William Guion


William Guion has photographed landscapes for almost 20 years. Through his camera’s lens, he explores the quiet presence and spirit of a place revealed in the changing moods of light on the land. This is seen most clearly in his ongoing series of images and writings of and about oak trees. His highly detailed, large-format, black-and-white photographs of the various species of Southern and Western oaks sensitively capture the trees’ character and essence. These images, often made in foggy, misty settings, portray the oaks elegantly, revealing the mystical as well as the majestic qualities of these elder trees of the American landscape. A sampling of this body of work is contained in his first book, Heartwood, meditations on Southern oaks, published by Bulfinch/Little Brown Press.

Guion’s formal education is in journalism and communications. He was introduced to photography in college, and pursued his photographic training through a combination of self-study and participation as student and assistant in various West Coast photography workshops in the late 80’s and early 90’s. His photographic style was largely influenced by this West Coast, large-format, black-and-white approach to the medium. In 1985, he met architectural and landscape photographer Morley Baer and began a mentor relationship that lasted almost a decade until Baer’s death in 1995. Following Baer’s advice to “find something you love and photograph it over and over, until your love for the thing shines through in your work,” Guion began his series of oaks in his native soil of South Louisiana. In 2001, after the death of his own father, he moved to Monterey, California, to reconnect with his early artistic influences and to begin a new body of work with California oak trees.

He prefers to photograph in the soft, diffuse light found at early morning, late afternoon and on foggy or overcast days. The quiet, even quality of light at these times allows the eye to perceive detail and textures in the usually shadowed spaces beneath a dense canopy of limbs and leaves. He uses a 4” x 5” view camera because of the slow, contemplative process of seeing that this large camera requires, and the ability it offers to control the development of individual negatives. Through precise technical handling of black-and-white photographic materials, he compresses or expands the tonal scale to elicit and emphasize subtle emotional qualities of shadow and light. His hand-colored photographs begin as black-and-white images, are toned to produce a rich brown base color, and then hand-painted with thin-pigmented oil paints. The resulting colors are diffused and muted much like the true colors of the Louisiana landscape. Each print is a one-of-a-kind, painted work.


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