Colby Caldwell is a professor here at St. Mary’s and has been for over ten years. He is originally from the mountains of North Carolina and his life growing up deeply affected and inspired his artwork. He told us what began his career was the super 8 film from his grandfather’s hunting trips. These films were engrained in his head from annual thanksgiving viewings of the film. He was amazed by the colors and blurry landscapes that were a result of stills he took from the film.
He later moved from super 8 films to a medium format camera. He worked in color as well as black and white. Colby stated that his move from D.C. to St. Mary’s county upon acceptance of the photography professor position at SMCM was a dramatic change in environment and therefore his art. He found his roots back in the natural world around him. Living on piece of land that had not been changed for years, looking out his front door began his curiosity in the seasons as well as artifacts found on this land. He transitioned from taking photos of visitors as the seasons changed into his most recent series called “Spent”. This is a series where he used a digital scanner as the camera and composed images of “spent” shit gun shells. He found these shells on his walks with his two dogs.
The “Spent” series in particular is very interesting because for one he does not use a literal camera. Also, he leaves the images on a plain white background. The shotgun shells are very textural and worn by the earth. Each has its own character and story.
I can only relate to Colby’s work vaguely because I for one have never taken photos with a medium format camera. I do not use a scanner to create photos and I have never even seen a super 8 films. I also do not have the same style at all as Colby. I do find similarities among our work though when it comes to his early work with color. I often work with images that create interesting colors and tones. Also, I more recently am working with images that are very textural and macro focused, like his shot gun shell images. I have a hobby of collecting old bottles that I find in old trash piles in the woods and in streams. I think it would be very interesting to scan them and see what is created.
I do believe that sometimes his work can confuse me and it makes me think. It is never straightforward with a singular meaning. His images have a lot of background and were made for his own purpose rather than for others. I like and respect his work but in the end he has me tilting my head in wonder.