Mabry Campbell is an architectural photographer based in Houston, Texas. He works in black & white fused primarily with very long exposures to create images of an altered reality shaped both by his vision and his desire to impress an initial moment of confusion upon the viewer. His images are devoid of distraction with significantly increased subject presence. Mabry’s black & white fine art photography has garnered numerous international awards and recognitions since 2013. He earned his Liberal Arts degree from The University of Texas at Austin and his MBA from Rice University. He is a member of the American Society of Media Photographers + Fine Art Group, the Houston Center For Photography and the Texas Photographic Society. Mabry is married with two daughters.
My fine art photography is rooted in a love of form, both natural and man made, and the visual impact that can be created when form is made to evoke emotion. An architectural subject is silent in the literal sense of the word, as is a landscape subject. The only way they can speak beyond their natural presence is for the artist to mold and shape them to coincide with vision. My goal is to amplify inherent qualities in forms to create images with heightened voice and visual presence — to make images that are removed from reality as far as possible without compromising the essence of the subject. I force the viewer to reconsider what they are seeing in my images, to have moments of confusion, and finally to achieve clarity and understanding of the essence of what they are viewing.
Pre-visualization of the finished image, combined with my individual vision, are cornerstones of my style and method. Pre-visualizaton allows me to think beyond the scene in front of me and imagine the final printed image. My images speak to my vision of creating a new reality, not to our shared reality. Without vision all a photographer has is a documented scene in a photograph. I have no interest in making a scene look like it does in real life. To do so is to document a subject through a photograph, where the artist’s vision and spirit are suppressed and thereby not impressed upon the viewer. This is my explanation of what differentiates a photograph from an image.
As a sculptor begins with a block of stone, I have my initial exposure in which to shape. And like a sculptor, I do not add elements to my images. Rather, I strip elements away to shape and reveal a subject’s essence, fused with the altered reality I visualize. If an element is not present in my original exposure I believe that it should not be added to the final image. Likewise, I do not alter forms as a means to achieve my vision. To do either lessens the purity of the subject.
The only life in my initial exposure is simple clarity in aspects of the form. The exposure expresses very little, if any, of my vision; however, I can see the final image in it. Vision cannot be limited by my camera. A camera is merely a tool with no soul. A great paintbrush cannot make a great painting just as a great camera cannot make a great photograph. It is the artist’s ability to use this tool, combined with other tools and techniques that creates compelling fine art.
I work in series as much as possible. A series of images around a theme enhances the consistency of my work. When I see a subject of interest, I am able to pre-visualize it as a potential contender as it relates to a current theme or series. When I begin to make my images I have a clear idea of how my vision and style will effect them at completion. This is clarity of vision. It is not always strong as steel on each image, but it is always present.
To create my images is a labor, always loved and often aggravating. They are marathons, not sprints. This is not by choice but rather by necessity. The techniques I employ are both time-intensive and time-tested. I pay attention to the smallest of details. Remove one small distraction and the image doesn’t change, but remove hundreds of small distractions and the image becomes clean and the subject is given enhanced presence. Each of my black & white images covers every zone to varying degrees, typically with two zones peaking. Since the viewer’s eye is drawn to areas of greatest zone separation, I use the Zone System to force the viewer to look at areas of an image that I want them to. These areas of greatest contrast combined with very subtle tonal gradations define my images and the emotion I wish to convey.
I create fine art images where the viewer’s opinion of reality is challenged and surprised. I believe fine art photographic images must evoke a vivid emotion on the viewer, while at the same time embedding a dramatic impression in the mind and reaction that lingers long after they are viewed.
– Mabry Campbell
If it’s not difficult, then I do not trust it.
Hasselblad HCD 24mm, Hesselblad HC 80mm, Canon 24mm TS-E f/3.5L II USM, Canon 17mm TS-E f/4L USM, Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 USM, Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM, Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, and Lensbaby Composer Pro Sweet 35 & Edge 80.
Hasselblad H5D-50c, Canon EOS 5D MK III, Canon EOS 5D Mark II (infrared 720nm), Canon EOS 20D
Tripod and Ballhead:
Induro CT214 and RRS BH-55 with L-Plate
Formatt-Hitech Firecrest — 100mm squares in 13 and 16 stops
Formatt-Hitech ProStop IRND — 100mm squares in 3 stops, 6 stops, 8 stops, and 10 stops
Formatt-Hitech Firecrest IRND — 100mm squares in 13 stops and 16 stops
My images are published in numerous websites, books, magazines, newspapers and client-centered marketing materials.