The Color Orange: Rick Mitchell’s Artist Statement

After showing Rick the blog, he sent him his very appropriate artist statement, which unveils more about the power of orange:

Artist’s Statement by Rick Mitchell

For two decades I taught photography in a University. Then, for reasons unnecessary to describe here, I stopped to pursue another direction– one in which daily involvement in photography was not possible. Now, I have taken up teaching and photography again and find the environment for education and visual exploration richer than ever.

The photography I do is for pure visual investigation and has no commercial purpose that I can identify. During my hiatus from teaching, the tools and techniques of photography were transformed. It took me a while to appreciate digital cameras and printers. I am still deeply infatuated with early processes that involve silver and light, being not-at-all sure that we have made any real improvement in image quality since the 19th-century. Not all photographers loved the darkroom, but I did. The slow alchemy of early processes and individual characteristics of hand-made lenses and other materials have been replaced by precision controls and uniformity of output. Forgive me if I find this less beautiful than leaving some things to chance. If you find in my pictures evidence of aberrations or color out of gamut, know that I am seeking mystery in this new medium, and I am growing to appreciate digital imaging more and more because I am finding little mysteries in it.

I dream vividly and regularly. Recently, I dreamed about returning to teaching photography—coming back to it after many years. In the dream, I was in demand as a teacher because I was a “memory person.” I walked into my classroom on the first day– it was in a modernist building—circa 1960– but the classroom itself represented no particular era. The furniture was eclectic and arranged (or not arranged) in a haphazard way. Let’s call it “post-post-modern”. The space resembled an independently run coffee shop, with comfortable worn sofas and easy chairs from various periods, a half-dozen random lamps in varying conditions, two long scarred folding tables, and a variety of Xmas tree light strands hanging from a funky makeshift arbor that surrounded the whole arrangement. The students were very excited to see me arrive- eager smiles all around– because they wanted me to tell them stories. I felt that I was in a new world, different from the one in which I had taught before; one in which individual styles were fully expressed and conventions of any kind were simply unnecessary and uninteresting. One student wore pressed tan slacks and a blue blazer with brass buttons. Others resembled back packers, gypsy people, or Kurdish Turks—wrapped in layers of loose skirts, vests, shawls, roomy pants, scuffed shoes and boots and mismatched suits from decades ago. My feeling was that the gathering and use of such clothing supported timeless personal style and replaced cultural homogeneity and corporate fashion in every way.  In my dream, world conventions were meaningless and the hard borders between peoples had become only porous perimeters, if that. There were no cultural industries based on progress or obsolescence. Nature had been re-found. Two young women sitting at the end of one of the tables wore nothing at all but this seemed normal in the dream– a perfectly natural condition. When I began the class by saying, “I would like to talk with you about the color orange,” everyone leaned attentively forward.

I describe this dream because such dream/thought experiences fuel my imagination. Re-entering the world of photography has given me the opportunity to re-experience the visual world as a somewhat familiar, yet decidedly richer and more nuanced place than ever before. It is different because my own photographs are different, my thinking is different, and my own susceptibility to capture by convention has been lessened through experience.