About the Book
'Variations' is a collection of photographic sequences or compositions, each of which is organized around a specific theme, much as a musical composition would be organized around a melodic theme, rhythm, or set of chord changes. The compositions are titled Car Reflections, Vancouver Blues, Notes from Underground, Cut Flower Variations, Sign Jazz, Car 4468, and Mappings.
I like to describe my photographic process with a jazz analogy. The cameras and lenses are my instruments, and the scenes that I am photographing are the structure of the composition, e. g. the chord changes of a jazz piece. When I am shooting in a complex and rapidly changing urban environment, the process takes on elements of an ensemble improvisation, though the other 'members' of the ensemble are usually unaware of my actions.
Digital cameras enhance the improvisational process, as I can take as many photos as I wish at essentially no cost, and can see immediate feedback after each shot. I take a much more physical and instinctual approach to shooting digital than I did with film, often pointing the camera where my body thinks it should be and snapping a sequence of shots without looking. There is, of course, a musical analogy here -- musicians do not have to worry about the cost of each note, hear the note as soon as they play it, and are very physically involved with the process of playing.
Image processing programs such as Photoshop, After Effects and their plug-ins (including some that I have written as part of my day job) provide an infinitely dimensioned space for manipulating images and image sequences. My process in working with this software is as improvisational as my shooting. I often grab images from my catalog and apply different image processing techniques until I find some that work with them. I often work as quickly as the software will allow, having no specific result in mind and trusting my eye and intuition to tell me which images are worth keeping and which processes are worth further exploration.
Doctor T (Emile S. Tobenfeld, Ph. D) has been photographing since he was a teenager. He became serious about the art-form in 1970 (shortly after completion of his doctorate in Physics). He was inspired by the mixture of abstraction and realism in the light shows and experimental films of that era, and his initial intent was to work primarily with processed and multiple imagery. He quickly realized that 'straight' photography can also mix abstraction and realism, and has been a devotee of both straight and manipulated photography ever since.. He is self-taught as a photographer, and counts Minor White as a huge influence on his 'straight' photography. He has also worked in video, mixed media improvisation, electronic music, and dance. His day job for the past 28 years has involved making tools for digital artists, first as the founder of Dr. T's Music Software, and currently as a video effects programmer and software designer for Boris FX.