Back in the early days after turning “pro”, (as much as you can call a photographer with very few pictures and even fewer clients a pro) I had a converstaion with Pete Ensenberger, then the Director of Photograhy at Arizona Highways. I told Pete I was scouring the desert, working hard, but was having trouble finding these beautiful close up images my competitors were showing. Pete, the nicest guy in the universe, couldn’t help but laugh at loud at my naiveté. He explained that its pretty well understood that close ups were manipulated.
So I went down to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and during some rare overcast put together an image I call “Cactus Parts”. I started with a blank piece of ground and spent the next 2 1/2 hours finding the parts and putting it together. Everything came from one dead saguaro cactus except the lone cholla nugget in the upper left I used to counterpoint the “eye” of the cactus bark.
I then took a trip to the east coast to shoot with Ian and made several more manipulated close ups. Ian also put together some beautiful compositions on that trip. However, since then I have quit manipulating my close ups altogether. The reasons are many. Different photographers define a “close up” or “intimate landscape” differently. I have met some to whom a close up is anything without a sky, because without a sky it doesn’t qualify for “Grand Landscape” status. And then, because it’s a close up, anything goes. Two glad bags full of maple leaves, whatever it takes.
I simply decided that I can’t go there. If I show a manipulated close up (like today), I do so with full disclosure. As a photographer, I shoot what I find. To be sure, I’m not saying that theres anything wrong with manipulating close ups, and when my mobility is gone, maybe I’ll spend my time shooting close ups in the studio. But I’m pretty sure I’ll be calling each of them a “Still Life”.
I’m including a “found” close up I shot the following day, called “Cactus Ribs”.