In 2008, commercial artist Mark Plummer relocated from the Pacific Northwest to Martha’s Vineyard. The move from the foothills of Seattle to the flatlands of Katama was a dramatic change of scenery for the Los Angeles native.
“I’ve never lived in a flat place before,” he said. Walking and driving around his new neighborhood, Mr. Plummer was impressed with the beauty of the land and the spacious skies and embarked on a mission of capturing the Katama landscape and seascape in photos.
Now giclee prints of some of his scenes are hanging in the new restaurant Eleven North in Edgartown, and one would never know that they were shot with an iPhone camera.
“I once read an article about [legendary photographer] Alfred Eisenstadt,” said Mr. Plummer. “Someone asked him what was the best camera and he answered, ‘The one you have with you.’ One of the reasons that I got an iPhone about a year ago was that it had a good camera.”
Last summer Mr. Plummer visited some of his favorite Katama vantage points and snapped away. Digital technology has allowed him to do what previously had been a painstaking and not always rewarding process.
“It’s best to bracket,” he advises. Bracketing is the technique of taking several shots of the same subject using different camera settings. “Typically you might shoot four or five shots of the same thing.”
For many years, the amateur photographer shot with a film camera. “I used to think if I had a roll of 36 exposures and I got one good shot I had done pretty well. Now with a digital camera you can shoot like crazy.”
Talking about his recent project, he said, “This whole story is really about digital technology. Everything was digital – from the process of capturing the photo, to manipulating, to having them printed. Digital technology has made the creation of content very democratic.”
In his work as a successful commercial artist, Mr. Plummer notes that he has become very adept with Photoshop, the software he used extensively with his current series of photos. “I’ve been using Photoshop for about two decades now,” he said. “You discover that when you use software over time you think in that language.”
Enlarging iPhone images to large prints produces some interesting effects. “It gives it a painterly quality,” said Mr. Plummer. “When I told a friend that I was taking images from my iPhone and blowing them up to two feet by three feet, he thought I was crazy…Most photographers are trying to get as much detail as possible. I’m going for a different look. I’m interested in capturing the painterly quality of the light.”
The result of the enlargement process and Photoshop manipulation is a dramatic look that combines the crispness and detail of a photo in the foreground, with a more interpretive blurred quality in the distant houses and boats, as well as the exaggerated colors of a painting.
“I’m by nature a big romantic,” he said. “What I’m going for is a highly romanticized view of Katama. It’s like the look you get if you have the right light and you lean back and squint your eyes. It takes out some of the messiness and leaves the sweet quality of the lighting and the sky with some of the detail of the foreground. The color is just a little more intense than real life. This is an experiment for me. I’m curious to see how people react.”
Prominently displayed in the downstairs bar area at Eleven North is a 36″ by 40″ photo printed on canvas with a large white border (a signature look for Mr. Plummer). It’s an eye-catching scene with the sky taking up about two-thirds of the image. The relative starkness of the dunes and beach grass provide contrast for the striking pinks and purples of a dramatic cloud-filled sky.
In the upstairs dining room, smaller (18″ x 24″) works printed on watercolor paper feature similar sky-to-land ratios and sweeping vistas, but the colors in each are markedly different since they were shot during various times of day. The unifying factor is spectacular cloud formations. “I didn’t realize for four months that I was really taking pictures of clouds,” he said. “What I thought I was taking pictures of was the lighting.”
One of the smaller pictures features an inviting path through the dunes in the foreground, but the others seem all but devoid of any signs of human encroachment. They effectively capture the isolation of the outwash plain around Katama Bay and Edgartown Great Pond.
Mr. Plummer has also pointed his lens at a few subjects outside of land and seascapes. A photo of the Katama Store has been manipulated in such a way as to give it the look of a more two-dimensional watercolor painting – the fine detail washed out with a broad brushstroke effect. Another brightly hued picture features fall leaves in oversaturated, improbable colors.
The striking prints provide a nice punch of color to the clean and modern look of the upstairs dining area. The room, featuring an open layout, is painted in a soft medium grey. The chairs are black with grey leather cushions. There is a white marble bar with a matching lit backdrop. The focal point of the room is a huge contemporary chandelier that cascades down the open staircase. Mr. Plummer’s photos provide just the right splash of color to the monochromatic look.
The Katama landscapes also complement the views that figure prominently in the restaurant’s main dining room. Both the front and back walls are lined with picture windows allowing for two different perspectives of downtown Edgartown. With Mr. Plummer’s photos, patrons are treated to a view of the more wild, wind-swept side of Edgartown.
Said Mr. Plummer of his adopted neighborhood, “It is a really unique place. I’m kind of falling in love with it.”
All of Mr. Plummer’s images are available from the artist by special order. They can be printed in any size on canvas or on watercolor paper. To view the collection, contact Mr. Plummer at 425-999-2343 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.