John Louis Field, photographer

February 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

London blur #1459 D

John Field | London


As an architect who specialized in the design of public places and a documentary filmmaker who explored why we like some spaces and not others, it became clear as I began focusing on photography that what I wanted to capture was not merely found on film. It was more than something visual. It involved all of the senses.

In the hundreds of photographs I took over the years, the nature of the single lens camera always held the viewer back, outside the place. Even photographs of architectural projects I designed were usually manipulated by the professional photographer to show as much as possible, exaggerating the dimensions and missing the essential nature of being there.

In filmmaking, the sense of sound is a great help in capturing the sense of place. Still, I found we could come closer to replicating the experience of being there by building up a sequence about a place with a series of closeups. That is part of what our eyes do naturally as our focus shifts rapidly, even when we don’t notice we are doing it.

Digital photography and Photoshop make it possible to create images that express the sense of being inside these special places by removing some details and reinforcing the textures, colors or direction of the light — things that are more powerful in remembering the experience of being there than the original photograph. Often understanding the sense of the place only becomes clear to me as I work with the photograph in the computer. Like reading poetry, I need to bring myself into it to discover its nature and meaning.

Egypt blur#1561 Rev

John Field | Egypt

FAREWELL: “Two of our finest

John Louis Field, filmmaker

February 10, 2014 § 1 Comment

BEFORE HE TURNED his attention to photography, John Louis Field was a noted San Francisco architect and also a filmmaker. Two of his architectural documentaries exploring cities and what makes them successful places were broadcast nationwide on public television.

In “The Urban Preserve,” from 1976, Field weaves a rich visual tapestry of vibrant urban places, most in Italy, some in the U.S. As both filmmaker and polemicist, he has a point of view. “Cities are alive,” he argues. “They can flourish and grow, or they can shrink and even die. But while they live, they constantly change.”

He presents especially beautiful images of the Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (above) and Orvieto Cathedral (below) before concluding: “It is essential to preserve a city’s life that we save the great monuments, and that we still allow for contemporary expression — because together, they are the accumulation of history that is a part of our root and one of our ways of sensing who we are.”

FAREWELL: “Two of our finest

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