem to get in the way of the beauty of that which lies behind.