My work is a love affair with light. In photography, as with so many other visual media, light reveals detail and texture by defining the form with highlights and shadows. In the photographic medium the quality of “beauty” arises from light falling on, surrounding, or emerging from a subject. PHOTO = light, OGRAPHY = process of drawing, representing, recording. Every great photograph needs to have detail in the shadows and the highlights. I try to achieve a full range of tonality in an image by allowing my lens, my eye, my gaze to witness the play of light on an object, person, or scene and recording that accurately. Ultimately, the subject is only a tool to reflect the light. The trick is to “capture” it like a firefly in the evening. I attribute this ability to grab something so fleeting, as a gift that is given rather than something I have “taken” or stolen. Fixing a moment in time, an expression, a gesture, a glance is a spiritual experience, my goal as an artist is to be in the moment to receive the gift.
I often have my subjects sit and pose in natural light for my portraits. Usually the gaze, gesture, clothing of a subject brings its own unique intensity to a sitting. The lighting adds to the drama of the moment. Knowing when the moment is right is the magic that seals the image. Henri Cartier-Bresson referred to it as “The Decisive Moment.” It’s always there somewhere, it’s my job to recognize it and grab it. I stage these formal sittings with props and often use a black backdrop to isolate the subject. I want the viewers eye to only see what I select for the image. And then I wait for the unexpected.
Since my voice comes from my soul, my experience, I want it to represent who I am. It is for this reason that a large part of my work challenges static, flat, reductive representations of blackness. My art counters simple essentilizations of black subjectivity; rather, my approach to each subject is to find what is both unique and universal to them, to reveal and transcend, to simply illuminate the truth of their humanity. In this way, I sometimes experience my work as selfportraiture, though I may not be in the frame.
Fern Logan is a photographer and graphic artist. She began her career as a nature, landscape, and architectural photographer, but in 1983, Logan added the human figure into her repertoire and created the photodocumentary exhibition the “Artist Portrait Series.” Later, the series was published in book form as The Artist Portrait Series: Images of Contemporary African American Artists (2001) by Southern Illinois University Press. Always present in Logan’s photographs is an aesthetic of beauty, drama, and mood. She states that capturing these elements in her work is a special challenge and views photography as a spiritual exercise: “I don’t take images, they are given to me.”
Logan’s photography has been shown and published regularly in this country and abroad. Her work has been exhibited twice at The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and The Smithsonian, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and Harlem State Office Building all have Logan’s work in their permanent collections. Her digital montages, have been awarded the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship twice, once in 1998 and again in 2001. You can find her work published in several collections, including Committed to the Image, the exhibition catalog published by the Brooklyn Museum, Reflections in Black by Deborah Willis, and The Black Female Body by DeborahWillis and Carla Williams.
Logan completed her graduate work at the Art Institute of Chicago and is currently Professor Emerita of Cinema & Photography at Southern Illinois University.