When you view the work of David Edmonson, a myriad of thoughts rush through your mind. Is it digital? Is it a composite? How are the expressions achieved? What does the photograph remind me of? How does he do it? All is revealed at The Nikon AIPP Event.
At the tender age of 64, David has no intention of retiring and is still winning major awards, both in the USA and Australia. You may recognise David as the AIPP’s International Photographer of the Year from 2015, and he is also visiting us later this year as one of the keynote speakers for our 2016 Nikon AIPP The Event.
“I was told that once you reached 55, no one would hire you as a photographer. Maybe that was right years ago, but everything has changed. Age might be a problem as a wedding photographer, but I’m still shooting lots of commercial work, everything from book covers, CD covers, annual reports and catalogues. Luke, my son, works with me on the commercial accounts and grows the studio’s wedding clients.”
Four or five years ago, David and Luke looked at their business and discussed spending the $20,000 a year typically allocated for wedding magazine advertising differently.
“Luke said why didn’t I take the money and do what I wanted to do as a gift to me. I had never studied the old masters, so I started using the funds to broaden my knowledge and to develop tributes to their work.”
And suddenly you realise why David’s photographs look so familiar: they are homages to famous painters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Caravaggio.
Family, Photography, And An Italian Master
New life brought joy to our family with the birth of my daughter Holland. Naturally, her name inspired Dad to explore the world of the Dutch Golden Age and the styles of Vermeer and Rembrandt. My sister Sara lives with her husband in the heart of Rome Italy, surrounded by the works of great Italian masters. The cinematic style of Caravaggio’s paintings was both interesting and appealing to study.
When my Dad’s best friend was dying, he couldn’t bring himself to see him near the end. He feared the emotional tidal wave would sweep him away altogether. After the funeral, however, he was determined to do something meaningful for their family to honor his friend.
A piece that held his attention, in a church just a 10-minute walk from Sara’s home, was Caravaggio’s The Calling of St. Matthew (1600). My brother-in-law Francesco often takes their daughter, Grace, to see works like this on Saturdays, which is what spurred David to get deeper into the Italian masters.
Because Dad knows every member of the family quite well and understands the qualities of each of them, he started by sketching out each person’s position and the action they’d be doing. He used elements like a table and Italian Renaissance chairs to provide a framework and the direction and style of light inspired by Caravaggio’s painting.
Part of the project was a test of his ability to art direct a large group (17 people) with his still-recuperating voice. As you can see, the result is superb.
Here is the original Caravaggio from the walls of the Contarelli Chapel in the church of San Luigi dei Francesci in Rome completed in 1599-1600:
David is well aware of the difference between copying and paying tribute. The paintings upon which he bases his studies are so well known, there is no chance of mistaking them and the effort he goes to recreate them photographically is a discipline all of its own.
“Many photographers I know who have grown as artists have also studied the masters. They would copy the work of the master and, in so doing, come to understand why each stroke is in its place. Copying work gives you a much greater depth of your understanding, and that’s why I started making my personal tributes.”
“Once you’ve achieved the ability to duplicate something, the next step is to create within its style. “