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The fine art black and white photography of Jonathan Bourla

About Me - My Story

Jonathan-Bourla-headshot-at-Martins-Bay-Black-and-White.jpg

I have been a fine art photographer since 1994.  Whilst doing this I have also had roles on the staff at the SPCA, worked as an activities coordinator at a home for people living with dementia, and with my wife Julie created an online store offering helpful and uplifting dementia products.

 

I make photographs of subjects that are beautiful and fascinating to me, and try to see beauty in everything around me, including details that may seem a bit unusual. 

 

Light is understandably important in photography.  Light has different qualities, and I have my favourite time and quality of light.  I'm also fascinated by textures, and the textural qualities of different materials.  I feel almost euphoric when I encounter a subject which captures my attention, and when I can envision how I will want the finished photograph to look.

As a teenager I belonged to my local camera club in London and later enjoyed some success at Oxford University’s photographic society.  After university I stopped using the camera for several years while I concentrated on my engineering career.  It was during this time that both of my parents lost their battles with cancer, after which I made the decision to emigrate to New Zealand at the start of 1993.  I met the lovely Julie in a badminton club on Auckland's North Shore, and fell in love - with Julie! - and only some six months later we were married.   Incidentally I discovered I really wasn't suited to badminton, with Julie and our friend Fiona taking huge pleasure in making me run madly around the court almost to the point of exhaustion!  Anyway in 1994, with Julie's encouragement,  I decided to follow my heart and pursue fine art photography.

 

I am largely self taught.  The photographers who have inspired me are mainly American.  Starting with Ansel Adams, I had the greatest inspiration and input from Howard Bond.  I was overwhelmed by his skill, artistry, and his ability to impart knowledge and to inspire.  I have changed techniques since those days, but I remain inspired, and grateful.  Mrs Bond’s pecan pie was excellent too!

 

In my fine art black and white photography, the initial camera exposure is just the beginning of my process.  It is my job in this camera exposure to capture all the detail I want to see in a way that will translate well in the final photograph.  Next is what I call my Interpretation stage, which I originally did in the darkroom, but now do on my computer.  This interpretation is my artistic performance where I change local and overall brightnesses and contrasts to create the final photograph I had originally envisioned.  I make these changes, which are called dodging and burning, with a slow and subtle build up of effect.  I can take hours or days on this stage on each photograph.

My camera of choice before 2022 will seem strange but it was well suited to the work that I did even if it was a challenge to use.  It was called a Large Format Field View Camera, made by the British firm Gandolfi, and it resembled the plate cameras from history.  It was made of wood with metal fittings, had a bellows, and I crouched under a dark cloth when focusing and setting up the shot.  It could take an hour or more to make its exposure.  I was asked once if I had a proper camera hidden inside it, and was the outside just for show?  Every time I removed the camera from my backpack I would marvel at its beauty and count myself very lucky.  With it everything I did was very slow and methodical.  Preparation was key, as was a high level of patience.

In late 2022, in a big change, I began using two digital cameras, one made by Fujifilm and the other made by Leica.  I have been told that my photographs made using my new cameras look the same as my older ones with my Gandolfi and I take this as a real compliment.  I am enjoying the freedom and spontaneity my new cameras are giving me, especially not having to carry a very heavy backpack and tripod, but I have retained my old philosophy of making every shot count.

I mentioned the importance of Howard Bond before.  Early on in my career I flew to America to attended one of his workshops -  he was truly inspirational, from his fantastic photography to his wonderfully kind and generous nature.  Realising I couldn't learn everything from a single workshop Howard gave me a book's worth of notes to take home which were truly invaluable to me.  At the workshop I was in awe when he demonstrated dodging and burning techniques in his darkroom.  In the first half of my career I similarly printed in my own darkroom before discovering an even greater joy in doing my Interpretative Stage in the digital darkoom of Photoshop.  While I really enjoy capturing the camera exposure, it is this process on the computer that I just love, very slowly building up the tonal relationships I want.

I print my fine art photographs on quality matte photo paper. The print's title and my signature are shown just below the image in the bottom border.  This border around the image is now my preferred photo grey colour which I feel enables the viewer to better appreciate the range of tones in the image from shadows to highlights.  My prints are available printed in a range of standard sizes from the smaller A4 up to the large A1.  (Extra Large A0 available on request - please contact me if you want a particular photograph at this size). They are available to be posted to New Zealand, Australia, or internationally, and the prices listed on this website include postage and packaging.  The smaller sizes tend to be sent flat, with the print in a clear enclosure with backing board, while the larger ones are sent in a rigid mailing tube.  Details of whether your chosen size and destination are to be flat packed or within a mailing tube are given in the information on the photograph's product page.

I'm very grateful to Mike and Linda Geers of Art By The Sea for giving me my first exhibition at their wonderful gallery in Devonport.  Art By The Sea has since moved to another great site, now in Auckland's Takapuna, and I can wholeheartedly recommend a visit.

But more than anything I'm so especially grateful to my fantastic wife Julie, who has not only been so supportive and understanding through my long term struggles with Major Depression, but has continued to give me great encouragement and words of wisdom throughout my fine art photographic journey.

Artist Journey Timeline

1994 Start of Fine Art Photography journey

 

1997 Submission of portfolio to Auckland Society Of Artists, and granted membership

 

June 1997 Attends eye-opening Howard Bond workshop in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

 

2006 Switch from darkroom to computer-based “Interpretation"

 

June 2007 Solo Exhibition of work, "Quiet Light", 2 - 18 June 2007, Art By the Sea Gallery, Devonport

 

August 2007 Solo Exhibition, "Quiet Light", 14th August - 2nd September 2007, Lake House, Takapuna

 

Sept 2007 Gallery representation at Art by the Sea Gallery, Devonport

 

March 2008 Joint Exhibition, "Devonport Exposed", 15th March - 3rd April 2008, Art by the Sea Gallery, Devonport

 

May 2008 Representation Art Desire Gallery, Warkworth

 

June 2012 Group Exhibition, "By Land or By Sea", 7th June - 3rd July 2012, Artrium Gallery, Thorndon, Wellington

 

May 2013 Publication, Dphoto.co.nz, "Under The Influence of Ansel”

 

May 2013 Grant, Creative Communities Scheme (Auckland Council), for "A Glimpse”

 

June 2013 Solo Exhibition, "A Glimpse", 1st - 23rd June 2013, Farmgate Gallery, Clevedon

 

Sept 2014 Publication, Lens Culture

 

Sept 2014 Publication, NZPhotographer.co.nz, featured photographer

 

Dec 2014 Publication, Art Of Creative Photography, "Sharply Rendered”

 

May 2015 Group Exhibition, NorthArt Members' Exhibition, Northcote, Auckland North Shore, 8th - 24th May 2015

 

May 2015 Exhibition, Auckland Women's Centre Charity Art Auction, 15th-16th May 2015

 

Oct 2015 Publication, Your Daily Photograph, White Roses.

 

May 2016 Publication, Adore Noir Magazine

 

June 2016 Publication, Monovisions feature Hydro Electric

 

Sep 2016  Photoforum New Zealand, elected as Committee Member

 

Oct 2016 Exhibition, Artplus Gallery, Heritage Hotel, Auckland

 

Oct 2016 Market Stall at the Mission Bay Art & Craft Market

 

Sep 2018 Exhibition Cherry Blossom Art Salon, Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple Auckland

 

Mar 2019 Publication, Edge Of Humanity magazine, Hydro Electric series

 

July 2021 Monovisions Awards, Honourable Mention for “Fruit ’n’ Veg” series

 

Jan 2022 mARTakana Art Show, Matakana, fundraiser for Harbour Hospice

 

Jan 2023 mARTakana Art Show, Matakana, fundraiser for Harbour Hospice

 

May 2023 Publication Aotearoa Artist Magazine, full feature “Creative Force”, May/June

June 2023 Membership of Mahurangi Artist Network

June 2023 Group Juried Exhibition PhotoPlace Gallery Vermont USA

July 2023 Publication Monovisions USA “Martins Bay”

Aug 2023 reFocus International Awards, Nomination for Martins Bay series

Jan 2024 Tokyo International Photography Awards 2023, Honourable Mention for Structural Chaos series

Feb 2024  Mahurangi Artist Network Annual Art Show Warkworth Town Hall, 2 to 11 Feb 2024

Mar 2024  Publication Shadow & Light Magazine (USA) March/April 2024 #58 Showcase Portfolio Highwic House

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