Notes on “Nostalgic Deception”

My nostalgic snapdragons, pre-shoot. August, 2014

My nostalgic snapdragons, pre-shoot. August, 2014. ©2014, David Roddis.

I’m usually reticent about discussing my own work, thinking it a rather grandiose attitude to strike.  Nonetheless, what emerges from my summer “shooting spree” often surprises me (which is what I intend), and I thought I would tell you a bit about how much attention I’ve paid to these particular images.

The folder of images of snapdragons became very compelling to me, although they were not immediately images which I looked to for my primary body of work. They were quite “traditional” images, by which I mean they seem straightforward still lifes mimicking the Dutch and Flemish flower paintings of a few centuries ago.  And I haven’t been so much about the traditional lately, what with jumping around with my camera and creating surprises for myself.

One thing which I work to achieve in these pieces is minimal light, which can be a tricky thing in digital.  If your brain is rewired by your camera, you start to over-illuminate and just aim for that digital clarity and detail, which can only take you so far.  But most of the data in the digital file is in the upper midtones and highlights, so if you under-light the actual shoot, you lose information and you get a lot of noise.  So it’s usually best to light a little brighter than you want, then bring it down in post.

As far as process goes, I take the original into Camera Raw (a Photoshop plug-in which is a kind of gateway to PS, allowing a first pass at “correcting” exposure, contrast, etc., in the digital negative.)  I usually take the image to a quite neutral place, actually lowering the contrast and evening out the image until it’s a little flat.  In PS itself, I work with layer modes “Multiply” and “Screen”, applying the layer modes, masking out the transformation, then “painting in” the shadows and highlights respectively.

The effect I am working for, in Nostalgic Deception and similar pieces, is a mysterious, out of time/out of place feeling in which the subject is barely emerging from darkness, as a memory might, and illuminated in a way that creates a subtle but definite modeling (emphasizing the three-dimensional quality).

There is a sense of disquiet and foreboding, of elegy, and disintegration in the blooms that have fallen away.  The deception is the tension between an exquisitely beautiful memory, which we allow ourselves to be seduced by, and the treachery of decay that must take place.  Our memory lives for a moment, but then is taken away again.  It’s the pain of imminent loss.

Nostalgic Deception


David Roddis, “Nostalgic Deception #2 (snapdragons)”, 2015.

David Roddis, “Nostalgic Deception #2 (snapdragons)”, 2015. Archival pigment print, Edition 1/100, sizes from 22×17″. ©2015, David Roddis.

* NEW * : Free print sample packs available.

I’m all about the print.

From the moment I first began creating images that had meaning for me, I knew that the final result of my creative process would be a print – a real, physical print that I could hold in my hands – and every step in my process, from capture to post-processing, is a step towards this goal.

Put simply, a display of pixels on a screen does not represent the true expression of my work.

"Senescence #2", ©2011

David Roddis, “Senescence #2”, ©2011

Photography’s fascination has always been connected to the mysterious artifact it creates: the print is a direct physical impression of a single, never-before and never-again moment, an uncanny freezing of time.  It makes no sense to me, therefore, to labour over the creation and refinement of a photograph, then neglect to follow through to the logical – I would say, essential – final expression.

Because I am all about the print, I want you to share this experience, even if you are unable to visit my studio to see my work in person.  Art needs to create an emotional response and a dialogue, and I believe that prospective client-collectors need to begin with this privileged connection with my work.

Consider these free print sample packs as my way of bringing my studio to you.

Click here to proceed to my portfolio site and order your free sample pack >

Snapdragons… just can’t let go…


David Roddis,, "Nostalgic Deception #1 (snapdragons)" 2015.  Archival pigment print, various sizes.  Edition 1/100.  ©2015, David Roddis.

David Roddis,, “Nostalgic Deception #1 (snapdragons)” 2015. Archival pigment print, various sizes. Edition 1/100. ©2015, David Roddis.

Accents: Rich, unique artworks for your home…

Accents: … Fine-art prints to start or augment your collection.

At the start of this year I  launched “Accents”, a series of 9 x 9″ open-edition prints drawn from the past 5 years of my work. These images are designed to contrast with and complement each other, to suit smaller spaces, and to create interesting conversation pieces and vignettes.

  • Try a selection of flowers in one hue
  • Mix complementary colors, black background and white, while pulling it together with a single-look framing style
"Circe (blue lisianthus)"

“Circe (blue lisianthus)”

Of course, Accents can be used in conjunction with your existing artworks and design:

  • Try an ornate frame  on an “Accents” piece as the “odd man out” with a group of contemporary brushed-metal frames
  • Mix-up Accents pieces with several works of varying sizes to create a personal gallery – the secret is to keep the top edge and one vertical edge, usually the left, straight and aligned at a perfect 90° angle.  The remaining “ragged” bottom and side edges don’t matter.  This is rather like the mid-19th-century “salon” style of hanging art

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Each spring, when I was little, I was allocated a patch of the garden in our back yard, and I would sow packets of seeds, carelessly, benevolently, never bothering to note the instructions on the packet, and certainly not bothering to learn what “annual” and “perennial” meant.

Once the seeds were sown, the earth tamped and watered, the big wait was on. I watched impatiently – anyone who knows me is aware that that adverb is a given – for signs of life, staring at the patch of garden as though I could germinate the seeds through an act of will, that I could be that …“force that through the green fuse drives the flower…”   When the first delicate, insistent threads poked through the loam, wearing the seed’s husk like a jaunty cap, I was beside myself.

David Roddis, "Red Hollyhocks", 2014, archival pigment print, various sizes, edition 1/100. ©2014, David Roddis.

David Roddis, “Red Hollyhocks”, 2014, archival pigment print, various sizes, edition 1/100. ©2014, David Roddis.

Hollyhocks, rough, rustic, rather plain, even, were one of the simplest thing to grow, and rewarding, with their towering stalks and the simple, clear colors of the blooms. I loved the seed pods as well, the neat, green-wrapped carousel of white discs that you could make explode. I never minded that the stalks would break easily in a strong wind, if ever a thunderstorm erupted from a yellow August sky. Far from it; I quite adored the chaos and wanton destruction of it all, taking that perverse pleasure, native to little boys, in breakage, rampages and running amok. A kind of delicious atavistic melding of fear and joy; a pleasure that has never left me.

Hollyhocks: Quintessentially English and part of the country garden roll call, they beg to be planted by the white-washed plaster walls of a thatched cottage. These specimens boasted ruffles, which I’d never seen before, so I imagined they’d changed out of their cotton print dresses into this finery, and were off to the local Veteran’s Hall for the Saturday night dance.

© David Roddis, 2015

In search of lost snapdragons



David Roddis, “Sunday, Homestead”, 2014. Archival pigment print. Edition 1/100. Various sizes. ©2014-15, David Roddis. All rights reserved.  See Creative Commons statement on my home page.

The image gives me a chill of nostalgia.  I want to understand why, but I can’t pin it down.  Nostalgia* – which literally means, “the pain (algia) of homecoming (nostos)” – arises from the emotional shock of recognizing something I want to get back to, but can’t. Is it the blissful eternal now of summer when I was a child? There were days when all I knew was that summer was mine; I was summer’s mild milk-and-honey prophet.

All of the flowers I photograph have this effect on me. Otherwise, what’s the point? The dark purple ones are the color of grape jelly and make me shiver, salivate… while the yellow remind me of popcorn.  (They say you should never grocery shop, or blog, while hungry!)

These snapdragons were so cheap I got several bunches – cheap because the stems curved, but not subtly – drastically, terribly.  They were snapdragons with dowager’s hump, with lordosis. They were rebels, these snapdragons. Defiant in their deformity, mangled as they were by obscene accidents of placement and genetics. That’s what attracted me in the first place. Unpretentious flowers grown on farms,

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