The party photographer switches his lens.
Images devoid of smiling faces might be the last thing you’d expect from photographer Drew Altizer. But Altizer’s fine art landscape photography is as much a part of his oeuvre as his society photos. For years, he’s tracked sea tides, sunrises and sunsets in preparation for his photo expeditions along the California coast, but it wasn’t until faced with shelter in place — and a pause on parties — that he found time to catalog his work and launch a website for others to see.
In contrast to his festive, colorful party shots, Altizer’s black-and-white landscapes— printed in editions as large as 59″ × 142″— convey a remote, ethereal feeling, a coalescence of natural atmospheric conditions and unusually long shutter speeds.
With California as his muse, Altizer’s lens is particularly fond of rolling hills, trees and the rocky coastlines of the Bay Area, Big Sur and Mendocino. But he doesn’t expect, or want, viewers to recognize specific locales in his work. By using a tripod and allowing his shutter to stay open anywhere from one to 10 minutes, he extends — and often, distorts — the movement of waves, the fog, and a backdrop that would otherwise be frozen with a quick split-second snap.
“I’m trying to add something on purpose to the picture, trying to add an element of time,” he explains. “I like that you get to see beyond the splashes and see things that you can’t see in just a moment. It reveals something hidden.”
While there’s a level of spontaneity when he packs his gear — his choice of camera is usually a medium format digital — into his SUV and embarks on a long drive, Altizer generally has an “anchor idea” of what he’s looking for, based on the direction of light on the coastline. At times, he brings his sea kayak for an up-close angle on the rocks and waves.
Altizer is represented by Simon Breitbard Fine Arts, which recently began showing his work at its San Francisco and Menlo Park locations. Founder Stephanie Breitbard says she was thrilled to add Altizer to the gallery’s stable of artists, noting, “Drew’s works capture light and shadow in a timeless, enchanting way, and the ability to print them in monumental sizes makes them all the more powerful. We already have clients wanting to see them in their homes.”
Comparing his two very different photography styles, Altizer admits that when he shoots events, the biggest
challenge is often time: He sometimes has only seconds to photograph a group of key attendees. With fine art
photography, time may seem to have fewer constraints, but he approaches it with intent, conscious of the impact a few minutes can make on the quality and movement of natural light. If he were simply interested in documenting a scene at a specific moment, it might be easier. But Altizer strives to convey his sentiments about a place.
“It’s not always immediately easy to shoot what you’re feeling. Sometimes the technical stuff gets in the way of it,” he says. “And sometimes, it comes out beautifully.”