The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Mark Klett didn’t go to college for photography. Taking pictures was a nice hobby, a thing to do on the side. But science — specifically geology — was how he expected to make his living.
Nearly four decades later, he comes to The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky as part of its Robert C. May Photography Endowment Lecture Series.
Klett might have been a little surprised that he ended up with a career in photography, but his subject matter isn’t surprising at all.
When he started graduate school in photography at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, N.Y., Klett says, “I didn’t know what the art of photography was about, what the field was all about, the current dialogues or the art of photography. I didn’t think much about landscape photography. I really thought it was boring.”
But in the summertime, he worked for the U.S. Geological Survey, which took him to Montana and Wyoming and got him thinking about landscapes.
What he came to understand was that landscape photography was not just about aiming his lens at a rock or a tree. It was choices about light and perspective that separated snapshots from photographs.
“I tell my students all the time that landscape photography would seem to be a sort of neutral subject, and that’s why I found it boring, initially — a rock and a tree and this and that and so what?,” Klett says. “But then I learned that photographs were actually the result of someone’s decision-making, and that they had a purpose, and that they were reflections of an opinion, and they were a little more like editorial statements. That’s when it got interesting to me.”
One of his first serious forays was essentially trying to see through the eyes and lenses of some of the original masters of landscape photography, notably Ansel Adams.
The project was to study iconic photos of the American West, in many cases figure out what they were and where they were taken, and replicate them.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich