Signs of Life

Robert Buelteman’s evolution from landscape photographer to whatever he might be now is a story that, while not exceptional, is instructive as to the creation of the luminous works that are contained in this book.

In contrast to those artists who are turning to technology for new tools to express themselves, he has turned to simplicity, mindful craftsmanship and the direct exposure of photographic materials to develop his freedom of expression.

After 25 years in Western Landscape photography, he found himself frustrated at how to create a new distinction in this well-worn tradition. So, to explore both the inner and the outer landscapes, he elected to take a road trip to the Southwest. On a stunningly clear night in the Arizona desert, his carefully designed life was undone by the simple realization that his future would look like his past if he continued the path he was on.

He began to have extraordinary visions in which he saw images of life itself.

Using neither black and white film, cameras, lenses or computers, this new technique has more in common with Chinese Brush Painting and improvisational jazz than it does with the current practices of photography. Each application of energy to the film, like every brush stroke or note played, is unrehearsed, and, once released, cannot be undone.

These works are intended to be much more than a representation of the structure of the subject; they are a symbolic expression of the whole plant and speak to the beautiful, fragile, transitory nature of life itself.

As a result of this compelling new work, Buelteman was invited to work as a guest at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico in 2003. In 2008, he was recognized with a Gold Award in B&W Magazine. In 2009, he returned to his work as a guest at Stanford University’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. He has received accolades from institutions as diverse as the United States Congress, the Commonwealth Club of California and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Robert Buelteman’s work can be found in public and private collections worldwide, including Yale University Art Museum, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Bank of America, Adobe Systems, Stanford University, Xerox and Nikon.

Author
Robert Buelteman is a fine-art photographer whose passion is life and light. From his sought after black-and-white landscape works to his unique camera-lens- and computer-free “energetic photograms,” his inquiry into nature celebrates and questions our role in the found world. As a pioneer working at the nexus of art and science, he has enjoyed residencies at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico from 2013-2016, at Stanford University’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve from 2010-2014, and had six residencies at Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside California since 1996, where he will be teaching a week-long workshop in 2016.