Monday, July 26, 2010

Alan Henriksen, photographer

Last Sunday, I met with photographer Alan Henriksen at the Planting Fields Arboretum for a working photo shoot session. Alan took a series of photos of plants pushing against the stained and whitewashed glass of the main greenhouse. Most visitors go inside the greenhouse and photograph objects within; it takes a photographer's eye to see a potential for great photos from the outside looking in.

We have here a short video of Alan taking the first shots of the session, a warm-up as he called it.

Photo by Alan Henriksen
The image on the right is the first photo taken in the video. You can see stains on the glass and plants inside of the greenhouse. The overall effect resembles an underwater photograph. I guess, this is not how you have envisioned the end result of the take. It was a surprise to me, too. Made me look again and think. And admire.

The combination of natural and man made objects, frequently photographed through windows, are a recurring theme in Alan's latest work. The objects and the reflections in the glass give an interesting sense of space. Check out Alan's website to see his portfolio of varied themes, subjects, and locations. The Sunday photos will be making their way there shortly. Alan is also considering submitting them to a photo competition.

Becoming a photographer, Alan's way

Forest Reflections
Acadia, Maine, 2010
Photo by Alan Henriksen

Alan Henriksen, a Long Island native, comes from a seafaring stock. His grandfather, Henrik, still holds the world record for Atlantic salmon. Alan's father, Hans, who served as an engineer in the Norwegian navy during World War II, was also an expert fisherman. He married and started a family in the US following WWII. Alan grew up exposed to Long Island's forests and its surrounding sea. His family's homes in Massapequa Park and, later on, Oakdale were adjacent to large nature preserves, which he explored extensively. The family also went on frequent fishing trips, either in the family boat or on occasional outings to Montauk, where they would practice surf fishing in the afternoon and evening, camp overnight on the beach, and continue fishing the following morning. These experiences, on land and water, became a great inspiration for his work.

Alan began photographing in 1958, at the age of nine, with a Kodak Brownie camera. In 1959 he received a small darkroom kit as a Christmas present. The kit included a package of print-out paper, which produced a visible image upon exposure to sunlight, and the trays and chemicals to tone the print and make it permanent.

During his high school years a review of a book of Civil War photographs led Alan to the Sayville Library, where he wandered into the photography section and chanced upon "The Picture History of Photography" by Peter Pollack; Edward Weston's pepper was the first photograph he saw. That moment was an epiphany - Alan decided that photography was the path he would follow. Using savings from his newspaper delivery job, Alan bought his neighbor's camera and darkroom equipment. Later, as editor of the high school yearbook and vice-president of the school's camera club, he had access to a well-equipped darkroom, where he spent many hours improving his printing skills.

In 1966, at age 17, one of Alan's photographs, of a clump of pokeberries against a tree stump, was accepted into the Northwest International Exhibition in Washington state.

Mirror Lake
Yosemite, 1970
Photo by Alan Henriksen

The following year Alan began a correspondence with Ansel Adams, who became his mentor. In 1970, after three years of phone conversations and mail exchanges with Adams, Alan attended the Ansel Adams Yosemite Workshop, where he met Adams in person. Many years later, one of Alan's photos from this trip was accepted into the Yosemite Renaissance Exhibition, which toured California, starting at the Yosemite National Park Museum.

From 1974 to 1983 Alan was employed at Agfa-Gevaert's photo paper manufacturing plant in Shoreham, Long Island. He worked primarily as a sensitometrist, someone who is expert in determining the way in which photographic paper responds to light. This led to Alan's collaboration in the late 70's with Adams, along with photographers David Vestal and Paul Caponigro, on Popular Photography Magazine's project to develop better photo paper. In the late 80's Alan put his knowledge of sensitometry to use by authoring ZoneCalc, a software implementation of Ansel Adams' Zone System of exposure and development, which was marketed by Maine Photographic Resource.

Fast forward some years and technological advances. Though fully equipped to photograph and print using multiple film-based formats, Alan now photographs mostly with a digital camera, and has extended his output to include not only black and white, but also color.

Bar Harbor, Maine 2008
Photo by Alan Henriksen
Boards and Tarp
Searsport, Maine 2010
Photo by Alan Henriksen
Doors and Reflections
Bar Harbor, Maine 2008
Photo by Alan Henriksen

In addition to the portfolio, Alan's website,, also contains a list of the exhibits and publications. His work has received recognition from major photography magazines and has found its place in serious private collections.

Make sure you read Dean Brierly's excellent interview Alan Henriksen: Contrapuntal Vision.

No comments:

Post a Comment