It was the mid-fifties in Graniteville, VT that I made my first attempt at bird photography. The subjects were tiny birds on a wire and my gear consisted of a little plastic camera I had earned for having a paper route. Imagine my disappointment when the small B&W photos came back showing nothing more than a couple of lines with tiny black dots on them that faintly resembled birds.
Now jump to the present and imagine my thrill at taking a tack-sharp picture of an Osprey flying overhead and looking directly into the camera. The bird's eyes and feathers stand out clearly in the fall light over Perdido Bay in Lillian, AL. It was what I had dreamed about so many years before.
I now call myself a photographer but did not really feel like one until after my second gallery show in 2007. That may sound strange in view of the fact that I had been taking real pictures with real gear for almost 40 years. I have had two gallery shows, several church and restaurant hangings, and some paying clients along the way. The mental shift happened one day when someone who had been at that show remarked about seeing “a Dave Corliss photograph” while out walking with her husband one Sunday afternoon. To hear that was an exciting moment--I had actually influenced the way someone else saw the world. To paraphrase Dorothea Lange, I had become “an instrument that teaches people to see the world without a camera.” So, even if I never sell another photograph, I can comfortably call myself a photographer as I create representations that resonate aesthetically and emotionally with my vision of the world.
I love taking photographs. There is something very satisfying about the heft of the camera, the sound of the shutter, and the search for the right composition, focus, and exposure. I am drawn to things shaped by and painted with light. What is even more satisfying is discovering an image that creates an immediate visual and emotional experience and then taking it beyond the bounds of time and place as a print. The image, devoid of a history, becomes a thing in itself, perhaps even a story.
I am still trying to hone my bird photography skills but my general criterion for subject matter is quite simple: since I have my camera with me most of the time, I will shoot whatever catches my eye, just as whatever that person saw that day caught her newly sensitized eye. There are, for example, no grand Ansel Adams vistas, Salgado documentaries, or Penn portraits on this site. (Alas) The amazing thing is that the most ordinary of things can be rendered in a way that draws the viewer in. Our common experience lies in seeing things again (as if) for the first time. The collections on this site were chosen with that idea in mind.