Updated: Jul 28, 2020
We have all been missing genuine connection in this very difficult year. The Main Gallery’s Meet the Artist Interview Series was born in the hardship of that absence. We have missed you, our friends, neighbors, colleagues and patrons, and missed the magic of seeing art morph into a new form based on your reaction to what you see. No digital image can take the place of seeing original art in person: the size, the texture, the movement… the tiny, crafted details that mark the artist’s journey of choices through the piece.
We are so thrilled to be back and open to visitors!! Until we have the opportunity to see you in person, we thought you might like to know a little bit more about the unique and talented group of artists that make up The Main Gallery. It isn’t a substitute for our genuine interest in you and the connections that make us thrive, but we hope it helps give you a bit of a sense of the person behind the art. Please let us know your thoughts on this series, and what you’d like to hear more about. We’d love to hear from you!
When did you first realize that you wanted to become a photographer?
I began to learn about photography at a young age—probably around 12 years old—when my father bought me my first 35mm camera and a series of technical books on photography. So, I guess you could say it was my father who wanted me to become a photographer. His father was a very fine portrait photographer in Chicago in the 1920’s who had to close his studio during the Great Depression. My father was a serious amateur and the two of us used to go on camera outings together. I’ve always enjoyed landscape photography, and from the beginning I knew that there was something challenging and mysterious about capturing the beauty of a scene and expressing it in a print without losing the power and emotion that was present. Unlocking the secrets of how to achieve that has been a rewarding and ongoing journey for me. Although I didn’t always intend to become a professional, I guess I’ve been a photographer since that first camera.
Q: What did you do before you became a full-time photographer?
I’ve had a few careers in my 65 years, and with my wife, have raised two beautiful daughters. When I graduated from high school in Southern California, I was interested in furniture design and woodworking in addition to photography. I went to school to study architecture, but while working my way through college became enamored by the fast-paced world of restaurants and ended up working in fine dining in San Francisco for nearly 20 years. Eventually I realized that I wanted something more suitable for family life, so I returned to school to to finish my degree in architecture. After 3 years of fine art and architecture school, I ended up changing paths and eventually got my degree in civil engineering. I spent 18 years as a structural engineer specializing in bridge design. When I retired from engineering I started my full-time career in photography.
Q: What are the most challenging aspects of being a photographer?
My goal as a photographer is to forget about my camera and gear, or at least to be so comfortable that they become extensions of my eyes and vision. The greatest challenge is to succeed in capturing that special quality of a subject that moves me to take its image in the first place. This is true for the expert as much as for the beginner. We learn about composition, lighting, depth of field, etc., and those things are important and will make us competent photographers. To produce an image that really has life though, I have to perceive the subject in a way that transcends what I see in the camera’s viewfinder. For me it is about remaining receptive to the magic and energy of a scene. The challenging part? It doesn’t always work.
Q: How do you keep yourself motivated and growing as a photographer?
I am inquisitive by nature and am always interested in learning new skills and techniques.
Even though the creative part is probably the most rewarding, the technical part allows me to
take ideas further and can drive creativity in new directions. I have studied studio lighting,
printing, retouching, color theory, and I also do architectural photography. It would be almost
impossible to run out of ideas for new things to learn. I also love to travel and am always
inspired by visiting someplace new that I can explore.
Q: Have any particular photographers influenced your style?
A: I grew up when every young photographer worshiped Ansel Adams. Being interested in
landscape and the natural environment, I was definitely influenced by his work and his methods in controlling tonality. Eliot Porter’s landscapes taught me a lot about composition. I was also interested in the work of Edward Weston and his control and use of light in his still life compositions. Later, as I became interested in street photography and more humanistic styles, the work of Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau, and Sergio Larrain captured my attention and continue
to influence my work to a great extent today.
Q: What do you hope your collectors and patrons take away from your work?
A: My goal is for my work to trigger an emotional response in the viewer that allows them to feel
some version of what I felt when I was present in the scene. I hope that it will remind them of the
beauty and magic that is all around us all of the time.
For more information about Fred and his artwork, please visit Fred Aron