Artist Profile: John Whitmarsh
“About four years ago, I realized I was bored with photographing literal depictions of reality and came close to hanging up my cameras,” John Whitmarsh says. “I was standing in the middle of a field in Yarmouth Port ready to shoot, and I thought to myself, ‘How can I make this different?’”
After more than 40 years as a landscape photographer, Whitmarsh decided to change course. “Standing in that field with the wind blowing, I realized I could use the slow shutter speed to get the leaves to blur a bit and leave an interesting effect,” he recalls. “I thought maybe I could capture the feel of the wind, the rustling of the leaves.” In that moment, Whitmarsh’s style changed from representational photography to photo impressionism—and since then he has never looked back.
Inspired by the raw beauty of the New England coast, and Cape Cod in particular, Whitmarsh seeks out the intersection of land, sea, and sky. Through intentional camera movement and slow shutter speeds, he captures the natural, uncluttered beauty of the landscape. In a photo entitled “Brewster,” for example, the billowy clouds don’t just hover above the amber marsh—instead the clouds appear to be rolling toward the viewer, bringing the scene to life.
“Here on the Cape, we have the same material to work with: sea, sky, waves, beaches, marshes,” Whitmarsh says. “It’s a beautiful place to live, but the challenge as an artist lies in expressing this particular landscape that mostly lacks drama. That’s what I’m trying to do—show people my view of the world with a sense of scale, using my techniques, to make an impression.”
Whitmarsh discovered photography with his father, Harold, who gave him his first Kodak Brownie camera when he was 10 and they were living in northern New Jersey. Together, they set up a wet darkroom and began making their own prints. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in English from Hobart College in New York, Whitmarsh pursued a career in writing and editing. He spent most of his professional life in print publishing, working on national newspapers, magazines, and newsletters, mostly in Massachusetts, while keeping up with photography on the side. Following the lead of his parents, who retired to Brewster, Whitmarsh moved to the Cape full time in 1985.
Photography is more than a calling for Whitmarsh; he finds the process of seeking out scenes and capturing their core essence therapeutic. “I’m alone and totally focused on being in the now,” he says. “All of the problems in my life, they just evaporate.” – Lillian Lowe
The artist’s work can be viewed at Palette Fine Art Gallery, 4 Merchants Square, Sandwich; Packet Galleries, 311 Stony Brook Road in Brewster; and Neutral Territory, 3179 Main Street in Barnstable Village.
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