Featured CPAC Member: James Harper

JAMES HARPER

Member Since: 2018

CPAC is honored to support this quarter’s featured member and photographer, James Harper. Since 1976, Harper has been capturing nature’s raw beauty with a unique perspective. His work emphasizes the fleeting moments of life, reminding viewers of its transience. With 45 years of dedication, his portfolio showcases his commitment to authenticity and evolution. We hope you will join us to celebrate Harper and his achievements in the photographic arts.

ABOUT THE WORK

By James Harper

I believe that my experience of being dyslexic and on the Autism spectrum has given my artistic journey a distinct advantage, allowing me to appreciate the delicate beauty of the natural world that often goes unnoticed. 

I’m drawn to the unexpected wonders of nature that capture my artistic senses. The landscapes in front of me invite exploration, and I’m naturally drawn to the raw elegance of nature. My creative process revolves around capturing the inherent beauty of these scenes, refining them without imposing artificial elements. This approach lets me convey the essence of what I see, transforming it into photographs that resonate with others. 

My compositions evolve organically, emerging from the scenes themselves rather than being artificially arranged. The colors in my images, sometimes bold and sometimes subtle, reflect the genuine beauty I uncover in what might initially seem ordinary. I have a knack for recognizing the extraordinary in the everyday, celebrating the unique qualities that set each subject apart. 

The essence of my most impactful work comes from the practice of slowing down and immersing myself in my surroundings. In this state of receptivity, I capture fleeting moments that might otherwise slip away unnoticed. I strongly believe that trying to recreate such moments would be in vain, as their magic is ephemeral and irreplaceable. These moments, much like life itself, possess a unique temporal state, serving as a constant reminder of our singular and unrepeatable existence. 

These 15 images showcase my 45 years of photography. My work is constantly evolving, never confined to one style, and authentically captures the subjects that intrigues me. While these are individual images, many belong to series I’ve created over the years. Explore my website to see the complete collections. 

ABOUT THE ARTIST

My photographic journey began after high school in 1976. My high school focused on helping dyslexic students, omitting any art courses. Leaving my first college due to foreign language requirements, I embarked on a path to teach myself photography. 

During the late 1970s and 1980s, I immersed myself in the works of photographers like Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Paul Caponigro, and others, renowned or lesser-known at the time. My education extended to the pages of photographic magazines showcasing exceptional work. I also gained practical experience by apprenticing with various photographers, covering a spectrum from weddings and portraits to commercial photography. 

In October 1984, I embarked on a monumental journey, riding my 650cc Honda motorcycle from Shaker Heights, Ohio, to Los Angeles, California. Arriving fatigued and overwhelmed by the enormity of L.A., I contemplated whether my decision was a mistake. However, a newspaper ad provided a heaven-sent message: “WANTED B&W PRINTER WILL TRAIN COLOR.” It marked the beginning of my journey in L.A., as within the first 24 hours, I secured a job and a place to stay. 

For the subsequent four years, I worked at Elmi Graphics in Hollywood. There, I was mentored by David Travis, who taught me to print color Cibachrome composites for the movie and music industry. Dave’s emphasis on surpassing the original film and making the print “sing” shaped my artistic perspective. I had the privilege of contributing to prints for prominent photographers like Paul Caponigro, Herb Ritts, Lucien Clergue, and even NASA.  

In 1988, the shift towards graphic computers signaled the end of my dream job at Elmi’s. I also felt the pull of academia and the realization that time was ticking away for me to earn a college degree. I returned to Ohio to attend Kent State University. 

During my time at Kent, I created two distinct bodies of work: the Organic series and the NE Ohio Series. The Organic series challenged the prevailing trend of “super sharp” images, adopting 4×5 pinhole photography techniques. NE Ohio series was with 35mm film using Robert Farber’s unique softening method. These works gained recognition, with both Parker Hannifin and Ernst & Young in Cleveland purchasing my photographs in 1998. 

In 1993, armed with a college degree, I made Denver, Colorado my home. Here, I found myself swept into the computer revolution, ironic considering it was computers that had displaced my work in L.A. Furthermore, the photographic world was transforming into digital photography. Throughout these changes, my passion for photography never diminished.