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Matinee: 'David Muench' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

22 August 2015

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the ninety-ninth in our series of Saturday matinees today: David Muench.

In this eight-minute segment from New Mexico PBS, Hakim Bellamy interviews color landscape photographer David Meunch.

Muench's first photographs were published on the cover of Arizona Highway when he was a teen and the publication has continued to publish him for over 50 years. Muench has also published over 50 exhibit-format books of his images while exhibiting at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Phoenix Art Museum and Center for Creative Photography (where his images are archived), among others. And, in his spare time, he has been a two-time Canon Explorer of Light.

'Photographs I made in the 1970s and 1980s and even since 2000 can never be made again.'

He attended the Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of California at Santa Barbara and the Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles. But, he says, "I felt -- and continue to feel -- that my most profound learning experiences were in the field."

"The real inspiration," Muench says, "is the place" where the light is "the ultimate inspiration for me."

He looks for a foreground, he tells Bellamy, that can connect to something in the distance. He's looking for a way to "connect with the landscape rather than take pictures of it."

That's his signature composition, one you'll recognize from countless posters and calendars, no doubt. Muench was doing it in the 1950s.

But it isn't all about how the scene is framed. It goes back to the light again.

The "timeless moment" he is after was inspired by Cartier-Bresson, he tells us. It develops from a sense of the past moving into the future, the instant between them, like night turning into day. In an artist statement on his Web site, he elaborates:

Timeless moments, those transitory moments between the past and the future where everything is stopped by the camera, seem to me the essence of photography. Light defines that moment, as, indeed, it defines every aspect of photography. By addressing the Timeless Moment, I enter into the timeless landscape as well.

He emphasizes both the importance of preparation, figuring out when to be where, and spontaneity, letting things happen when you're there.

He laments the landscapes of years ago that can never be photographed again. "Photographs I made in the 1970s and 1980s and even since 2000 can never be made again," he writes on his Web site.

It took him years to return to Mount St. Helens, for example. But when he went back, he was happily inspired by the new growth he found.

The bristlecones pines, the oldest trees on the planet, contain both erosion and life in the same subject. He marvels at their endurance despite the abuse of the elements and even people who scratch their initials in the wood. He was delighted, he tells us, to find new bristlecones marching up the mountain, joining the 5,000 year-old trees at the top.

He wants people to realize "these are changing landscapes" that should be preserved as "part of our culture, part of our history, part of our psyche."

The interview is illustrated by a healthy selection of his classic images. They not only show us what he's talking about but demonstrate how masterfully Muench has preserved for us not only the beauty of these places but our connection to them.

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