What’s your background?
I grew up as the second oldest of five children of a middle class family in a New Jersey suburb, with a sketchbook in my hand, and enjoyed drawing things and impressing my schoolmates. I knew early on that I wanted to be an artist. During high school, I took art classes and planned to enter college as an art major. In college, I began pursuing a degree in graphic design. One of the required classes was a photography class. Once I developed my first roll of film in the darkroom, I was hooked.
When I graduated college, my initial interest was sports photography, as I was a huge sports fan. I pursued that for about 10 years, working for newspapers and trading card companies photographing sports at all levels from high school to college. It was during this time that I discovered landscape photography. I found it relaxing to be outdoors, and I wanted a way to capture the natural vistas that I found so captivating.
As we entered the digital age, I fully embraced the ability to edit my images digitally, since I didn’t have space for my own darkroom and using local photo labs left me dissatisfied with the results.
As I worked various jobs within the photo industry, including as a Technical Specialist for Canon USA, I continued to pursue landscape photography in my free time. As my career has progressed, landscape photography has become a much bigger part of what I do and has led to me selling my work, as well as teaching and writing about how I achieve my images.
Does your artwork come from that background?
To a degree. Obviously photography has been something I’ve been pursuing for a long time, but my family was never a big outdoorsy family. We didn’t go camping and I didn’t visit my first national park until I was an adult. But somehow I found an affinity for the outdoors and hiking and it quickly became a passion of mine to find beautiful natural scenes and capture them as I saw them.
What are you trying to say with your work?
I’m not sure I’m trying to say anything beyond “Look at this beautiful world we live in.” In this day and age, I’ve become more conscious of environmental conservation and I hope my work helps make people more aware of those issues, but overall, I’d simply like to convey the feelings and sensations I feel when I came upon the scene and captured it with my camera.
What made you choose the medium you work with?
There are several reasons I’ve chosen to work in digital photography. The first is that, in my early years of drawing and painting, I found myself frustrated that I couldn’t translate my feelings about the subject to my paper or canvas effectively as much as I wanted to. Then when I discovered photography, the magic of the darkroom captivated me and my ability to manipulate what I showed the viewer through creative use of shutter speed and depth of field satisfied my creative urges in a way drawing or painting never did.
I choose to work digitally now for several reasons, but the biggest is that, while I enjoyed working in the darkroom, having one now just isn’t feasible and I don’t want to give up control over the final image. In addition, with the way technology has advanced, digital imaging is far more capable of capturing a scene in full detail than film.
Do you work in a studio?
As a landscape photographer, my studio is anywhere and everywhere I decide to set up my camera. I have a small workspace at home where I edit my images and print them for local gallery shows. It consists of a small desk, an iMac 27-inch computer, several hard drives, and a Canon Pixma Pro-10 printer.
I have one daughter and one son, both teenagers now. Both are honors students.
What is the one thing in your studio you just could not be without?
Besides the cameras? I’d have to say my iMac which is where all my images get edited for color and contrast before I share them with anyone else.
Who are your biggest influences?
Ansel Adams has been a huge influence on my work, though my style tends to be very different. His images of the US National Parks continually inspire me to visit these places and see what I can capture there. Another influence is Walter Iooss Jr. His sports photography was the very definition of sports photography when I was growing up and first inspired me to use a camera when I had to take a photography class. His transition from sports to fashion also showed me I didn’t have to be pigeonholed as one type of photographer.
What is your favourite piece of work by yourself?
It’s difficult to choose one favorite. My images are reflections of where I was at a specific moment in time in my life, not only physically, but emotionally, so they all have some personal meaning to me.
If I had to choose a current favorite, I suppose I would choose “Tumbledown Pond”. This image was made from the summit of Tumbledown Mountain, a mountain in western Maine that I climbed last year. Not a difficult climb, but not easy either, and the view was well worth it. It was a bit symbolic as well, as it came at a time when I was still healing from several blows in my life and reaching the top of this mountain came at a time when life began hit an upswing as well.
How much time (on average) does it take to complete a work?
Photographing can take a few hours once I get on location. Add in travel time and planning time and the act of getting out and photographing a spot can take anywhere from 3 to 8 hours or more depending on where I’m headed. Editing time is usually shorter. If I’ve done my job in the field, my images don’t need any special editing, and I have a color and contrast “recipe” that is fairly quick to apply to get to my final image. Then I just remove any dust spots, and I’m done. If I need to print the image for showing in a gallery, that can take another 10 to 15 minutes.
How do you know something is ‘finished’? Is it easy to walk away?
Usually it’s pretty simple. I add my usual color and contrast edits and if I’m satisfied, I’m done. On occasion, if it’s a more difficult exposure I’m trying to work with, it can take longer as more advanced editing techniques come into play. Also, if I’m stitching an image or doing a composite, that can take longer. I usually walk away when the image on my screen matches the vision in my mind. If I can’t match that, I usually walk away frustrated but move on to something else.
What project are you working on now?
My major ongoing project is simply to continue documenting the landscape of my home state of Maine. On a larger scale, simply working down my list of places I want to go and experience and photograph. In 2019 I am planning to visit Iceland for the first time, and I would like to visit the US more and document areas I haven’t photographed before.
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
I’m not sure I was given this advice as much as it was a conclusion I came to over time, but essentially, create for your own enjoyment. If you keep chasing the dollar you’ll never be satisfied. Create for your own enjoyment and the rest will likely follow.
I started my career as a sports photographer for Pacific Trading Cards, photographing Major League Baseball, NHL Hockey, and NFL Football for them.
What was the first piece of art you sold?
The first image I ever sold as art was an image of Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse in Acadia National Park, Maine. I don’t even have it available for sale anymore, as it was taken on a low resolution digital camera, compared to what’s available today, and it just doesn’t hold up now.
Do you find it hard to navigate the artworld?
I don’t worry about the art world as much as I just worry about connecting with people who appreciate what I do. I have found the process of selling my art at times confusing, frustrating, gratifying, and rewarding. I don’t find the work itself to be hard. I enjoy it and when I connect with people who enjoy my work, it becomes worthwhile to me. But the act of finding those people is more difficult than I’d like at times.
I find it difficult to stay up on all of the different events that might be good venues for selling my work. I believe the face to face time is as important as having a solid online presence, and I really wish it was easier to not only be aware of these events, but also to get involved in them.
What are you personally doing to advance your work career?
For me personally, the two most important things are continuing to travel and make great images, and then finding ways to get those images seen. I show in two brick and mortar galleries in Maine currently, the Saltwater Artists Gallery in Bristol, Maine, and Gallery 440 in Rockland, Maine. I am seeking further gallery opportunities for 2019 as well.
It was interesting how the opportunity with Saltwater Artists Gallery came about. I had just relocated to Maine from New York, and was in a group interview for a part time retail job- just something to get me by until I got on my feet. Someone else in the group asked me what I do, and when I told them I was a landscape photographer, they told me that someone they knew showed in the gallery and I should see about showing there. I went home, did a quick Google search, and sent an email with my website and contact info, stating I was interested in showing. I received an email back within a day or so stating they’d reviewed my website and would be happy to have me as a showing member. The gallery is a co-op, run by the showing artists, and it’s been a rewarding experience to be a part of it. And a great learning experience.
I use social media quite a bit as well. Facebook seems to be where I get the most attention for my work. My Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/rickberkphoto has over 5600 followers now, so just posting work there with a link is a good start. I also share with many groups on Facebook, many of which are populated not only by photographers, but by people interested in seeing images of whatever the group is focused on. This has helped generate quite a few followers as well as sales.
I don’t follow art trends consciously. I’m not interested in the color of the year or anything like that. But when I see a photographic style that I like, be it a shooting style or post-processing style, I may try to incorporate it into my own work.
How do you price your work and why do you price it that way?
My work is priced using several factors.
First, do I feel that the price is fair both for myself and my potential customers.
Second, is my price reasonable compared to others in the market whose work is comparable in skill and subject matter to mine.
Finally, and most importantly, does the price I’ve set take into account all costs associated with producing the image, including travel, time spent producing it, costs of the equipment needed, and cost to make the final print.
There are too few artists out there who really take the time to figure out what it costs to produce an image, and they wind up paying more than they make on an image to actually produce it. It’s important for me, as an photographic artist, to put a proper value on my work.
Do you use social networking in your day to day life?
I am on Facebook every day, for better or worse. I try to stay out of the political sniping, but am not always successful. Mainly, however, I use it as a way to show off my work and connect with people who are interested in it.
I am also on Instagram and am fairly active there. I try to share a photo a few times a week, with maybe a little backstory about the image.
I am less active on Twitter and mainly share links to my work on my website there.
Is there anything that really annoys you about the artworld?
Probably the most annoying thing for me is minimization of art by the general public. “It’s JUST a painting” or “It’s just a picture.” I’m not saying that a painting or a photo has to have any deeper meaning- more often than not I don’t think they do- but I do wish people would recognize the skill and talent involved in creating or capturing an image that makes someone stop and look at it for just a minute.
I am currently using a Nikon D810 and Nikon D850 camera, with Nikon and Tamron lenses, to produce my images.
What advice would you give new artists?
Study business. Learn to market yourself. Learn how to run a profitable business, because that’s what you are if you hope to sell your work. But most of all, don’t create for someone else, or because it might sell. Create for you. If you can create work that makes you happy, the chances it will make someone else happy is that much greater.
Have you got hobbies?
I like to hike when I can, but that usually involves bringing my camera to photograph, so I guess that makes it part of my work, yes? I like to watch movies, sports, and spend time with my family when I can. I work a lot, so it doesn’t leave a lot of time for hobbies.
Where are you based?
Freeport, Maine, USA
Iron Maiden’s “Wasted Years”
Shadow Gallery’s “Destination Unknown”
Celtic Legacy’s “The Resurrection”
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I live in Manchester, UK and try to promote other artists and writers when I can.I'm so pleased you found our community and I hope to chat to you soon!!Please comment on my posts if you like them 🙂