Over the years, Jeff Corwin has taken photos out of a helicopter, in jungles, on oil rigs and an aircraft carrier. Assignments included portraits of famous faces, including Bill Gates and Groucho Marx and photos for well-known corporate clients like Microsoft, Apple, Rolls-Royce and Time/Life. After 40+ years as a commercial photographer, Corwin has turned his discerning eye to fine art photography.
Corwin has carried his vision forward, to see past the clutter and create photographs grounded in design. Simplicity, graphic forms and configurations that repeat are what personally resonate. Visual triggers are stark and isolated vistas: a black asphalt road cutting for miles through harvested wheat; an empty, snowy field with a stream creating a curve to a single tree; or a small barn, the roof barely visible above a barren hillside.
Trusting his vision is important to Corwin. Inspired by his mentor Arnold Newman and the works of Piet Mondrian and Edward Hoppe, his experience has taught him not to second guess elements like composition or content. Humble shapes, graphic lines. Eliminate clutter. Light when necessary. Repeat.
“Over the first few years, I developed a style that, with the help of artificial lighting, helped me to see past the clutter and create photographs that were more design than immediately recognizable objects. I worked with whatever was there, all the mundane things that most people walk by or do not notice. I saw great imagery in graphic shapes, shapes that repeat, like patterns in ceilings from ugly fluorescent lights or rows of desks or chairs. It was a created opportunity instead of found.”
“On to my landscapes. While certainly not working with the same control I had in the advertising world, it provides, in some ways, more. Or perhaps I should simply different. What I have found is that I could bring the same vision I used for my commercial work into my landscape work. In fact, I do not think I really had a choice. The work I do now is 100% informed by my experience shooting for clients. I see how I see and, after 40+ years of making photographs, it seems foolish to try and change now. I trust that what I have learned works. I have even brought artificial light into the landscapes!”
After decades of photographing in B/W, Corwin’s initial forays into color photography were disappointing. He then landed on a technique that is more painterly and interpretive, with colors muted and shifted in temperature. Yet the character of the photographs remains the same.
“Before I started to devote myself full time to my personal work, the majority of my clients were ad agencies and graphic design firms. My photographic focus was on corporate offices, factories, oil refineries and aerospace companies with dark busy manufacturing facilities. I learned that my job title was not ‘photographer.’ I really was a problem- solver.”
Media is paying attention to Corwin’s fine art photography, with radio interviews and publications including, among others, LandEscape Art Review, Aji, Magazine 43, FOTO Cult and F-Stop. He is represented by several contemporary galleries and currently has a traveling exhibition beginning its launch in Peoria.