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The Extraordinary Emerges: The Art of Damon Green

"They Go Up"

      Moss-encrusted stone stairs glowing brilliant green as viewed through a shadow-blackened arch.

      A frame full of tree roots, gnarled and undulating: the feet of an ancient giant.

      A scraggly whelp of a pine tree twisted into a natural bonsai by the wind, anchored impossibly in rock on top of a 140-foot arch.

      In Damon Green’s photography, what seems ordinary becomes extraordinary as his images reveal details and grandeur in what our everyday eyes do not see. He might call himself an “up-and-coming” photographer. His amazing images suggest that he’s already arrived.

      “I tried to take interesting places two or three hours away from Cincinnat and present them in an interesting way,” Damon says of his Day Tripper exhibit displayed at Enjoy the Arts/START during a Final Friday Gallery Walk. “The idea was people would see them and have been there or, after seeing them, feel the need to get out of Cincinnati for a weekend and go to see these places, these amazing places where the landscape is completely different from what we see every day.”

      Standing on top of the Natural Bridge in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, Green captured the sheer immensity of the scene through the proximity of a twisted tree. “The biggest challenge with the photos of Red River Gorge is [that] you’re looking at this…massive thing…so the challenge for me was to get that overwhelming feeling portrayed in the photo.”

      It’s no surprise his photos echo the work of legendary artist Ansel Adams.

"Roots"

      “I do have a bit of a hero in Ansel Adams. I think every photographer idolizes Ansel Adams a little bit. His tonality was amazing – just this raw, broad spectrum of grays. I think he did sort of the same thing: a very awe-inspiring scene, yet somehow made simple.”

      Other photos in the exhibit bear Green’s talent of turning simplicity into grand images. “[I was] just trying to look a little closer at things, and simplifying the image. Taking the time to check out the surroundings and notice more than, hey, there’s a big gorge there, and look at that tree branch that looks like it’s talking to you or these roots that have this amazing texture.”

      Like many artists, he finds it hard to explain how he chooses his subjects. It can be said, however, that his training in graphic design provides a foundation. “Coming from a graphic design background, I look for things like lines and textures and grids and repeating patterns. Like the (photo of) cows, the Young’s Dairy photo in Yellow Springs, where all these converging lines go to the back.”

      While his landscapes are incredible images, Damon’s specialty has been shooting live music. As bass player in the Minni-Thins, winner of the 2006 Cincinnati Entertainment Award for Best Alternative Band, he’s had plenty of chances to explore this subject matter.

      “I started taking photos of all the other bands the Minni-Thins played with and started having a little success with the photos. People seemed to enjoy them, so I kept with it. My first exhibit (at Enjoy the Arts/START) was called ‘I Should Have Worn Earplugs.’ It was the best of two years of band photography. I sorted through thousands and thousands of photos I had taken from shows all over the place, the best of which ended up in the Final Friday show.”

      Asked to compare shooting the music photos with the landscapes, he says, “It’s a little different. In the music photography, the feeling I want the viewer to have is, ‘I wish I was at that show, and I can almost hear what the guy’s playing.’ Live music is a hard thing to shoot; it’s fast moving, it’s hard to keep the guys in focus, it’s dimly lit, but when you can capture that moment, it’s a special photo when you nail it.”

      “Landscapes are a little more like trying to capture just how big it is or how small it is. It’s either awe or simplicity. With the close-up photos, I would be trying to eliminate all distractions from the photo other than the subject that I wanted you to look at.”

Damon smiles when he’s asked how he feels about the compliments his art has generated. “It’s a great feeling. I think if somebody really likes your work, you’ve succeeded. When I like someone’s work, it’s because I feel some sort of connection with it. It’s the same with music. If I hear a band I really like, it’s not because I’m impressed; it’s more that I have an emotional connection with it. With photography, if someone will sit there and look at a photo or really enjoy it, they’ve got to have some sort of connection with it.”

“When you sell one, that takes it a step further. Somebody has taken the time to buy something you’ve created, and they feel like it’s worthy of being on their wall in their house or in their office, that’s a high compliment.”

Originally published at Queen City Forum (QCFmag.com)

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