FEBRUARY 2018 PREMIERE ISSUE
My name is Douglas Schwartz. You've probably never heard of me. That's not surprising. Most artists
live most, if not all, of their lives in relative obscurity. Many of the now famous ones from the past only
became so after their passing. Names like Vincent Van Gogh, Emily Dickinson, Claude Monet, and
Johann Sebastian Bach come to mind. So, if you're a relatively unknown artist like me, don't feel bad.
You're not alone. We are all members of a very large club and, I might add, a very important one.
That broken camera was replaced a few years later with one that actually worked. It cost around three dollars as I recall. Not exactly
a sophisticated photographic instrument, but at least it allowed me to see the results of my vision on film and on paper. It was an
incredible advancement for me. I still have that old camera as well as my first album of black and white photographs that I created
Both still photography as well as motion pictures fascinated me as a young teenager. Each had its own particular hold on me.
I soon became the official family photographer as well as our home-movie auteur.
Because of this financial fact of life as well as other variables
that bring us to wherever we're supposed to be at any certain
point in our life-journey, still photography eventually became
my primary artistic discipline. Photography would allow me to
remain independent and have complete creative control, at a
much lower cost than filmmaking.
Not that I've given up on filmmaking, especially now that high
quality, digital equipment has finally caught up to me! I've been
very busy writing several film scripts in recent years and have
several independent film ideas in the works. You never know
how things will turn out if you're patient long enough.
I really can't say for certain why nature became my main
photographic pursuit except to say that it seemed very "natural"
for me. In many respects, it was as if nature found me, rather
than the other way around.
Eventually, with the freedom of a driver's license in my wallet
and with a camera bag as my companion, I would journey out
to local parks, fueled with a full tank of piss and vinegar in my
being. Yet, despite the excitement of new-found subject matter
for my lens, I would often be disappointed with my results.
This only made me more eager to learn what I didn't know
about the technique and aesthetics of my chosen avocation.
I would ravenously devour every book and magazine I could
get my hands on like a dry sponge thirsting for knowledge.
I would then go out and practice what I had learned. Persistence
became my credo. Nearly all of my spending money would go
towards film and other supplies. Gradually, my efforts began to
pay off. I could see that I was getting better and so could my
family and friends. As time went by, each ounce of wisdom
and each photographic success served to propel me even
All these many years later, I still find myself mentally reaching out to discover something I didn't know before in order to become an
even better artist. I firmly believe that if you stop learning as an artist, you stop growing. I know that I'll never stop growing in this
incarnation until I draw my last breath.
In the course of my life's journey, I've also studied television production and architectural drawing, played both drums and trumpet
(not at the same time), worked in camera retail sales, have been involved in a few non-artist business ventures, and was one of the
astronauts who landed on the moon. That last part was just to make sure you were still paying attention.
In all seriousness, I did mail a letter to NASA telling them how interested I was in becoming a civilian photographer in space. That's true!
However, I sent it a few months before the catastrophic Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy which ended the civilian-in-space program.
Looking back, I honestly don't think I would have made a good astronaut. Having a director-type personality, I most likely would have
tried to run the whole shebang. The others onboard probably would have gotten together and ejected me into space while I was sleeping!
My point is this. I learned a great deal from all of the experiences in my life. Each one helped me to grow as a person and as an artist.
Everything combined made me who I am today.
One of the greatest experiences for me as an artist came in 1984 when I was selected to participate in a master color landscape
workshop led by Eliot Porter at the Maine Photographic Workshops (now Maine Media Workshops) in Rockport, Maine.
Meeting Eliot and having the opportunity to learn from an artist of his standing was a tremendous experience.
In fact, it inspired me to lead nature photography workshops of my own, which I did at The Art Studios in Wilmington, Delaware.
It was during one such workshop there that I met my future wife Karen, who was one of the participants.
Karen is an extremely talented artist and my best friend. When I look back on my career, I can see how blessed I've been as an artist...
the beautiful places I've been to, the good times I've had, as well as the results of my craft that I'm most proud of. However, the fact
that art is responsible for bringing Karen and I together is by far the greatest blessing that art could ever bestow upon me.
Karen and I now work together in our business...Schwartz Art. Websites that we operate include schwartznaturephotography.com
(featuring our fine art prints), evergreenkeepsakes.com (personalized keepsakes, inspired by nature), as well as
artistsarealwaysright.com. We are also developing a website for Delaware residents and tourists called delawareshirts.com
And then there's schwartzshirts.com which gives both the closet-comedian and philosopher in me the opportunity to express my
written observations about life. Think of Schwartz Shirts as my nightclub act. As such, some of my observations may be rather colorful,
but none are intended to be offensive. Their purpose is simply to make people laugh, think, or both.
The two photographers who have inspired me the most are
Eliot Porter and Ansel Adams. I was fortunate to meet and
study with Eliot, as I mentioned, but I never had the
opportunity to meet Ansel in person. Even so, I have a
memory of him that I'd like to share with you. One that
occurred not long after his passing.
I was returning from a local state park after creating
some rather less-than-satisfying photographs immediately
following a snowstorm. As I made my way home, I had
the urge to turn off the main road and drive down a small
two-lane road to another favorite park of mine. The side
road was still mostly covered with snow. The driving
conditions did not look very good. My car at the time, a
1974 Mercury Capri, was not exactly designed for travel
conditions such as that. I sat at a traffic light debating
whether I should make the turn or not.
At that moment, I suddenly had a very strong feeling that
Ansel Adams was sitting in the seat beside me! I could
almost hear him say to me, "Go for it! You'll be fine!"
With his encouragement, I made the turn and traveled down
the snow-covered road. As it turned out, my car was more
than capable of handling the snowy challenge and the
photographs that resulted from that detour turned out to
be the best of the day.
The two lessons I learned from that experience are that you
never know what will happen unless you "go for it," and that
guidance can come to us at many intersections in life,
including snowy ones.
Was Ansel with me in my car that day? No, not in the
physical sense. But, as far as I'm concerned, he was with
me in spirit, providing the encouragement that I needed,
given from one artist to another. Someday, when I do
get to meet him, I'll thank him. You can bet on that!
I've been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to
express my artistic vision in numerous ways over the years.
My continuing passion for nature photography, my written
work, as well as upcoming film projects will keep me busy
for years to come. Someday, when I have the time, I'd like
to try my hand at painting. My subject will most certainly be
the natural landscape. I'm not sure what medium I'll paint
with. Maybe I'll use the blood, sweat and tears I've shed in
the past as a struggling artist! Hey, if you're an artist, you
have to keep a sense of humor if you're going to retain
any sense at all!
Cameras and technology have changed a lot since those
days of my youth when I first became captivated by the
creative process. So have I. I can't hike as fast as I used to
and I wear glasses in order to see clearly. Yet, more than
fifty years later, I still find myself looking through a lens
and, like the child I once was, being mesmerized by the
scene before me. The more things change, the more
they stay the same.
So, to sum up, I offer the following. Who is Douglas
Schwartz, the artist? I've been trying to figure that out for
years! I'll have to get back to you on that one. I only get
glimpses now and then.
And, more importantly, why did I subject myself to the
creative and financial struggles I've experienced as an
artist over the years? Because I've also been fortunate
enough to enjoy the sheer joy of being an artist as well.
For me, the two go hand in hand. The way I see it, you
can't know what cold feels like unless you've also been
hot and you can't fully appreciate pleasure, unless you've
I believe that the late nature photographer, John Netherton, said it best when he wrote me, "Nature photography is always a struggle
monetarily but that's not why any of us do it. Our rewards are the sunrises in the mist." How right he was!
Being an artist, to me, requires an acceptance that one must bear pain and difficulties in order to arrive at the ultimate goal of artistic
fulfillment. At least that's what I keep telling myself.
During this time in my life, I also made several creative films. One was a ghost story. Another was a science-fiction film about ticks.
I made lawn chairs and other inanimate objects move around using the single-frame, stop-motion technique (which I wrote about
in Super 8 Filmaker magazine in the October 1974 issue) and had a hell-of-a-lot of creative fun in the process!
I had so much fun, in fact, that I seriously considered becoming a professional filmmaker. Eventually, I realized that the type of artist
I wanted to be (independent and in complete control) required a lot more money than I had. Keep in mind that this was way back in
the dark ages (the 1970's) before today's lower-cost digital alternatives to filmmaking equipment existed. And then too, I wasn't
born into one of those rich families, thank God! You know. The ones who have money oozing out of their...well...too much money,
shall we say, for their own damn good!
I emerged into my present incarnation with a camera in my hands, which must have been very uncomfortable for my dear mother.
In all seriousness, one of the first "toys" that I can recall playing with around the age of four or so was an old, broken camera. I would
walk around with my magic box and peer through the viewfinder at whatever caught my eye. My family, my dog, and perhaps most
fitting for the future artist within me, the trees in our yard.
All artwork featured in the ARTIST SPOTLIGHT © copyright the respective artist. All rights reserved.
Iron Hill New Castle County Park, Delaware
Lums Pond State Park, Delaware
Acadia National Park, Maine
Hartwick Pines State Park, Michigan
Rittenhouse City of Newark Park, Delaware
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Cushman Brook, Massachusetts
In my opinion, all true artists are born...not made. Anyone can grow and develop artistically, but
unless the seed of creativity is in a person from the start, they will never attain any great degree
of accomplishment. The same applies to every talent and vocation.