Gunther Cartwright: Closing Reception + Artist Talk

From photographer Gunther Cartwright:

A constant question about my photographs: How do I get to photograph the places I do? I do a lot of travelling and driving. I imagine that my personal carbon footprint is higher than I would like it to be. Basically, there are four main ways I get access to scenes that I photograph:

1: Informed Serendipity – Prepared Luck
2. Written Negotiated Permission
3. Oral On-location Approval
4. Stealth

I will respond to this question during my August 27th Gallery Talk. However, just as an example, if you look at my website,  you’ll see 21 photographs. Of those, 15 were made with Informed Serendipity and 5 with Written Negotiated Permission and 1 Stealth. Of 25 photos for the exhibition 21 were with Informed Serendipity, 3 with Written Negotiated Permission and 1 with Stealth. The overall pattern is that `”serendipity” shines its face on me.

That being said, allow me to take you through one time where I attempted to do the “legally correct” thing to acquire written permission for photography. It did not work out so well! I was given an opportunity to go to San Francisco. They have a orange bridge there that I could photograph in my style. In doing visual research of looking at 100’s of Golden Gate Bridge photographs made by professionals, most were very beautiful postcard photos, with the exception of some “better” photos, which were made by National Geographic photographers. I wasn’t interested in going there to shot yet another “postcard” – I was going to make an “Industrial Blues” photo!

To do that I knew that I needed to acquire permission to get very close to the bridge, perhaps even in it. I wrote a letter to the Public Affairs Director of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District to inquire as to what levels of access a “Fine Art” photographer can obtain in order to photograph the bridge. At that time a website was not available. An email of inquiry was sent along with a mini-portfolio of my work with supporting critical assessments of my work.

A week or so later I received back an email from the GGBHTD stating that “yes” a commercial permit can be purchased from $10,000 to $2,000 per day, depending whether the image(s) are made in non-public or public spaces on the GGB. In addition, I was informed that getting access to the tower tops would be impossible during the time I planned on being at the GGB because of construction and maintenance issues. That’s exactly where I wanted to be in order to get an image with my visual point-of-view!

I thanked the GGBHTD for their response and I reiterated my request that my work was not “commercial” but “Fine Art” oriented and what cost for a permit of that type. The response was that it would be $2,000 per day from any non-public site as well as signing over the copyright to the GGBHTD.

They want me to pay $2,000 per day and relinquish my copyright. No way!
I’ll take my chances and photograph from the public areas. -No permit required.

Six weeks later I was at the GGB. Good weather! Just “scoping” the place out, let me know that using a tripod on the walkway is dangerous. Too narrow – too many bikers going quite fast – Not many vantage points that weren’t a “postcard” – This will be difficult. The next two days, poor weather. On the fourth day (good weather) I thought I would stop by the GGBHTD office and just introduce myself. I parked in the public visitors parking lot. I walked along the public sidewalk toward the GGBHTD office.
On the way there, in the visitor’s lot, right next to the sidewalk was placed a newly delivered communications dish for the GGB. It was sitting on a pallet still steel strapped in place. It was painted the GGB orange tone and the shadow of an adjoining tree was falling upon the dish. It caught my eye against the blue sky with just a hint of the GGB in the corner of my mental frame. This was a photograph waiting to be made by me! I proceeded to set up my camera and tripod on the public sidewalk with a low point of view. As I was framing and adjusting my shot, people walking by (including GGB employees) would stop and wonder what and why I was photographing. I even allowed some GGB employees to look through the camera. They were so surprised by my framing. “Very clever”, they commented. After making several frames and finishing, I proceeded to he GGB office looking for the GGBHTD Public Affairs Director. I was told that she would not be in for several more hours as she was on a film shoot up at the north end of the GGB. Upon leaving, I left behind my business card and proceeded to search out more possible photos during this brief moment of good light. The day ended with a few more frames being exposed but nothing like the communications dish photo. I knew this was special. And most importantly I knew it would not be a “postcard”!

Several weeks later, in Rochester, NY, I processed my digital files from that shoot. I really wanted to study the communications dish photo. I liked what I saw. In my heart it lived beyond the moment of capture. The position of the dish, in a foreground dominant stance, occupying 80% of the frame pleased me. The photo wasn’t perfect – as much as I liked the tree shadows in the dish, they were a difficult read – the small portion of the GGB in the upper right of the frame was a bit too small for me as well as several millimeters too close to the edge of the dish. Oh well, not much I could do about that now. I was able to reduce the appearance of dust and dirt on the dish by careful use of the “clone tool”. That helped the dish to have a bit more visual presence. The more I worked with the image, the more I liked it.
I was so excited by it, that I decided to share my “cleverly” framed photo of the GGB with the folks at the GGBHTD Public Affairs Office. I sent them an electronic file.

What happened next totally caught me off guard! The next day I received an email from the Public Affairs Director of the GGBHTD admonishing me
for making this photo! “What right did I have to make this photo without a GGB permit? You must remove this from your files and not show this photograph!” “We will follow legal avenues should you disregard our request.”

I could not believe what I was reading. I was expecting a congratulatory response on how “clever” of a photo this was (IMHO). I was shocked.
I felt like a criminal! Clearly, an unexpected turn. What right did the GGBHTD have to tell me to eradicate this photo from my files? For a while,
I was dumbfounded by this. After some careful consideration of the facts of the event and in speaking with friends, I came to the conclusion that I did not do anything improper or illegal. The GGBHTD had no authority to order me to desist from using this photograph. I made this from a public sidewalk. I did not use an extraordinary lens to “visually sneak “ onto GGBHTD property (there are laws against using a telephoto lens to gain visual access to subjects in a private place, from public property) – Think “paparazzi” ! Even the GGBHTD should be able to note that I used a wide-angle lens from a very close distance. The dish was on the outside edge of their property abutting a public sidewalk.

I informed them of those facts and indicated that I felt I had done no wrong and had not trespassed in order to make this photograph. In addition, this image was made for Fine Art exhibition purposes. It is NOT a commercial image and really has no commercial viability.

We live in complex times!

Aug 2016
AUTHOR braydee

Gallery, News

COMMENTS No Comments