About David Roddis

Photographer / artist; humanist / skeptic; citizen / socialist; dreamer / do-er. Life needs no mission statement; art is no boxing match. Competition demeans and divides; cooperation and compassion reveal profound connections. Do you need any greater incentive?

I am not a camera

(an edited, shorter version of this article was originally published on http://lifeasahuman.com/2014/photography/i-am-not-a-camera/)

The biggest breakthrough I’ve had with photographic creativity resulted from what I can only describe as “listening to my camera”, that is, listening as opposed to dictating to it. The results were revelatory, and incidentally, proof that technique follows intent.

Many people, if they think of photography at all, have a very set and specific idea of what constitutes a photograph:  It’s sharp above all things; it is a faithful reproduction of reality; it has integrity and must not be altered (“photoshopped”); it’s properly exposed; the colors are correct; and on and on.

I maintain that NONE of these criteria is necessary; that they are all optional, that each is on a continuum which ends in its exact opposite quality; therefore, the gamut of available techniques can be expanded at least by 100% (in fact, infinitely).

The one quality in the above list that is considered most important is sharp.  Check out commentaries, critiques, “how-to’s” and you will see this constantly.  Of course, if sharp is your intent, then they’re right; but what if the ability of your camera to capture pin-sharp, highly detailed images was rewiring your brain?  What if pin-sharp is not what you want?  What if that doesn’t express what you want to express?  If your camera has rewired your brain, you won’t even be aware of the possibility.

I was gratified to see others online coming to the same conclusions.  There is a general movement to embrace the blur, the random, the altered, the imaginative.  It is possible to follow Monet’s advice to show not the objective reality, but how you feel about the reality.

Here are three images that illustrate non-conventional photographic techniques that I employ.  I don’t pretend that any of these techniques is particularly earth-shatteringly original; it’s the embracing of the technique that is the point.


David Roddis, “Dahlia Cosmology” (2014). Archival pigment print, 30 x 45″. Edition of 5.Item 1 of 3

David Roddis, “Dahlia Cosmology” (2014). Archival pigment print, 30 x 45″. Edition of 5.

About two years ago, when I became bored with the tedious predictability of digital photography’s process and results, I started to use my camera transparently, side-stepping the precision and clarity that digital is celebrated for. Photography is about the surface of things, specifically, the surface that reflects the light; but I wanted to penetrate the surface, so I could stop taking pictures of my preconceived ideas.

I began using a makeshift light-table, illuminated above and below with flash units, and more often than not hand-holding my camera. Employing this method, the results are various combinations of sharp and blurred, but in a way I can’t, and don’t want to, plan. “Dahlia Cosmology”, with its “incorrect” exposure and hot color palette, is imbued with an electric energy that is very likely more truthful than the safe, pretty picture I would have taken as a beginning photographer.

David Roddis, “Petal Study: Cool Spectrum” (2014). Archival pigment print, 30 x 45″. Edition of 5.Item 2 of 3

David Roddis, “Petal Study: Cool Spectrum” (2014). Archival pigment print, 30 x 45″. Edition of 5.

Another method I’ve pursued is a deconstruction and reconstruction of my subjects, tearing and rending, in a rather perverse act that the followers of Dionysus referred to as “sparagmos”. “Petal Study: Cool Spectrum” is an exercise in pure color and form, and I think this may be my way of tricking my viewers into taking time to observe. I’m not bothered by “what is it?” or “I don’t like it!” when the alternative is to hear the dreaded “oh, look at the pretty flowers!”, and know that I’ve missed the mark.

David Roddis, “Aubade” (2014). Triptych: three archival pigment prints face-mounted to acrylic; each panel 30 x 20″; overall dimensions 30 x 63″. Edition of 3.

David Roddis, “Aubade” (2014). Triptych: three archival pigment prints face-mounted to acrylic; each panel 30 x 20″; overall dimensions 30 x 63″. Edition of 3.

Although I don’t substantially alter the images I choose for post-production, I sometimes composite them into larger structures. “Aubade” is a beautiful word that denotes a serenade performed at sunrise. I created a triptych from three related but not actually contiguous images. Triptychs were originally altarpieces and devotional objects, and “Aubade” riffs on the concept of apotheosis; but instead of plainchant, may I suggest jazz?


Open Studio: Sunday, October 19th, 2 to 6 PM


Dear Followers and Friends :

You are cordially invited to my

Annual Open Studio and Sale of Select Artworks
Sunday, October 19th, from 2 to 6 pm.  

RSVP by Friday, October 17th

392 Sherbourne St, Toronto (just north of Carlton).

BONUS:  everyone who attends will be entered into a draw to win an open-edition, signed print of an image from this year’s series “Briar Rose”:
“Briar Rose:  He went away”

David Roddis, "Briar Rose: He went away" (2014). Archival pigment print. Open edition, signed by the artist. ©2014, David Roddis Photography.

David Roddis, “Briar Rose: He went away” (2014). Archival pigment print. Open edition, signed by the artist. ©2014, David Roddis Photography.

This year’s image is one of past suffering and present hope.  It is a tender remembrance of something / someone lost, but also of the will to go on and live – not just survive.   It is an image of great meaning to me.

The event is open to the public – that’s you, Virginia – but you should RSVP by Friday, October 17th if possible, using the following form.  There is no admission charge.

Check all that apply (optional);

Mingle, view my new work, ask me questions, cover me with compliments (or raspberries, according to your natural tendency), enjoy some light refreshment and even pick up a small (or large) gift.   The possibilities are endless!

Creatures of the night

You all know by now that I’m a music lover, and one of my favorite composers is Maurice Ravel.  Much of his music is imbued with a tender, haunting nostalgia and a mysterious longing; but he also writes complex, demanding works that are avant-garde or jazz-inspired, music brilliant and hard-edged, yet still evoking dark emotions:  like diamonds dipped in tears.

His piano suite Miroirs  (1904 – 1905) begins with a breathless, fleet depiction of “Noctuelles”,  or night moths, that trills and buzzes about chromatically in the upper reaches of the keyboard. Ravel’s genius here is to translate that uncanny soft fluttering of fragile wings into chattering sonorities that brush your face and escape your grasp, evoking both chills of delight and shudders of repulsion.

In a similar vein, my “white fuchsia” – what a strange contradictory name – seems to be attempting flight, and the pale hearts that it drags in its wake are drained of love and life force.  Night creatures indeed.

Here’s a recording from 1958 of the legendary virtuoso Sviatoslav Richter playing “Noctuelles” and “Oiseaux Tristes” from Miroirs.  Astonishing, sublime. (This link takes you to YouTube):


D. Roddis, “Noctuelles I (white fuchsia)”.  Digital image,  available various sizes as an archival pigment print.  Edition of 25.  © David Roddis, 2014.

D. Roddis, “Noctuelles I (white fuchsia)”. Digital image, available various sizes as an archival pigment print. Edition of 25. © David Roddis, 2014.


I went all white with my garden this year… And certainly I was partly inspired by the white garden at Sissinghurst, Kent (home to Vita Sackville West and Harold Nicholson) which I visited one divine summer day in the 1980″s… But there were other factors involved.  I needed a change of pace from the overload of hot colors in last year’s body of work… And there is an element of sacrifice, purity with white; white is virginal, which means unviolated,  also fresh, naive; first time brides wear white; and white is also, surprisingly, a color of mourning.  And mourning is what I spent a large chunk of 2014 doing…

This choice of a white garden yielded weirdly wrong specimens – white bleeding hearts and white fuchsia, anyone? – and it took all of my self control not to introduce at least a splash of color.

White is ethereal, innocent, new and fragile shot against the light, and sombre, elegiac when against black. Here’s an example of the former:

D.Roddis, "Ethereal" (white begonia) .  Digital photograph, dimensions variable.  © David Roddis Photography 2014.  All rights reserved.

D.Roddis, “Ethereal (white begonia)”  Digital photograph, dimensions variable. © David Roddis Photography 2014. All rights reserved.

A place for experiments

I have two web presences, namely, this blog and davidroddis.com, and I treat them in different ways.

D. Roddis, "August Dahlias and Clematis." Digital image © David Roddis Photography, 2014.  All rights reserved.

D. Roddis, “August Dahlias and Clematis.” Digital image © David Roddis Photography, 2014. All rights reserved.

This blog is my just-out-of-bed, messy hair presence.  The place where I pull on some shorts and a T-shirt and kick back.  It’s very much a place for experiments and trying out new ideas.  Now, don’t get me wrong – everything here is thought through.  Duds don’t make it past the post, and whatever images I present here I believe have some merit.

Take the image above, for example.  Those who know me and my work know that I love to shoot against light so that the image is somewhat or even entirely blown-out (blasted with light so that there is little, or no, detail remaining in some sections).  Photography is ALL about light, after all.  And photography requires an “eye” and a certain amount of bravery in making choices, often very fast ones.  What you include and what you exclude matter. 

So I like the above image for its balance – the upward sweep of the colorful dahlias is accentuated by the tall glass vase, and is balanced out by the twirling tendrils of the clematis in the right foreground, more earthbound in their stoneware jug

I like this image, but I don’t love it.  It’s a little too mundane.  A little too everyday.  I would never seriously entertain the thought that anyone would, for example, purchase this image for their wall or to gaze at’ or that anyone would have their worldview challenged or changed by it.  But I’ve included it here as part of a process of play and discovery.  It’s nice enough, and that’s flat.  Poor little mundane image, it’s doing its best!

I’ve spoken about this distinction before: it’s snapshots vs. photographs.  Remember?

My web presence at davidroddis.com is a whole different ballgame.  It’s exclusively for the winners.  You’ll never see me there in less than my Sunday best, and I think of it as a job interview – I sell my work there and it had better be dressed up, too.

But just as the Polaroid shot often contained a keeper, my quick takes and off-the-cuff snaps often yield interesting results.  So here are some dahlia shots that I feel inclined to share, without apology.  Some of them might even be the floral versions of Lana Turner, waiting patiently here, at my virtual Schwab’s Drugstore soda fountain, to be discovered.  Time will tell.

What do you think?

Dahlias Dark

All art aspires to the ecstatic.

The word literally means “to stand outside…”  We are transported, taken out of ourselves, when we find a new way of looking, a new perspective.  Artists pledge to see what others do not. In turn, those who choose to experience art pledge to keep an open mind, not to judge, and they in turn share in this new experience.  Art is a two-way street.

As bright and colorful as last year’s crop appeared, so darkness decends as the days shorten and our minds turn to …. ?

David Roddis, “Dahlias Dark” (2014).  © David Roddis.  All rights reserved.

David Roddis, “Dahlias Dark” (2014). © David Roddis. All rights reserved.


Sold! My Homage to Georgia O’Keefe


“Peony Study (for Georgia O’Keefe)” (2011) has an ever-so-slightly ironic title; the level of irony that you can only get by comparing yourself to a world-famous first-rate 2nd-rate painter.

And, like most titles, it came after the fact.  Georgia O’Keefe, cranky old curmudgeoness extraordinaire, is anything but a “girl’s girl”; and this subject matter was certainly not her main interest; still, she is justly famous for her alarmingly intimate, sexually-charged renditions of flowers, in which each fold and frill, every nook and cranny is delineated with salacious loving care and served directly and defiantly in your face.


This piece was first seen at Rouge Concept Gallery in April and May, 2012 (as seen in the picture, at left).  It recently went to someone’s home on approval – and they loved it so much in situ that they decided to purchase it.  SOLD!

It is always a pleasure to know that one’s work is going to a good home, with people who take delight in viewing it, and who chose it out of all the profusion of images available.



Nine more prints are available of this work before the edition is closed.   In the image above, the work was printed at 45 x 30″, then matted and framed in white.  Other sizes can be created, though I don’t print this one smaller than 22 x 17″.  Certain pieces just need that large-scale presentation.

If you are interested in a purchase, or would like to see other samples of my work, use my contact form to set up an appointment.  Alternatively, please call 416 802 6163.