Michael Tessler - Artist Statement
I am a fine art photographer originally from Pittsburgh, PA and now living in Las Vegas, NV. Although I haven’t always been a visual artist, I have always been a very creative and artistic individual. I have an undergraduate degree in physics and masters degrees in electrical and software engineering--but it was my curiosity about the natural world that drove me to major in physics, and I ended up in software engineering largely because of the creativity that profession has allowed me to express.
Along the way, I have been devoted to music. I started playing the piano and saxophone when I was young. I focused on jazz, and in college I was even a semi-professional musician. I played in a 20-piece big band that performed at weddings and other events. I also traveled with the band several times to Aruba where we played at some of the hotels and clubs on the island. Since college I have continued to develop my skills as a jazz pianist.
I believe there is a relationship between music and the visual art of photography. The media are different, but my scientific background tells me many of the concepts are similar. For example, the individual notes of a melody are sound waves having specific frequencies. We can also describe light as a wave, and color is how we perceive light waves having specific frequencies. But never mind all the scientific analysis--this is about art! Both music and photography are highly creative endeavors that require emotional awareness both to create and to appreciate them.
A great example of the connection between musicians and photography is my favorite musician, jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. He was one of the finest jazz pianists we have had, but what is less known about him is that he was also an avid and gifted photographer. One of the times I met Oscar Peterson I had with me the old Canon point-and-shoot camera that I used to use. It was one of the larger and better cameras of its kind then, and Oscar asked me what kind of camera it was. I showed it to him and told him it was a Canon. He remarked that Canon makes good lenses. I agree, and I continue to use a Canon camera and lenses now in nearly all my work.
There is joy in Oscar Peterson’s playing. You can hear the emotion pouring out of him as he plays, and it is a happy, joyous sound he creates. I try to emulate that emotional content in my photography. I strive to create photographs that do much more than document a location or portray a scene. I want the viewer to feel something. I want you to have an emotional understanding of the location. I want you to feel the solitude, the vastness, the isolation, or the overwhelming beauty of the place.
I have two favorite photographic techniques that I use to help trigger an emotional response in my work. The first of these techniques is making long exposures. I love how extended exposures stretch time and create a mystical, sometimes surreal feel to the image. When you visually explore a long exposure photograph, you experience the passage of time in a unique way. In one moment, you experience both the dynamic nature of some parts of the scene and the solid, fixed nature of other parts of the scene. The fluid sky, water, and/or vegetation stand in stark contrast to the fixed mountains and terrain. My goal is for these effects and contrasts to create a response in you that captures your attention.
The other technique I frequently use is a compositional choice. I enjoy creating photographs that look directly into the sun. When an image includes the sun low on the horizon just after sunrise or just before sunset, I think it generates a tremendous emotional response. The emotion comes in part from the deep, intense colors which include red, orange, and yellow. But that’s not all. The sun sustains us. It allows us to live. It drives the weather, and it is a force of nature in and of itself. Its presence in my photographs allows you to dwell on its power and feel its effect on the environment and on you.
One aspect of my science and engineering background that influences my artistic outlook is the attention to detail required in software engineering. Computers are unforgiving, so it helps to be a perfectionist when developing software. In my photography, attention to detail is very important to me. I pour over every photograph I create, spending time on even the smallest detail. I spend many hours on some photographs, painstakingly adjusting and optimizing them to satisfy my creative vision. I actively plan and design my artwork. If you see something in one of my photographs, then it is there intentionally for you to see it. If something is missing, I did not want it there. These efforts are a source of pride to me because through them I create works that represent me as a person and artist. I put a lot of myself into my photographs, and they in turn reveal me.
To me, that’s what fine art photography is all about. I’m not just some guy with a camera out there snapping off images of national parks. Every photograph I create is a unique expression of my vision. My hope is that my work evokes the same emotional response in the viewer as I felt while both visiting the location and later fashioning the final image. I also want my artistic products to be of the highest quality and to last a lifetime. That’s why I have decided to use the finest archival and museum-quality materials in my production process. Everything from ink, paper, matboard, mounting materials, and more are all of the highest quality. Since my work represents me, I want it to be a source of pride.
I am now building my collective work of photographs from the many national parks and conservation areas near my home in Las Vegas. This project is exciting and inspirational because I love visiting these beautiful places. I am also planning several additional projects. I would like to focus on one national park and explore it in more depth to create a portfolio of photographs that represents my view of that place. I also plan to create portfolios for different cities, in particular Pittsburgh and Las Vegas, my original and current homes.
I sell my work in my online gallery and shop, and I am preparing to expand my reach by participating in art shows in Boulder City, Henderson, and Las Vegas. As I grow, I plan to travel to other nearby cities to participate in additional art shows. I am excited about the opportunity to meet different people, share my work with them, and talk about my experiences and the work I have created and continue to create.