Freeman Patterson
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A Photographer's Life
Welcome to ShadowLight: A Photographer's Life, written by renowned photographer Freeman Patterson and published by Phyllis Bruce Books, Harper Collins Publishers Ltd.

The book is a retrospective of over 30 years of image-making, examined through both the inner and outer eyes of one of the world's foremost photographers and teachers of photography and visual design. Freeman is an internationally recognized freelance photographer living in New Brunswick, Canada.

The following excerpt is from the chapter entitled, "Through the Looking Glass":

A camera always looks both ways. Like all serious photographers, I have to accept and deal with this fact - the reality that my images are as much a documentation and interpretation of myself as of the subject matter I choose.

Although on first viewing, an individual image, in and of itself, rarely acts as a signpost or marker of the stages of my personal development or growth, a collection of pictures provides an overview that tells the human story, and enables both myself and viewers to identify images that are representative of important changes or stages. When I am discarding old slides or negatives, I have to be careful not to throw out my life history.

There are two primary frames of reference by which I and other photographers can evaluate our work and, in the process, recognize the steps of our personal journeys. One is the subject matter or content of our images, and the other is the general treatment of that subject matter, or style. Both can be extremely instructive.

In my case there seems to have been - on a superficial viewing - relatively little change in the content of my photographs over a period of more than thirty years. But this is an illusion or a matter of labeling. Although I am still inspired most of all by natural scenes and situations and by natural things (including people), what I choose to photograph about them now is radically different in many respects from what I chose initially. Also, when viewing a few thousand of my images chronologically, I was surprised to discover that I have moved through at least four stylistic periods, three of which are significant. But these are conclusions after the fact, and they are accurate only if they are not taken too literally. The transitions are gradual, almost to the point of being imperceptible at times.

As a photographer I don't consciously select a style and then apply it to a variety of subject matter; rather, I live my life, make my images, and unconsciously document my personal journey. This suggests why my image-making rarely shows a pattern of steady improvement, but frequently is marked by periods of stasis - plateaus and ruts. I don't necessarily regard plateaus negatively, however. They may be valuable times of assimilation and consolidation after long periods or sudden spurts of personal growth. But whether I'm moving or resting, the medium always mirrors my inner self. So accurate is the reflection, that photographs often reveal the subtle beginnings of emotional transitions that I can recognize consciously only in other ways much later on.


"Patterson's prose is beautiful and seductive. His photographic art is riveting."

Winnipeg Free Press
"Patterson is one of our most distinguished photographers of the natural world. His beautifully lit, sensual landscapes and gardens are matched by some truly haunting interiors in the ghost towns of Namibia. The real revelation is the quality of Patterson's prose in this quasi-memoir - self-revealing without being self-regarding - and he's a fine interpreter of his own work."
Martin Levin, The Globe and Mail

A Photographer's Life
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