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"The remarkable photographs by Craig Varjabedian are not only beautiful but also extremely valuable documents of architecture, culture, and lifestyle of Northern New Mexico. His work is extremely valuable from both artistic and historical viewpoints." Beaumont Newhall
I have been seriously making photographs for over 35 years. I normally use a large format 5x7” View Camera because I like the size of the negative and the meditative working style the large camera requires. More recently I have been exploring the potential of the digital medium for its usefulness in photographing fast changing events and its immediacy in terms of feedback. While those familiar with my work will recognize the dominance of the large format camera, both tools offer dynamic and exciting rewards. But whatever lens I find myself behind, my desire is to photograph extraordinary moments; moments that reveal the subject in their powerful and compelling authenticity.
As a photographer, I am a witness to a lot of moments. If you think about it, the camera captures tiny slices of time in fractions of a second. I recognize when the architecture of light and the poetry of atmosphere are starting to come together. I have a sense when a photograph should be made; when an extraordinary moment is approaching. So I start making photographs when I sense that beginning. I find myself becoming part of the experience unfolding around me. And at a particular point the moment fully reveals itself, and I know that I have received an incredible gift. Later, I can lay the negatives out on the light table or view the digital files on a computer screen, and unravel the anatomy of the experience and the culmination of the moment.
Good stories often happen around my photographs. Sometimes the viewer shares the context, or maybe the physical experience. Hopefully these stories can bring that viewer to see the unique perspective from behind the lens. I think many times people looking at a photograph want to be a part of the moment the shutter was released. In the end I truly hope my images allow the viewer to feel like they are participating in an artistic experience that happens on an authentic level. I think that’s a very under-appreciated reason why people look at art. My hope is that viewers trust me and find some accessibility to my photographs.
The hardest thing I have to do as a photographer is to get me out of the way. When I stand in front of Chimney Rock at Ghost Ranch, my interpretation of Chimney Rock is not at stake. My goal is to allow Chimney Rock to reveal what it is. When I make a portrait of a person, I hope to make an image that glimpses the authentic person underneath. This of course takes time. Capturing a superficial likeness sometimes happens. Peeling back the layers of a person to discover an insight or surprise is more difficult and more challenging. One must find that elusive rapport between the subject and the photographer. I like to think of it as the essence of spirit revealing itself, whether that essence is found in rock or flesh.
What is the role of the darkroom in producing fine photographs? To release the shutter is one step in making the final image. Rekindling the inspiration of that release in the darkroom brings together the disparate parts of the photographic process. To compose a symphony and then to conduct that symphony with life-giving energy are different but inseparable acts. Performance completes the process. To compose a photograph that is not properly brought to life in the darkroom is like having a great symphony that is given a disappointing performance.
If releasing the shutter creates content and loving labor in the darkroom gives that content form, then the final product of the photographic process is a magical blend of form and content. It is not just reading a light meter or setting the f/stop on a lens. Nor is it the combination of chemicals or the exposure of paper in the darkroom. Producing an image of sensitivity and artistic power requires all of these things and much more. Just as an orchestra plays the written score, and those sounds combine to create harmonic resonance that transcends the notes on the page; so too does the photographer bring together all of his gifts to create a whole and complete expression of a moment revealed.
1985 MFA in Photography, Rochester Institute of Technology
1979 BFA in Photography, University of Michigan
2008 Ghost Ranch and the Faraway Nearby The Albuquerque Museum of Art, Albuquerque, NM
2007 Four & Twenty Photographs: Stories from Behind the Lens, Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
2007 Four & Twenty Photographs The Afterimage Photograph Gallery, Dallas, TX
2007 Four & Twenty Photographs Museum of the Southwest, Midland, TX
2006 Group Exhibition, Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
2005 Group Show, Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
2004 A Land So Far, Kit Carson Museum, Taos, NM
2004 Canadians at Home and Abroad, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI
2003 One person exhibition, Katrina Lasko Gallery, Bernalillo, NM
2003 Craig Varjabedian Photographs, Kit Carson Museum, Taos, NM
2003 En Divina Luz: The Penitente Moradas of New Mexico, El Rancho de las Golondrinas, Santa Fe, NM
2003 Three in New Mexico, Afterimage Gallery, Dallas, TX
2002 En Divina Luz, National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque, NM
2002 Katrina Lasko Gallery, Bernalillo, NM
2002 Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX
2001 This Enchanted Land, Martinez Hacienda, Kit Carson Historic Museums, Taos, NM
2001 This Enchanted Land, Annetta Kraushaar Gallery, Schuech Fine Arts Center, Texas Lutheran University, Seguin, TX
2000 New Mexico and Other Places: Photographs by Craig Varjabedian, The Options Gallery, Odessa College, Odessa, TX
2000 Mostly New Work: Photographs by Craig Varjabedian, Afterimage Photograph Gallery, Dallas, TX
1999 By the Grace of Light: Images of Faith from Catholic New Mexico, Farmington Museum, Farmington, NM
1999 By the Grace of Light: Images of Faith from Catholic New Mexico, Weigand Gallery, College of Notre Dame, Belmont
1998 By the Grace of Light: Images of Faith from Catholic New Mexico, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs, CO
1998 By the Grace of Light: Images of Faith from Catholic New Mexico, The Meadows Museum, Southern Methodist University
1998 By the Grace of Light: Images of Faith from Catholic New Mexico, Museum of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NM
1998 Craig Varjabedian: Photographs, Afterimage Photograph Gallery, Dallas, TX
1997 Photo-Eye Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
1997 Camera Obscura Gallery, Denver, CO
1997 Skye Gallery, Newport, RI
1997 Johnson's of Madrid Gallery, Madrid, NM
1997 En Divina Luz: The Penitente Moradas of New Mexico, Chamizal National Memorial, El Paso, TX
1997 En Divina Luz: The Penitente Moradas of New Mexico, The Madeleine Festival, Cathedral of the Madeleine, Salt Lake City, UT
The Morada Photographic Survey Archive
Established at Southern Methodist University in 1996 at the De Golyer Rare Book Library in Dallas, TX, this archive is the summation of Craig's seven-year project to make photographs of the moradas of the Penitente Brotherhood in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. The archives organize and preserve a complete set of photographs, a duplicate set of negatives, and all audio and written information on the locations, appearance, use and role of moradas and the Penitente Brotherhood, for use by qualified scholars and graduate students from the newly created Southwest Research Center at SMU. This archive will be the richest source of original research material on the moradas and the Penitente Brotherhood.
Trinity Capital Corporation, Los Alamos, NM
The William Benton Museum of Art, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
National Hispanic Cultural Center of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs, CO
Aarott Library, New Mexico Highlands University, Las Vegas, NM
Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe, NM
Zimmerman Library, The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM