|Hi Ed...thank you for agreeing to this interview with me for Collectors World Online.
I've admired you work for quite some time and was thrilled and honored to have you
participate in my book 21st Century Photography Vol. 2 Embracing Life. You are one of
those photographers that can move easily between the traditional film black and
white to brilliantly colorful and skillfully edited fine art photographs. You give us the
best of both!
Can you tell us a bit about your childhood and early art influences?
My childhood was astoundingly normal in most ways. We lived in a middling Philadelphia
suburb, To be truthful, the visual arts didn't play much of a role in my childhood. One thing I do
remember clearly is that over the dining room table in our house there was a print of van
Gogh's "Bridge at Arles." I just looked at it again, online, as I'm writing this and I remember the
rippling water. If you look at how obsessively I photograph water you might see the seed of that
in this early exposure.
But I was basically a bookworm, I read anything I could get my hands on. My parents were in
the Book of the Month club so I was reading books aimed at adults -- mainly historical novels --
since I'd first learned to read.
Then we have Van Gogh to thank for your love of water shots...that's cool. I love your
water photographs. I chose your Dingmans Falls for this interview....it's amazing. So
art and reading shaped your early interests...what about music?
Music was a big force in our house, too. One of my sisters had "Ray Charles' Greatest Hits" --
this would have been sometime in the early 60's, when my father assembled his first "Hi-Fi" --
and songs like "Hit the Road, Jack" and "Unchain my Heart" blew my 12-year-old mind. And
then the Beatles, the Stones -- how much they influenced my generation has been written about
ad nauseam, I'll just mention the Byrds especially. Something in the sound of that
Rickenbacker 12-string resonated in the marrow of my bones, and it still does.
That was pretty much my generation as well. I can still recall the great opening to the
Byrd's "Mr. Tambourine Man" .....it's one of those great riffs that stays with you. They
had a lot of great songs. My mom was crazy about Ray Charles...ha. His music also
played on our Hi Fi on many Sunday afternoons. We have something else in
common...I know that you were a rock and roller for awhile...can you tell us about that?
I played guitar for a long time, and would have loved to been a singer-songwriter. The two
problems with that were first, although I can write a decent poem on occasion I'm not a
songwriter. Second, I can't sing for beans. That's not false modesty, I've had people who
genuinely love me and are supportive of just about everything creative I've tried to do tell me I
can't sing. As a guitarist I was a pretty good rhythm player and for a while I was part of a band
called Walking Wounded. We played the Boston punk-rock circuit although we weren't really
punk; on the music spectrum we were somewhere between the Beatles and Talking Heads.
The leader and lead singer was an extremely talented guy named Randy Black, who has since
recorded several albums but has gotten nowhere near the recognition he deserves.
I know those have to be some great memories....and I bet you are a little modest.
Here's to Randy Black wherever he may be! You are a man of many talents. Another
one is writing. I know you write poetry and have even penned a novel or two! Tell us a
bit about that.
I wrote a novel based on my military service. Scene by scene it's pretty good, if I do say so
myself, but structurally it's a disaster, and I made a few mistakes that I can't get rid of without
another complete rewrite. I keep thinking I'll get back into it, but it's ceased to be alive for me.
For the writing to be worth the effort the characters have to be alive in my mind, and they were
for a long time. But five years of rewriting have sort of burned them out. I have another novel
sort of underway, and yet another in the back of my mind, but it's a long slow slog and my time
is limited. The one that's half written is set in the Trojan War and the principal character is
Thersites, who gets a very brief mention in the "Iliad" but it's a good one. He's a commoner who
dares talk back to the kings.
Lately I've started writing poetry again, and I've posted a few on Ovation. Years ago, I thought
that being a poet mean sitting down with a bottle of cheap bourbon and banging away on the
typewriter. Thankfully, I got over that phase before I did myself any real damage. I try and read
those now, and they're just awful. The ones I write now are more carefully composed. There
aren't many of them, but I'm proud of the few that make it through the process. I compose them
in the car and if I can remember the key phrases for two consecutive days it means they're
worth working on, and I'll type them up. then I let them sit for a week, making sure the pacing
and rhythm are right and if they're still alive after all that, I'll post them.
Both novels sound great..I hope you can revisit the military novel and publish it. The
Trojan War novel sounds great as well. I loved reading about Greek and Roman
mythology and history. Good luck with that!
Why and when did you choose to be a photographer?
I've always loved being in the woods. I'm not the rugged outdoorsman type, I'm a firm believer
that a long day in the woods should end indoors with a good meal and a hot bath, but unless
the weather is unbearable I'm happier outdoors. It was my wife that got me into photography. It
started with her asking me to take photos on my hikes -- she doesn't share my enthusiasm for
walking but does enjoy pictures. Somehow over the last couple of years, it's evolved from me
carrying the camera where I walked into the camera leading me, as it were, to where the
interesting pictures are.
So you get to combine your love of nature with your love of photography. Can't ask
for a better deal than that! "Thanks Ed's wife" for suggesting he take a camera along!
If we can get philosophical/insightful for a moment..ha...what is it about taking photos
that is most appealing to you?
For me, photography enriches my vision. It's a way of being more intensely in the moment.
Sometimes I'll be so concentrated on what I'm seeing in the viewfinder that I forget where I am.
For just one moment, the whole world is this one arrangement of leaves against a background
of tree trunks. Or a reflected shape. I'll set everything up, click the shutter and then stand
back, startled to realize I'm standing on a rock ledge and there are all these trees behind me.
It's a great feeling. Does this sound crazy?
Sounds like an artist to me. You're making me want to head out to the woods right
now and take some photographs!
Dingman's Falls 4 by Ed Pearson
The rest of it, the processing, the editing, the posting, that's secondary. That's just a hope of
sharing something of what I felt when I was looking through that viewfinder. If you look at one of
my photos and feel one tenth of what I felt, I've succeeded
Any specific memory come to mind that explains what you love about photography?
One time last spring I was setting up the camera along the shore of a lake, I wanted to get a
picture of the way some trees were reflected in the water. This woman stopped and asked what
I was taking a picture of; she couldn't see any birds or anything. So I pointed out what I was
looking at; she stared a minute and said "Oh, I see what you mean." That was a tremendously
gratifying moment for me; before I'd even clicked the shutter, I was able to share my vision.
That's a great story. I think what makes a great photographer is, in part, their ability to
see things that others ignore. This is a good example of that. So...who were your
influences? Any particular photos or photographers that you can name?
The single photograph that's motivated me the most is called "Glowing Autumn Forest" by
I think I've written about this before, but this when I saw this photo in a book my wife had bought,
it crystallized something that I'd been struggling to understand, and it goes something like this.
The emotion I feel when I look at that photograph isn't that much more different from what I feel
when I look at even an "ordinary" forest in autumn. But as we all know, you don't just walk into
the woods, snap the shutter, and get a photograph like that. But I began to understand that the
photographer's art, for me at least, is the ability to use the camera to make an image that
captures that emotion, that feeling. And it all ties together. I see more intensely through the
viewfinder, and if I do it right when you look at the photo I've taken you'll feel at least some of
I think I know what you mean. A great photo takes you to that place and time. You feel
like you are there and it ceases to be just a flat image and becomes real. In this
particular photo by Burkett, I can feel the crisp air and smell the woods, the leaves
and the flowers...and even "hear" the silence of this spectacular and secluded place.
It's an awesome photograph and it is intense.
Any other influences or favorites?
Besides Mr. Burkett I can only name the usual suspects -- Adams, Porter. Other photographers
whose work I admire, but I can't say they've influenced me, are Cartier-Bresson, Diane Arbus,
Robert Frank. I know less photographic history than I should, I have to confess. Also I see a lot
of photographs that make an impression on me but I don't necessarily remember their names.
Those are some of my faves as well. I'm a huge fan of Cartier-Bresson and Robert
Okay...let's talk shop...what are your thoughts on film vs. digital.....the whole process
of editing photos.....is one technique better or more interesting to you.
I shoot film. The last time we had money for a decent camera, digital imaging was still either not
very good or outrageously expensive. My only camera is a Canon Rebel K2, I think it was their
last generation of film SLRs. As soon as my finances allow for it I'll probably upgrade to a good
DSLR but until then, I'm happy with the Fujicolor. It's a pain sometimes waiting, but there's
something to be said for delayed gratification. And the one thing I have to say for film is this;
besides the glass the most critical element in a digital camera is the CMOS image sensor, and
once you've invested in a DSLR body you're married to that particular sensor. I've got a
low-end camera body, and a couple of fairly good lenses. But I can take this cheap body and
load it up with the best film available. I don't get to do as much low-light photography as I'd like
to but with a fine-grain film, no matter how long the exposure the grain won't get worse. But with
a digital imager, you need to think about noise. Having said all that, though, I have to admit.
Next time I have a few thousand dollars I'll be lining up for whatever is then the top end, or
I love film photography for the "delayed gratification" you mentioned. I think
sometimes with digital we are spoiled a bit and having to wait to see something
makes it more appreciated. It makes each shot more precious too...as you are using
up expensive film and not just filling up a memory card. Digital is my choice because
I'm technically inept....ha...and also because of the very reasons I just used in
defense of film. I love taking a lot of photos. So there's much to be said for both I
You do a lot of cool editing...can you talk about that?
Even though I'm shooting film, though, the "finishing" takes place on the computer. I'm using a
very old version of Photoshop that came with a computer I liberated from the office when my
employer downsized from 40 people to 5, and I enjoy it a great deal. Sometimes it's just a
matter of enhancing the "natural" look of an image with a bit of contrast enhancement but other
times I'll push the effects a bit over the edge. The effect is sometimes quite gratifying.
It might be worth mentioning that my day job involves digital imaging. Ten years ago, a webcam
was unlikely to contain enough processing power to do much in camera, so there were a
number of inexpensive cameras that would just download raw image data via USB, and a lot of
the basic processing was done in software running in real time. I wrote a lot of that code, and it
was quite a challenge. Since then, the microcontrollers inside the cameras have grown a lot
more powerful, so the same stuff is done in camera. I still manage to keep busy with it, though.
Now I do the same things on microcontrollers inside the camera.
So part of my attachment to film might stem from plain contrariness.
You enjoy taking photos in the woods....but I've noticed you have a lot of urban
shots..telephone wires etc....what draws you to that?
More recently I've come to enjoy urban photography. There my approach is entirely different.
Because setting up the tripod and all of that is impractical, I have to be more spontaneous. I'll
park the car and walk around for an hour or more with just the camera and my "standard" lens,
a 35-80 mm Zoom lens. I try to just forget that film costs money, and a good percentage of my
shots are useless, but the good ones are really good. I've covered a lot of the Boston and
Cambridge neighborhoods I used to live in, neighborhoods whose beauty I might not have fully
appreciated when I lived there. I'm taking in the surrounding towns one at a time.
Massachusetts has the reputation of being a fairly affluent state but it's a rare town that doesn't
have an abandoned mill or two. Like most photographers, I walk right past the clean and
well-kept buildings but the sight of a crumbling wall or boarded-up window makes me salivate.
Another pet subject of mine is power lines. I think the first few times, I was more interested in
the existence of this corridor through the woods than in the towers and lines themselves, but
gradually the strangeness of these angular beasts marching across the landscape took hold of
me. I probably do more "digitally messed with" power lines than anything else. I've covered all
the local ones, probably to excess, so I'm doing less of those. But I've become something of a
connoisseur, and I always keep an eye out for styles of pylons I haven't seen before.
I love your urban shots...I wish I could include more photos here, but I urge everyone
to check out your webiste and profile on Ovation...great stuff! Links will be provided
What would you love to shoot? Any goals?
My dream is to walk through the Lakes region of England, and to take a walking tour of
Scotland. Of course I'd have to visit the cities, too. London! Glasgow! If I ever get to take that
trip, it's going to be a lot of film or a lot of memory cards.
Closer to home, I fantasize about driving US 1 from one end to the other, photographing the
countryside and towns. A lot of my decaying-industry photos are located just along the Boston
to Providence corridor, and a fair number of my rural shots as well.
I hope you make the European trip! I have a similar dream of taking photos in Ireland!
I became acquainted with you and your work on the Ovation TV Community website.
How did you find the Ovation site and what are your impressions of it?
I found the Ovation site from watching the TV network. Like everyone else, I was pulled in by
the hope of having my work shown on TV in the "My Art" segment, but it's the people that keep
me here. I've cultivated a few genuine friendships, and a wider circle of folks who've given me a
lot of positive feedback, and the occasional helpful suggestion. But the other great thing about
the Ovation community has been the wide variety of artistic styles I've been exposed to; I've
been able to learn, not just from other photographers but from painters of all sorts and people
who draw ... people working in every medium. There's something to be learned from everyone,
and sometimes I think the farther someone is from my "comfort zone" the more I can learn from
Like any community, there are conflicts. But for me, the good tremendously outweighs the bad.
We are in total agreement there Ed. Thank you so much for doing this interview. I
know you had some trepidation about doing it, but I thoroughly enjoyed it...and I hope
you did as well! I know the readers will!
To see more of Ed Pearson's photography:
Photographs by Edward Pearson
Ed's Ovation Profile
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