“It’s a seductive and powerful landscape, with a beguiling charm that didn’t want to let me go,” said the Santa Fe photographer of the legendary Ghost Ranch landscapes in New Mexico.
Oklahomans can share that experience when Craig Varjabedian’s exhibition of 69 large black and white images of the dramatic Georgia O’Keefe country opens Friday, Sept. 23 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
Varjabedian is widely acclaimed for his images capturing the American West, taken over a photographic career of more than 35 years. The show features photos found in his Wrangler Award-winning companion book to the exhibition, Ghost Ranch and the Faraway Nearby.
Why black and white when the landscape is renowned for its vibrant colors? “The place is much more subtle than just the colors,” he said. “I’m looking for things that are authentic.”
“The world as I look at it is black and white,” Varjabedian said of capturing the mystique and beauty there. He had been visiting Ghost Ranch for about 10 years before he could take more than “just pretty pictures.”
“It took me a long time to figure out how to photograph that place. I became aware of the light—and that’s why black and white is so critical to what I wanted to do—it’s the light,” he said.
Varjabedian printed most of the 24-inch wide silver pints in his own darkroom, but had negatives scanned and digitally reproduced for about a dozen 30” by 40” “anchor” photos for the exhibition, he said.
“I work really hard in the darkroom to get the feeling I had at the moment I clicked the shutter, he said. “I hope the show allows people to join me in my experience, and also, that they might open doors to their own experiences.”
The exhibit, free and open to the public, will open at 4:30 p.m. with a reception followed by a book signing at 6:30. The show will be on display through Jan. 8, 2012.
Varjabedian will return Oct. 14-16 for a three-day photographic workshop that will include shooting at the Museum, the Clydesdale horses at Express Ranches, and historic Fort Reno.
“This is another way to reach out and get people to make their own images,” he said.