Raymond Bleesz is a photographic artist based in Edwards, Colorado, who is best known for his images of landscapes and people in the American West. His work is held in the permanent collection and archives of Colorado Mountain College, and he has exhibited at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center, the Center for Fine Art Photography, the Littleton Fine Art Museum, and other institutions throughout Colorado. He is the co-founder of the Vail Valley Art Guild Photographers Group in Avon, Colorado. He received a BS in History from Utah State University in 1967, and was pursuing a graduate degree in history when he was drafted in 1968 and sent to Vietnam. Bleesz has been a member of CPAC since 1976 and his images have been included in several CPAC exhibitions, including CPAC’s Annual Juried Members’ Shows from 2013-2017.
My vox humana, my voice in photography, has been evolving since 1976 when I made the decision to be a photographer rather than teach photography. It has been a lengthy road of self discovery, self-education and constant work as is deemed of any artist.
I have lived my entire adult life in the mountains of Colorado and often travel and explore isolated regions of the West – a region I find hospitable, scenic, and at times life threatening due to nature. I consider myself an isolationist, and live, work, and photograph from this perspective. The West, a vanishing frontier, is increasingly being challenged by urbanization and the resort industry, and this has become my subject matter. I concentrate on landscapes, portraiture, and documentary photography, and I’m drawn to the “cowboy” persona and lifestyles of mining, ranching, agriculture.
My work follows the footpaths of numerous photographers ranging from William Henry Jackson, Eugène Atget, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and Imogen Cunningham to the New Topographics photographers of the 1960s and 70s, Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz.
Constant themes of my work include finding Man’s Landscapes, Man at Work, the Remnants of Man, and Man’s Place In The Environment with historical connotations noted and at times with humor, idiosyncrasies, and juxtapositions.
In graduate school, I studied history. My professors emphasized that history is based on “fact,” and I learned to view my images as “facts” that aim to capture the Zeitgeist of my time and place. As a social scientist, I readily identified with a humanistic viewpoint, hence my gravitation toward photographing Man and his Remnants.
In my youth, I was somewhat travelled and had access to cameras, and of importance, my French parents’ Leica 111F which they purchased in Germany in 1958, a camera I still have and use on occasions. At the age of 14, I found this camera totally captivating. Early influences included a Dutch uncle who introduced me to the darkroom, and I had access to viewing James Thurber’s drawings at his home in Connecticut in the early 1960s. In 1983, the famed photographer Ruth Orkin viewed my neophyte portfolio at the Rizzoli Gallery in New York, and her advice to me was, “… continue the work, continue the work”. I am continuing the work.
Sangre De Cristo Arts Center (Pueblo, Colorado)
Representing The West: A New Frontier
Feb 2, 2018 – May 6, 2018
Bleesz’s photograph, “Sheepherder With A Winchester Rifle” will be included in this group exhibition juried by Melanie Yazzie, Professor and Area Coordinator, Printmaking, University of Colorado Boulder
Colorado Mountain College (Glenwood Springs)
‘Clin D’ Oeil’ — Colorado and The West: Man’s Landscape, Man At Work, Remnants of Man, and His Place In The Environment”
Denver Public Library