Haines photographer John Hagen is one of several artists featured as part of this week’s First Friday events. His black and white landscape photos will hang at the Alaska Arts Confluence’s Main Street Gallery as part of the monthly celebration.
Hagen has given up the hustle of daily deadlines in the often-stressful world of photojournalism, and traded it in for a more relaxed style of shooting. He’s also said sayonara to monster cameras, giant lenses and a 40-pound gear bag in favor of a high-quality, albeit compact digital camera.
“My back certainly thanks me,” he says. “It is very much liberating.”
But making the switch from editorial to landscape photography didn’t happen overnight. The styles are very different, but Hagen says he’s learned to incorporate the reflexive technique of newspaper photography into his sweeping scenics.
“As a photojournalist, I was taught to make a photo on a moment’s notice. I have a unique skill set that allows me to pretty much drop in anywhere and tell stories with images.”
His latest series is called Hide and Seek. It’s an intimate look at the landscapes along the Chilkat River. The photos are taken from the ground, and the air with a variety of viewpoints within.
“I want to have the idea of a raven or crow searching around the landscape for food. I got into some aerial landscape photography last year and I really enjoyed being able to play the landscape photography with the up close and personal view of the landscape that I like to do.”
After the shots are taken, Hagen tackles the arduous and meticulous task of digital black and white printing.
“One thing I take pride in is my ability to print black and white photography. And the cool thing about this one is that I really wanted to make my prints the center of the exhibit, so rather than choosing to show framed prints, they’re going to be bare prints hanging on the wall. That way people will be able to see the detail and not have to fight through the glass to see it.”
A photographer for two decades, this is Hagen’s second First Friday show in Haines. He says the details and subtleties in his prints are best observed in person.
“I want people to see my printed work. Some of the stuff I have on my website and on my Facebook page, that screen doesn’t do them justice. My prints are larger, and you can see my prints the way I want them to be seen.”
According to the confluence “His detailed approach to landscape photography highlights nature’s harmony, repetition and lines, and explores an environment that also inspired the art of Hagen’s Aleut and Inupiaq ancestors.”
Hagen dove seriously into landscape work a couple of years ago with the help of a $7,500 individual artist grant from the Rasmuson Foundation. His show Chilkat Beach in Monochrome was featured at the Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer last spring. More recently, he was awarded an artist-in-residency at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which will happen next winter.
His prints will be on display and for sale at this week’s First Friday event, happening from 5 to 7 p.m.
Elsewhere in Haines, Skipping Stone Studios will feature a display of Jean Smith’s fiber art, handmade scarves and wall hangings. The Haines Sheldon Museum and Hammer Museum will also have First Friday open houses, and Merrick Bochart’s “Smart Art” will be on display at the Port Chilkoot Distillery.
Find more information about First Friday here.