Henthorne is an international award-winning artist who works in the medium of high contrast black-and-white photography. He currently resides in Florida but spends many months abroad in his global travels capturing the intersection of ocean and earth. “Between Worlds” is his latest series of images being released and is a visual journey where earth, sea and sky unite.
It was a four month long project on the wild cliffs of northern California that captures the collaboration of Henthorne’s black-and-white epic exposure Waterscapes combined with the Earthscapes of artist Andres Amador. Henthorne invites the viewer to stand at the intersection of earth and ocean – and then to move beyond it – to a place where the ephemeral meets the ethereal. Below, he provides greater detail on the project. “Between Worlds” was taken with the Leica S-System and opens at Leica Gallery Los Angeles on July 16.
Q: I’m fascinated by your images. I think they are really compelling and beautifully executed. It says “Wild Places Where Earth, Sea, and Sky unite” and the title of the portfolio is “Between Worlds.” What is the significance of that and why did you call it “Between Worlds?”
A: This was a series that was developed with a sand artist named Andres Amador. As I came up with the idea for this project, it was really about creating something more permanent for something that is inherently impermanent. Every time he creates one of his designs, the tide comes in and it’s gone. It’s like a giant etch-a-sketch. So as we put this together it was not only about the physical space between our worlds, but it was about both of our worlds coming together.
Q: It is incredible how well integrated the work of the two artists is. It’s a great achievement that you were able to come together with one cohesive vision. I notice that all of these images are black-and-white. Did you shoot these digitally?
A: Everything I shoot is always in black-and-white. They were shot digitally and the conversions were done in post-production. I shoot in RAW format. The pre-process is with the knowledge that it will be converted to B&W eventually.
Q: What it is that draws you to the B&W medium? How does it fit in with your creative approach?
A: For me, it is a combination of things. I like B&W better than color. For me, with B&W you don’t have all of these colors that help prop it up. The composition of the shot has to hold the viewer. I think it is a lot more challenging and that the composition has to be a lot stronger. I love that challenge.
Q: They are also described as “visions of cumulative time” which I find to be a curious phrase. What do you think that means? Does it refer to them being long time exposures?
A: What I love about what I shoot and how I shoot it is that, for me, the human eye is the most insanely powerful instrument. The dynamic range of it so far exceeds the ability of any camera on the planet. What interests me is that what the human eye can see and what the camera can capture are quite different. What I love about what I do is that I capture something with a camera that the human eye can’t see and kind of turn that upside down. Each one of these shots is between 2-6 minutes of exposure. It’s not a video. It’s not a time-lapse. It’s one single shot. It is, in essence, capturing the passing of time. In that way it is cumulative. The human eye can capture snapshot or what could potentially be described as video, but we can’t see what I capture. I love that aspect of capturing time, maybe even bending it.
Q: Many of these are backlit. It gives a sense of all light and no light at the same time. How would you describe your lighting technique for this portfolio?
A: This all started about a year ago. We worked as concentric circles in terms of what time of day we liked to work, tide position, lighting, etc. I like to work thirty minutes on either side of sunset and sunrise. That’s my favorite light. We thought we would have a lot of overlap in our schedules. In reality, those circles didn’t cross very often. What we found out very quickly was that there were only like two days every three weeks where all of it lined up perfectly in a way that the tide and his work and my lighting preferences lined up. All of these were shot in Northern California. Anywhere from about an hour south of San Francisco to about four hours north. All of them are facing out over the Pacific Ocean and most of them were shot after sunset. That seemed to be the best time for us both the most often.
Q: There is a consistent and identifiable style in all of these images, and yet they are vastly different in the emotional content. Here you’ve got this white-ish sea with rocks emerging from it. You have this patterned sky and the glorious earth work created in the foreground. Yes, it’s abstract and surreal but there’s something uplifting about that picture. What was going through your mind when you were capturing this image?
A: I didn’t want to step on Amador’s toes. He was very used to making a design that looked perfect from straight above. I had to get him to adapt to my perspective. We would use walkie-talkies to communicate while he was working and I was trying to set up the shots. He had to learn how to make the design for the camera. He could find plenty of beaches and he didn’t care what time of day. If the tide was right at noon that was great for him but it wouldn’t work for me. I was travelling in often from where I live in Florida to work with him, so what I ended up doing was taking a few extra days each trip to scout locations. I learned what he needed, and then I ended up picking out most of the spots we used. I would pick out a couple of designs that worked for each location, and based on the mood of the day we would have it narrowed down by the time we got there. We had a pretty short window for him to get the design down and have me shoot it.
Q: These pictures are reminiscent of crop circles. It’s interesting that Amador was able to overcome the technical challenge of changing the perspective of his work to cater to the camera. It doesn’t seem like he had to sacrifice any quality.
A: Depending on where we were I might not have had much vertical perspective. Sometimes we had these great vertical cliffs to shoot from, in which case he didn’t have to change his work that much. But sometimes I was at eye level. It really varied what I was able to do depending on our location. There was a tremendous amount of planning involved. Even so, it really boiled down to what Mother Nature would allow us to do.
Q: What feelings does this project evoke for you? What were you thinking during the process of creating this?
A: I think about the ocean and earth and where they meet. This constant play with the ocean and how, you know, this is only there temporarily. It’s about that intersection. It constantly ebbs and flows and changes. When we started the project, Amador told me that we would be seeing these beaches really change from month to month. It was interesting to see a beach we looked at shooting in November and then to return in December and see that the terrain had completely changed. The things that are there are so strong because they have stayed. A lot of it is about that.
Q: It says, “To a place where the ephemeral meets the ethereal.” I think it’s more like a place where the ephemeral meets the eternal. These pictures seem to capture some of that feeling. This image really blows me away. It seems to be the permanence of impermanence. A paradox, if you will.
A: This project has been great for both of us. Neither of us are that used to collaboration. We knew how important it was. As a photographer there aren’t that many opportunities to do something that hasn’t really been done before. To capture something unique was a great lure in this project. We tried a lot of things and this was one of the designs that really spoke to us both. The juxtaposition was so great for me. It really grabs you.
Q: What camera and lenses did you use on this project?
A: All of these were taken with the Leica S (Typ 006). I had a few lenses to use, but the majority was taken with a 30-90 mm and a 30 mm lens.
Q: For a medium format camera, the S is quite compact and handles very well. It’s a great camera to use in adverse environments. What is there in terms of features and characteristic that you found particularly suitable for this project?
A: At the end of the day, a lot of it was about the output. Most of my shots are printed very large. My smallest print in my newest exhibition is 40×40. There are these huge vistas to start with. None of my images work as a little 8×10. The power just isn’t there. The S really lends itself to that.
Q: Since these were all shot on a tripod, did you have any technical problems with the image quality on these long exposure times with the Leica S?
A: Every model of camera has their peculiarities when it comes to long exposure. But since I’ve done it so many times I was able to identify the limitations of the camera pretty quickly. I used neutral density filters to help with the exposure times. That’s my secret sauce in bending time.
Q: Are there any other features of the camera that you found particularly conducive to this project.
A: Probably the biggest thing, besides having the medium format, is the dynamic range of the S. It has 2 or three stops more dynamics than any other camera I have. That range helps drastically with the high contrast that I require of my shots. The less I have to do in post, the more I like it.
Q: So you don’t do a lot of tweaking?
A: No. The biggest thing I have to do in post is prepare the images to be printed on such large canvases.
Q: What aperture and ISO do you typically shoot at? And what about the quality of the lenses? A lot of people have said that Leica lenses have a special quality to them. What do you think about that?
A: The body is important, but I feel that the glass is much more so. You can take an ‘ok’ body and put a great lens on it and get amazing pictures. The build in these lenses is fabulous. That’s what lends itself to that dynamic range and I think that as a result there was much less to do in post.
I typically shoot in the higher range for aperture, say between f/16 and f/22. ISO is always as low as possible. 100 or so. If I could get 25 I would. Never anything greater than ISO 100.
Q: The spacial temporal in the context of eternity really shows in this one. It has an emotional character that it creates for the viewer. What do you think about this one?
A: We laid down this design a couple of times on different beaches in search of the perfect shot. The beach is called “Secret Beach” and it’s very difficult to reach. You have to go through a specific cave at a specific time. Right after this shot, fog came in and the moment was completely gone. With all of my shots, whether in this series or another, I feel that some strong element is always needed in the foreground to lead the viewer into the rest of the shot. Everything came together perfectly for this shot.
Q: Can you explain why you go simply by Henthorne for your work?
A: It’s my last name, and is what most people have called me my whole life. My work is about minimalism and shrinking things down to the bare essence. I certainly wasn’t trying to copy anyone like Madonna, but most people either call me that or H. When I was born, Jason was a very popular name, so I grew up really going by my last name. Professionally it just sort of blended together a few years back.
Q: You have a unique take on landscapes. They really are utterly unique, and that’s so rare in photography. Were there any photographers or styles that have inspired you?
A: A lot of the people that I’ve looked at are much more contemporary artists. I’ve always liked the work of Joseph Hoflehner. Even though he’s very senior to me in age, we travel to the same places. We only know each other through emails. We never share our travel plans, but we tend to shoot the exact same locations. I’ve always enjoyed his work a lot. Michael Kenna is a big one for me from a B&W standpoint. It’s the artists that are a little more modern and still out there shooting today that inspire me the most.
Q: It’s interesting you say that, because your work evokes classical feelings to me. It’s avant garde, but there’s a traditional element to it.
A: I get asked to speak sometimes and one of the biggest questions I get asked is “What’s the most important piece of news that you can pass on to new photographers?” The maxim that I’ve always adhered to was to pick one thing that you’re really passionate about and do it the best. This is what I picked.
Q: Tell me about the Kickstarter campaign.
A: Well we were self-funding the project for a while and we had an anchor sponsor that pulled out kind of at the last minute. We were left with a giant funding hole. Epson has stepped in to help us a lot. The Kickstarter project really allowed us to finish two important pieces of this. The exhibition at Leica this week is really about the prints, but the other two pieces were to publish a book and to produce a film. We had an Emmy-award winning cinematographer with us from day one. It was amazing to have the real experience documented. I mean, on some of these shots there were 20-foot waves coming in, but all you see in the image is very Zen sand art.
Q: So it’s really the story behind the serenity.
A: Exactly! A lot of crazy weather behind the scenes. So part of the Kickstarter money was to finish the film and the book.
Q: Who’s publishing the book?
A: It was self-published.
Q: Tell us about the exhibition.
A: We had space for 14 images. It will be at the Leica Gallery L.A. and it opens today, July 16. I am beyond excited to be allowed to show at one of Leica’s flagship stores. This is a huge deal to me and I’m extremely flattered.
Q: Are you going to be offering fine art prints at the exhibit?
A: I printed 25 of each of my image and they will be available there.
Q: Do you have any more projects coming up that you can discuss?
A: I’ve got a couple that will be coming out over the next 12 months. I just got shot shooting in Iceland and there’s another film that will document that. It’s truly the land of black-and-white so that was obviously a perfect place for me. There’s another series from New Zealand and a very small and specific series from Sri Lanka that I can’t say anything else about until it comes out.
Q: How do you see your photography evolving over, say, the next three years?
A: I continue to get more involved with more people and organizations that are around my passion: the water. Whether it’s ocean cleanup or some of the nonprofits that we work with. That’s the direction that I see my work going. More and more water. It may take different forms and I may reduce exposure time a bit. Looking at the white board in my office, I have five or six treks planned that will happen when funding allows.
Thank you for your time, Henthorne!
– Leica Internet Team
For the sake of convenience, we’ve presented this in a Q&A format. It was actually a conversation between our blog writer, Jason Schneider, and Henthorne.