a Q&A with Roderick Holloway
Milwaukee resident, author and Vietnam veteran Roderick Holloway came of age during the old school of black and white photography.
As technology advanced and darkroom development was on its way out, Holloway turned to digital photography and quickly developed a passion for the medium. Today, he combines his love for photography with his prowess for digital manipulation to create vivid and extraordinary “light paintings.” TCD’s Kat Murrell chats with the artist about his inspirations, technique and just what exactly “light painting” means.
Would you tell us about your work, which you call “light painting;” how did you begin using that name?
In 1976, I started using the term to describe my work. At that time, I was using black and white photography equipment to create and sell my work at art shows and art fairs. I called it light painting because I manipulated the light of two darkroom enlargers to create photographs that to me, looked more like black and white paintings. Since that time, I’ve never considered myself a photographer, as some people would have me be. Instead, I think of myself as a painter who uses a light source to paint rather than using hard medium such as oils, acrylics, watercolors, etc.
In 2004, I sold all my darkroom equipment and began using the light of a computer along with software programs such as Photoshop, Bryce 3D and DAZ modeling to produce my work. I firmly believe that most artwork in the future will be done via computer and the people doing the work will be light painters like me.
I draw my inspiration from my life experiences. That’s why the subject matter of my work is so varied. I’m interested and intrigued by everything around me. You could say that I truly live up to my Aries Sun Sign, commonly referred to as “the child of the Zodiac.”
Over the years, I’ve been involved with one art form or another. In the 60s & 70s, I was a musician, playing trumpet in R&B bands around Milwaukee. During that time period, I started working as a black & white photographer/light painter and began my studies in Astrology. I do horoscope readings for people. The world of dance has not escaped my interest. My wife and I like to do a partner dance called Boppin’ & Steppin’ and we attend many dance events around Milwaukee.
Besides the world of art, my life experiences include serving14 months in Vietnam as an Army personnel specialist and musician, working and retiring from AT&T and volunteering my time to help various community service organizations. All these experiences have helped to shape me and as a result, my work.
How do you develop your compositions? Are there certain favorite techniques you use?
I start every light painting with a photograph or an image in my mind of a scene I want to create. Some clients give me specific things they want me to do while others allow me the freedom to explore and create on my own. Whatever the case, before I start work, I try to picture the scene the way I want it to be and not as it is. From there, I select the software tools to produce what my imagination compels me to do.
I don’t have any favorite techniques that I use on a regular basis. Every project I undertake usually requires me to utilize all the techniques in my software arsenal. In some cases, I have to develop new ones to achieve my goal. I spend a lot of time studying my craft and refining my skill set, and I do this to keep from placing skill dependent limits on my work. A lot of people have pianos in their homes, but very few know how to play them like Beethoven. I view Photoshop and my other software tools like playing a piano. I want to know how to use them so well that I can play them like Beethoven and produce outstanding work.
Landscapes seem to be a favorite subject; what interests you about it?
I like to bring life and beauty to a scene in such a way that causes people to take notice. Landscapes are a perfect vehicle to help me do that. In today’s art world, anyone can take a photograph of a landscape and if they have any kind of rudimentary photography skill, they can make it look good. What I try to do with a landscape is make it pop or jump out at you in some way. If I accomplish this, it will compel you to stop and spend time looking at and discussing it in detail.
Are you going to do other books or projects on other themes or cities?
My action plan right now is to sell as many Painting the Town – Milwaukee, Wisconsin books as possible. I believe this book represents Milwaukee and the great state of Wisconsin well. Once I gauge how well it does in the marketplace, I’ll probably release another one that includes all my work. With regard to other projects, I’m currently doing special assignments, restoring old photographs, creating light paintings driven by client wishes and working on a book of Chicago landmarks.
You can see more of Roderick Holloway’s work on his website, Gemini Rising . His recent book, Painting the Town – Milwaukee Wisconsin, is also available through this site.