My photography has been evolving over the past 45 years. I create series of images, usually consisting of 6 to 12 photographs. The series are the results of exploring where I find myself. It is just me and my camera. My eye is looking for balance from the light, shapes and the mood of the surroundings. The style of my work is generated by the vision I have for each series. I am so “in-the-moment”, that often it is after the act of capturing the moments that I see what I captured. The next step is to develop the image and how best to present it in print form.
I have been drawn to photography from the moment I peeled away the chemical paper and saw my first Polaroid photograph back in 1968. It wasn’t until graduating from High School eight years later that I bought my first 35mm SLR film camera. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s I studied the photography of Robert Farber, Joel Meyerowitz, Pete Turner, Eliot Porter, Ansel Adams, Helmut Newton, Edward Weston and many others.
“My whole life has been as an observer, a visitor.”
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2019 – Center for Photographic Art, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA
2019 – Plymouth Center for the Arts, Plymouth MA
1989 – The Great Northern Corporate Center, Cleveland, Ohio
1983 – The Garden Center of Greater Cleveland, Cleveland, Ohio
1982 – Cleveland City Hall, Cleveland, Ohio
1981 – Kent State University, Kent, Ohio
1979 – New Organization for Visual Arts, Cleveland, Ohio
1988 – Foundation Vincent Van Gogh, Arles, France
The Gow School, South Wales, New York 2004
Ernst & Young, Cleveland, Ohio 1998
Parker Hannifin, Cleveland, Ohio 1998
Robert Reitman Collection, Cleveland, Ohio 1998
Claude Cahen Collection, Santa Monica, California 1987
Werntz Estate Collection, Pompano Beach, Florida 1986
The Mr. & Mrs. Kenneth Miller Collection, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1986
On a more formal note, the following are two write-ups about my photography. The first is a biographical timeline that was written about my photography. This write-up is very old but it does an OK job outlining my history with photography. The second is by John Barnard, Creative Director at ClearScope, Inc at the time.
James S. Harper is recognized and appreciated as an innovator of landscape photography. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1957, Harper became interested in photography at the age of 10 with his first Polaroid picture. It wasn’t until Harper graduated from high school, in 1976, that he bought his first 35mm camera.
In the summer of 1978 Harper, focusing on photography, attended the Cleveland Institute of Art. At the end of that summer, Harper’s photography was accepted to the Third Annual New Organization for Visual Arts (NOVA) Open Photography Show in Cleveland. The photograph submitted was a composite of two images taken that summer of the times he shared with his brother, at an air show and riding motorcycles through the country outside Cleveland. Out of 254 submissions, Harper had one of the 24 prints that were accepted.
From 1979 to 1984 Harper pursued his self-taught education of photography by attending another summer at the Cleveland Institute of Art, working four years at a retail camera shop, and assisted many professional photographers. He has also received instructions from renowned photographers such as Ansel Adams, Pete Turner, and Robert Farber. Harper is very appreciative to have had the opportunity to learn from all those who have taught him valuable lessons.
In 1981, in a one-man show, Harper exhibited his black and white photographs at Kent State University in Ohio. The photographs were taken on a winter excursion to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The show was entitled “Winter – An Ending, A Beginning.”
In 1982, Harper participated in Cleveland’s “Portrait Of An All-American City” a contest sponsored by NOVA. His photograph of the Revco Marathon runners cresting the arch of a famous Cleveland bridge (the Detroit-Superior) was displayed at the Cleveland City Hall.
In 1983, Harper was a part of a three-person show at The Garden Center of Greater Cleveland.
From 1984 to 1988, Harper lived and worked in Hollywood, California. There he learned color photography by working in a graphics lab producing composites for the movie and music industry. He gained valuable hands-on experience with state-of-the-art printing techniques, not to mention viewing thousands of images taken by some of the best photographers in Hollywood. Harper believes that “knowing many darkroom techniques is as important as knowing how to take a picture in order to fully express the emotions you feel when the image is captured.” Before leaving Los Angeles, and after many requests Harper donated an image to the Foundation Vincent Van Gogh, Arles, France. In 1989, Harper temporarily put his photography on hold to complete his college degree.
An Ominous Period :
1992 through the beginning of 1995 were exceptionally difficult years for Harper. In December 1991, he graduated in the depths of a recession. For the next three years Harper struggled to continue his photographic artistry without being threatened by insensitive commercial photography.
In 1995 advancements in technologies brought Harper to a new forte. He began his virtual photography gallery on the Internet early in 1995. Harper saw a great opportunity to show his work and to tackle the big question of “do I stay pure to photographic processes or do I use digital imaging to really get the image I captured.” Preferring to print his own work, Harper went digital. He can “pre-print” the image by adjusting the color and contrast of the image on the computer before the actual printing at a lab. For Harper the computer has become a substitute for the graphics lab he worked at in Los Angeles.
Written by: John Barnard, Creative Director at ClearScope, Inc. © 2002
For more than 25 years, James S. Harper has been involved in photography. From the days when he photographed the lush, rustic landscapes in his home state of Ohio to his more recent work in Colorado, James’s use of color, composition and light has enabled him to successfully capture the essence of the moment in a variety of surroundings. Through his unique use of compelling visual imagery and creative darkroom techniques, Jim produces some very moving results.
Using techniques derived from his early experimentation in “pin hole” photography, James pushes the film’s limits to gain contrast and graininess, which produces a delightful softening effect. This soft organic style draws the viewer’s eye effortlessly into his work, creating a sense of calm that is strangely reminiscent of the great works of master impressionist painters Van Gogh or Monet. It’s not surprising that in the 1980’s, after spending a considerable amount of time working as a darkroom technician with some very well known photographers in California, Mr. Harper was asked to donate a photograph to the Vincent Van Gogh Foundation in Arles, France. During the mid-1990’s, corporations such as Ernst & Young and Parker-Hannifin purchased several of James’s photographs to display in their offices. In 2002 he donated framed prints to be auctioned locally on PBS television.
From the friendly confines of his home in Denver to the majestic Rocky Mountain backdrop outside his door, James S Harper’s photographic work is a constantly evolving study of light and form that must be seen to be fully appreciated.