David Halpern (1936 – ) has been making photographs for more than 65 years. For most of that time, Halpern’s work has been inspired by his love of nature and the American landscape. His favorite subjects are found in nature — landforms, water, rocks, trees, clouds — and the variables that alter our reactions to them — light, wind, rain, snow and fog. Despite being born too late to find and photograph any undiscovered wild places in America, Halpern has found great satisfaction in creating his own interpretations of the wonders that are all around us.
Halpern’s career took an important turn in 1984 when he was invited to serve as artist-in-residence at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. He has since served in a similar capacity at five other sites: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado, Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, Glacier National Park in Montana and Acadia National Park in Maine. Most recently, Halpern had a two year association with Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico where he designed the park’s artist-in-residence program.
Since taking his first photographs in the 1940s, the art and science of photography has grown exponentially, and the technology has undergone radical changes. Likewise, Halpern’s approach to making images has been altered many times, and the environment in which he has worked has changed irrevocably. Mostly though, he has changed — philosophically, intellectually, and with age, physically.
Once it was the process of making the pictures that held Halpern’s attention; now it is the challenge of discovering new images or new interpretations of old subjects. Where he was once preoccupied with photographic technique, he now finds himself more interested in how his viewers interact with the images. Though he owes much to photographers like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, his greater influences come from painters such as Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran. When at work, Halpern concentrates less on documenting reality and more on expressing his personal feelings about the subject and how to make them seem relevant.
Halpern’s work is informed by his awareness that all environments change over time with the impact of public use, commercial exploitation and natural phenomena. While he cares deeply about the natural world and believes it is worth protecting, Halpern’s approach is neither sermonic nor adversarial. He prefers to let the images speak for themselves.
The Essence of Place: Celebrating the Photography of David Halpern showcases a series of Halpern’s photographs depicting the extraordinary landscapes in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Utah.