Herein lies a jumble of backstories and anecdotes pertaining to my work and the creation of my images. A few passages may even elicit a laugh or two. You've been warned.
These images were created on film during the time of exposure. No effects filters, Photoshop or any digital computer programs were employed.
Robert Anthony DeFreest is a photographer of the stunningly beautiful night. Fog and full moon, glistening snow are sheer bliss to his senses. The hoot of the owl, rustle of the critter under fall leaves and, above all, the echo of a train’s horn in the distance create a scene that can only barely be senses in his photographs. What can be seen is as exciting as what’s beyond the light.
Robert watches the calendar and stakes his claim along Pacific Northwest railroad tracks on any evening with a full moon. The ambient light, coupled with a bare street lamp or a locomotive headlight, are glorious to his lens. The magic, though, has only begun to unfold. The real wonder happens when the film is developed.
Robert’s photographs are taken on medium format and 35 mm film, and they are developed the old fashioned way -- from negative to print. He never uses Photoshop or any digital photography tool. Long exposures and steady patience are the tricks of his trade.
“My goal is to create images on film which capture the solemnity and the haunting, isolated beauty of the night. These images are quiet meditations on forlorn locales and the effect weather has in creating mood pieces. Haunting rural and, especially, nocturnal railroad environments are a well spring of mood and atmosphere,” said DeFreest.
And the critics agree. Robert’s work won four awards in the Stanwood Art Aloft show. “Spider Trestle” won Best of Show and First Place in Photography; “Gothic Wheels” won Second Place: and “Midnight at Milepost 38 won Third Place. He also took second in People’s Choice at the Anacortes Arts Festival’s juried art show in 2018. He continues to be juried into art shows from Edison, Washington to California.
Robert is self taught in photography, though he comes from a background of theater and film. His constant experimentation is fueled by his imagination and creative spirit.
Robert’s acclaimed work is best described as Photography Noir. The reference calls to mind dark movies that followed World War II. French film critics coined the term “film noir” following a trend of dark and downbeat cinematic themes. Yet, the genre is not the photographer’s favorite. Classic horror is. The Vincent Price and Boris Karloff era of horror film holds Robert’s interests.
Though Robert’s work is still images, this darkness, both in appearance and in scene, makes its way into Robert’s photographs in a way that draws you in like these old films.
He doesn’t need digital effects to convey the solemnity of a place. Fog, rain, snow and the light of the moon create the arresting images.
“These locations abound with a mournful beauty and a peaceful solitude,” he said.
"Robert DeFreest's photography is breathtaking and sometimes haunting. His photos are results of long exposures created in the middle of the night, using site specific lighting from a train spotlight, or the floodlight of an adjacent building. You can find DeFreest in the cold fog of the early morning, alongside vacant historic railroad tracks, capturing large spans of scenery in all its emptiness. The finished photos highlight the sublime immensity of natural elements, superseding the modern structures within the landscapes. DeFreest's photography can be both mysterious and inspiring." Jody Thompson, Hadrian Stone Gallery.
"Robert DeFreest's art is about vision, concept, and painstaking execution. His visions are captured the old-fashion way, on film, and every aspect of every image you see arrived on that film at the time the photo was being taken. In this era of everything being tweaked in Photoshop, Robert's art and Robert's dedication are unique." Warren Carlson, author: Upper Skykomish Valley
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