Crozet Calendar Clinic: Bill Mauzy

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Bill Mauzy’s photograph is featured in the 2020 Crozet calendar.

Each month a prize-winning photograph from the archives of the Crozet Calendar will be published together with a story from the photographer of how the image was made and commentary by Sam Abell about the merits of the photograph.

Bill Mauzy’s photograph, made at Mint Springs, isn’t hard to describe. It’s a foggy woodland scene that features trees and a pattern of blossoms. But is that what the picture is about? Bill thoughtfully says one subject of his photograph is its “aboutness.”

“On a very basic level my photo practice is about learning to look at things. I’m simply trying to see relationships between objects, or amid the spaces, for what they are.

“When I set out to make images I try to give attention freely and trust in the process. The goal of this attention-giving is to make images with (for lack of a real word) aboutness—as opposed to making images of a thing or place. I value images that both document the scene, and convey a sense of my emotional response to the experience of being there.” 

Bill asks us to read his photograph in three ways. As an atmospheric woodland scene. As an image about the relationships between the forms and spaces in the photograph. And as a document of his “emotional response of being there.”

To me he succeeds. I admire the photograph for its pictorial value—it is a deeply layered, pleasingly patterned, soft spring scene. But I also appreciate that something else is visually taking place. It’s the relationship of the forms to each other and to the space around and beyond them. And I got a sure sense of Bill’s emotional involvement with the scene because photographs like his aren’t casually made; they are committed.

”I love the challenge of walking into a complex space and identifying the potential subject of a scene, establishing a hierarchy of line and shape, and organizing all the elements within a frame. This can be particularly challenging in a forest setting.

“For instance, I’d noticed this specific scene a few days earlier but it didn’t work for me. It needed the fog to make all the elements play well together. Even then I shifted position side to side and back and forth quite a few times before arriving at the final composition.”

Bill is a landscape architect whose work informs his relationship to photography. “My interests tend toward certain relationships between opposites: shadow and light; fluid and static; soft and hard; culture and the wild. The edges and seams—these are rich areas to mine.

“My studies in landscape architecture lead to my interest in the transitional zones between what might be deemed purely cultural landscapes and the wild. I’m endlessly fascinated by learning how people form landscapes and how landscapes shape people.”

“I work to honor small beauties or moments of grace, and often find myself working in what might routinely be experienced as mundane, unremarkable settings.”

I asked Bill about his aspirations. “On one level, it’s really simple.  There’s great value in the practice of contemplative image making. I simply want to continue learning about the history of photography and hone my skills and powers of attention so that I can occasionally make images that make me smile, have some meaning on the level of personal discovery, and perhaps offer value to my children.  That would be enough.

“On another level, I aspire to make images that move people; images that serve as a conduit for folks to care about the places, beings, or objects I chose to photograph; to inspire them to pay closer attention to, and appreciate the details of, their own lives.”

Bill did not come to photography recently.  “I’ve been a photographer at heart since around the age of nine or ten when my folks put a cheap camera in my hands. They’d been lured into a timeshare pitch at a local “resort.”  One of the rewards was a Bentley BX-3 camera—about as crude as a camera can get. I never could figure out how to make pictures with it. Nonetheless, I was hooked.

“Another big leap came the day I moved into a college apartment.  My new roommate had hung a poster of Ansel Adams’ Aspens, Northern New Mexico on the wall.  I’m not sure I’d ever really noticed an Ansel Adams image at that point, but this poster image struck a chord. I vowed I’d learn to make images like that.

“For a long time, I tried to make images like Ansel’s. Big, heroic, pristine. That was a great way to learn the ropes of photographic technique and most days I still won’t pass on an opportunity to make a heroic landscape image.  However, both my understanding of Ansel’s work (and so many others) and my sense of what’s important in photography have changed in fundamental ways.

“Today, I’m looking to make much quieter, more subtle, introspective images. Images with aboutness.”

Facebook: Bill Mauzy Photography. Instagram: @BillMauzyPhotography. Web: www.mauzyphotography.com.  

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