John Paul Caponigro
John Paul Caponigro
Photographer Q & A
Describe the moment or event that inspired your decision to become a photographer.
Maybe it was the day my mother was astonished to find the black cat she photographed didn't appear in her prints. Maybe it was the day I mistook my father's print of an apple for a galaxy. Maybe it was the day he and I used the same equipment and photographed the same thing but made very different images. Maybe it was the day I watched Scitex machines adjusting images for Eliot Porter's Intimate Landscapes book. Maybe it was the day that I got my first copy of Photoshop. But all these events only led to the real day, the day I completed a solid body of work that was truly mine. I had finally found what I was looking for.
I make images to express wonder and love for the world. The picture frame is a meeting place. Making images offers me a way to explore the natural world, my responses to it, and my community's responses to it. The responses can be universal, cultural, personal or some combination of all three.
Why do you focus on nature imagery?
The natural world is the matrix we arise from, that sustains us, and that we return to. It is us. I make no separation between us and it, though that pattern of thought is deeply embedded in our culture, so deeply embedded that we don't even possess language to describe the larger phenomenon of us/it. Through my work I hope to deconstruct this false duality and suggest a more holistic way of relating. If we treat the environment (or anything really) as a part of ourselves, our actions towards it will automatically become more conscientious and we will be happier, healthier, and more complete.
What do you hope to achieve with your work?
I hope that my work can reinvigorate people's passion for and participation with nature. There are many artists who have documented the changing conditions of our natural environment with the hope of inspiring greater success for preservation efforts. I thank each and every one of them. And I hope that my work can inspire similar acts of conscientiousness and compassion. I make my contribution not by documenting what has passed in an attempt to slow or stop this process. Instead, my work suggests ways of relating to the natural world. It asks people to look closely at what's outside, what's inside, and how deeply involved in the process we all are. It's not an invitation to get involved, we're all already involved. It's an invitation to clarify our involvement, to reinvigorate our participation, and to empower and celebrate our highly personal and unique contributions to this process. Change happens. Do we accept change in ways we don't want or do we work towards change we do want?
What is your favorite photography tip to share with other photographers?
Observe your creative process—always.
Favorite photography book and why?
Ouch! So many choices! Visit my website for dozens of recommendations. Just one? Richard Zakia's Perception and Imaging. It's like a set of Tinkertoys for the mind that everyone can combine in different ways to achieve their own unique artistic vision.
What's the best advice you ever received from a fellow photographer?
My father told me, "Be true to yourself." Then he did it.
Most unusual item you keep in your camera bag?
Most of my students think it's pen and paper—for sketching and writing; those tools help me capture and generate ideas. The few who have seen it think it's a dowsing pendulum; it helps me find answers which something in me already knows. Only airport security guards think it's a Milagro, a large metal charm of a burning heart; it reminds me of the importance of faith.
Name a geographical place that you'd love to return to or go to for an assignment.
I never tire of returning to Antarctica; it's captured my heart and soul. I've never been to Greenland or the Atacama Desert; I'm leading workshops in both locations this year.
What photography project or assignment has been most meaningful for you and why?
My ongoing work in Antarctica. It's multifaceted. Workshops, every other year. Lectures, nationally. A collaborative effort between artists and scientists, now seeking a host. An editorial body of work, now ready for publication. An altered body of work, now in development; the material has already informed most of my ongoing series. A web site that collects information on all aspects of the larger project: www.johnpaulcaponigro.com/antarctica/index.php
If you could publish a book on any photographic subject, what would it be?
Four completed projects are seeking publishers now: Antarctica, Photographers on Photography, Landscapes Within, and Sacred World. Two technical books are near completion: Fine Art Digital Printing and The Power of Color. Multiple ebooks are pending release. The most important book project may be the one I've just begun writing: Reenchanting Nature—Creative Ways of Reconnecting.
What's in your camera bag right now?
Everything I need to make exposures with. My camera equipment lives in my bag so I can always find it at a moments notice. It's only out of my bag when I'm using it. Two cameras, batteries and chargers, three lenses, two filters, cards, sensor cleaner, cleaning cloth, weather protector, etc. You'll find a more detailed list and recommendations for packing on my web site. (Plus, I have a second bag for my portable computer and my iPhone.)
What do you love about your Lowepro bags?
Lowepro bags make it easy to protect my gear, organize it, and keep it accessible. And they're black.
You can see how John Paul's Caponigro's passion for nature (beautifully!) reveals itself on his Antarctica web site, plus get more information on his upcoming workshops and lectures. Sign up for his complimentary Insights eNews. And read his blog for recaps of his recent adventures.
John Paul's Lowepro gear includes:
John Paul Caponigro:Web Site
John Paul Caponigro is an internationally renowned fine artist whose work has been purchased by collections as diverse as Princeton University, Estée Lauder, and the Smithsonian. A contributing editor to Digital Photo Pro and a columnist for the Huffington Post, he is the author of Adobe Photoshop Master Class and the DVD series R/Evolution. A highly sought after lecturer, he teaches workshops around the globe. A member of the Photoshop Hall of Fame, a Canon Explorer of Light, an Epson Stylus Pro, and an X-Rite Coloratti, his clients also include Adobe, Apple, and Kodak.
Watch John Paul Caponigro's Webinar: The Art of Traveling