1. Hi Peter! Would you like to explain a little about who you are and about your Healing Art Cart project?
The program is designed to let long-term hospital patients choose the art on the walls in their own hospital rooms. In addition to the benefits provided by the art itself, the opportunity to choose what goes in their own rooms provides patients with a much-needed sense of control, at a time when pretty much everything else feels out of control.
The idea is fairly simple, but it is still proving to be a long road from concept to reality. It’s been about a year and a half since I first came up with the idea, and in that time I’ve managed to foster a great relationship with Legacy Emanuel Hospital here in Portland. They have given me approval to pilot the program in the Oregon Burn Center there, which is a huge victory, but we still need to secure the funding to make it happen.
I’ve devoted tons of time to this project, and unfortunately my progress has come at the expense of my regular income generators like art sales and leasing. I’m working now to find a balance between pursuing this big dream while still giving enough enough to other things to make ends meet.
At this stage, the best way for most people to support my work on this project is through Patreon, and you can also follow along through Facebook and Twitter. The best way to see my work online is on my website.
2. I know this is a big question, but I like to ask everyone this – what’s the dream?
3. How can I/we help you achieve that dream?
To connect with me directly about any of these things, you can email me: (Peter [at] manifestphoto [dot] com)
4. Experiencing the natural world is very clearly a big inspiration for you; can you describe the first time you were really aware of the excitement of being able to document and capture it?
I guess you were probably expecting a photography story, but that experience has really stuck with me, so I’m going with it.
5. You’ve mentioned the process of photography is a meditative experience for you – as photography is such a visual medium, do you find there are ever times you find it difficult to switch off the composition part of your mind?
6. One of the inspirations you’ve cited is Zeb Andrews. Whilst there are some similarities in the way you both depict natural landscapes, he seems to use much longer exposure times and he also uses urban landscapes in a lot of his composition. Is there anything in these dissimilar elements that you think informs the way you compose your own photographs?
What I like about Zeb Andrews is precisely that we have very different styles, but the feeling that I often get from his images is similar to the feeling I’m creating in my own images. I am nearly obsessive about fine detail and technical perfection, while his style is much more loose and free-flowing. But his images are still perfect in their way, and very expressive. I don’t seek to emulate his work, I just enjoy seeing the way his passion and creativity continually show through in his images, and that in itself is inspiring to me.
7. You’ve said that another of your inspirations is Rick Stare who, whilst he also uses the natural world as a subject matter, has a very different visual style to you. What is there about his more impressionistic take on photography inspires you? Is there a sensation or experience you take from his photographs that you’d like to recreate? How do you go about doing that?
Rick Stare’s work is a more recent discovery for me, but I found a lot of inspiration in his Coastline and Trees collections. Once again, I think it’s the fact that we have different styles that allows me to simply enjoy his work. I guess I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so when I see work that is very similar to my own, I can tend to pick it apart or find little things I would have done differently. His technique of intentional camera movement fascinates me, and also separates me enough from the technical aspects of the work that I can just dive in and enjoy the feeling he creates.
8. The Healing Art Cart is such a noble and kind-spirited project which I genuinely believe will help a lot of people. Was there ever a time when you found that looking at, or being able to discuss a photograph offered you similar comfort and transcendence from a particular situation?
The best example I can think of comes not from a photograph, but from an actual experience I had many years ago, during a particularly difficult period in my life.
On a cold walk home, very late one night, I looked up and saw a full rainbow, shining brightly in a circle all the way around the moon. Everything stopped for me in that moment; all of my pain and loneliness evaporated, and my mind went still. For a few precious moments, I was fully present, my silent sense of wonder crowding out all of the noise that had been filling my head. Nothing existed except me, the moon, and its brilliant rainbow halo.
As I look back on that night, I can see that the experience helped me in two very profound ways. In the moment, it jolted me out of my immediate difficulties. It gave me a sense of hope where there had been none, and the motivation to go on. But in the bigger picture, I can now see that it also showed me what incredible power even a brief moment of wonder can truly have. The freedom and relief that I felt in that moment are exactly what I’m seeking to give my audience, especially those who are suffering in the hospital.
9. Travelling seems to be an integral part of your photographic work; how do you go about selecting where to travel? Would you say that your photography inspires your destination-choices, or do you find that your choice of destination mainly inspires the photographs?
This goes both ways. Every time I travel for any reason, it is a photographic opportunity, and I’m on the lookout. But I also love to travel, and I do plan trips around things I’d like to see and photograph whenever I can.
10. It’s very clear that personal enjoyment is a big reason for how and why you compose your photographs, but as the Healing Art Cart is so focussed on the viewer’s experience, how much do you find you think about the audience’s enjoyment of a picture when you take it?
11. How do changing weather conditions affect your perception of a subject? Have you found you have a perceptibly different response from your pictures depending on the weather they were taken in?
12. If the subject or composition of a picture has had a good reception from in the past, do you try and replicate or expand upon it in the future?
13. What sort of indicators are there for if a picture is not quite right for the Healing Art Cart? How do you learn from images you’ve had less of a positive reaction to, and what sort of things have you learned from?
Say you have two different pictures, both containing a lake with a tree and some birds in the sky. Although the elements of each picture are the same, one could be beautiful and calming, while the other was plain or even ugly. Once I have made sure my images follow the guidelines laid out by the research, I then allow myself to apply my own intuitive sense of which images will provide the best experience for patients.
14. To what extent do you allow your camera to be involved in the picture-taking process? Do you search for the right picture with your eyes and imagination and then try to capture it as best you can, or do you allow yourself a little more freedom with the camera, and then select the best pictures later on?
15. What else is going on in your life at the moment? Have you any other creative outlets which you think inform your photography?
16. You’ve mentioned that you’ve always had an interest in photography – to what extent has the Healing Art Cart affected your relationship with it?
17. What advice would you give to other people just starting out with an online creative project? Has there been anything you’ve learned which you think might be universally applicable?
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