American photographer Philip Perkis has influenced a generation of students, artists, and fellow instructors. He is Professor Emeritus at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1991. The resulting body of work, entitled Mexico, was created from negatives taken from several trips to Mexico over three years in the early nineties.  His intention with this project was not to document but to record the images he found meaningful, an artistic process that guides his creative vision.

Philip Perkis picked up photography in 1957 while serving in the Air Force.  He used a small camera with black and white film, and his equipment has strayed little since then.  A traditionalist, Perkis prefers to shoot black and white film and develop his own prints rather than work within a digital medium.  He also chooses not to focus on a particular subject, focusing more on the meaning that exists between himself and the subject.

Country Road Near Warwick, Philip Purkis (1980, silver gelatin print photograph)

“I’m not attached to any particular subject, which is unusual for a photographer…I carry my camera with me all the time. When I see something that moves me or interests me, I take a picture. I don’t care what it’s a picture of.”

In an interview before the opening of “Philip Perkis: Fifty Years of Photographs” in 2010, he spoke about the inspiration for his work. “I just put a camera between me and what I’m looking at, and I click it. There’s no technology involved in what I’m doing at all. The magic is in looking. Looking really is a miracle. (Hersh, 2010)”  It is in this way that Philip Perkis’ photographs communicate emotion and meaning to the viewer.  The images he captures evoke a particular sense or feeling within himself.  As an artist, he records the interaction between himself and the subject and hopes that the viewer is then able to see that image and relate it to something within themselves.  This communication between the artist and the audience is fundamental to art as a mode of expression.

Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem (Philip Perkis, 1984, gelatin silver print photograph)

Philip Perkis’ collections are held at the Art Institute of Chicago, Carnegie Museum of Art, J. Paul Getty Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


By arteblanc

Natasha Ashworth writes about art, fashion, and design regarding culture and society. She is a student of digital communications at Oregon State University.

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