Interview with Richard Pitnick for B&W Magazine Spotlight Feature Issue 85
It should come as no surprise that as a native Australian, the ocean has had an enormous influence on the life and art of Gary Pullar. As both an avid surfer and photographer, the ocean informs all aspects of Pullar’s being.
“I have lived most of my life within minutes of the ocean, and my interest in photographing the coast is a natural extension of what is an essential part of me,” explains Pullar, whose series of dramatic coastal seascapes pay testament to what the artist himself describes as a, “...deeply-felt passion for the sea.”
“Through my photography I am trying to capture the mystery, sensuality, power and unfettered purity of the ocean and to connect through these images with the sea at a deeper emotional level,” Pullar elaborates.
When not taking photos, Pullar spends much of his free time surfing, an activity the artist likens to his experiences when photographing on the coast.
“For me, surfing and photography share many similarities. They both consume me, and both allow me to connect emotionally with the ocean in an almost visceral way.”
All except two of Pullar’s images were taken on the northern beaches in Sydney, about a half hour from his home located next to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and with a view opposite the famed Opera House, no small source of inspiration for the artist.
“It is a beautiful place with a high degree of visual intensity and energy, which enriches me every day,” says Pullar.
Although at first glance his pictures appear to have been taken at night, in fact most of Pullar’s photographs were taken at mid-day, working with neutral density filters. Pullar employs extensive localized burning and dodging and post-processing of his images for refined control of the contrast in the skies.
“I have always been enamoured of the inky blacks in the photos of the f64 Group, and this is often my starting off point in developing an image,” explains Pullar of the aesthetic focus of his images.
Pullar’s interest in black and white photography spans close to four decades, and in that time, the artist’s technique and vision have expanded and evolved from 35mm street work to his current interest in classic large-format landscape photography.
“I started out as a boy with a box brownie and a $5 developing kit that my mum gave me for my birthday, and can still remember the excitement of producing my first contact print in a darkened bedroom,” recalls Pullar, whose desire for the ultimate in print and image quality led the artist to embrace large-format photography.
“I was never completely satisfied with the quality of the photos from 35mm, and as my interest and knowledge grew and I moved to 4x5, my focus and study turned to large format, landscape images in the West Coast f64 tradition which brought a whole new series of challenges at every step of the process,” Pullar explains.
Pullar attributes his training as an architect as a key component in developing his photographic skills and technique.
“Architecture has obvious parallels with photography in terms of a strong focus on composition, and sculpting with light, “ says Pullar. “Because my architectural training also involved extensive study of the fine arts, photography became a natural extension of my aesthetic and expressive professional interest.”
Pullar recently self-published a book of photos on Point Lonsdale, a beautiful coastal town in southern Australia where the artist grew up, and is currently planning several exhibitions for later this year. He is also busy compiling photos for a future book of black and white work on his country’s northern beaches.
“The area that I work in is often quite small, and what I like to do is find an area that presents possibilities, and then over a period of weeks, make return visits to photograph, each time discovering something new as I work to deconstruct the landscape,” explains Pullar of his current project.
“Through my images I am seeking to make an aesthetic and emotional connection with the viewer, by portraying something in a compelling and arresting way that they may be very familiar with but never really see. Executed well, fine photography has the ability to elevate the commonplace and the banal to something that extends our understanding of ourselves and our world.”
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