Photographer Marion Patterson has several new bodies of work coming out based on recent travels to Antarctica and the Galapagos. Patterson was mentored by Ansel Adams who became a lifelong friend. She also studied with Dorthea Lange, Pirkle Jones, Jerry Uelsmann, and Minor White. She studied philosophy at Stanford and received her Masters in Interdisciplinary Creative Arts from San Francisco State University. Patterson was faculty at DeAnza and Foothill College for 28 years. She currently makes her home in Anchor Bay, California.
Whirligig: How did you come to paint on your photographs.
Marion: I was a painter first. A watercolor painter. But from an early age it was always photography, and then I fell into the Ansel Adams circle.
When did I start painting again? Maybe when I saw Holly Roberts’ work. She paints thickly and saves only little bits of the photograph. Instead of that approach I wanted part of the photograph to be painted on. I love paint. When I got my Masters at San Francisco State I took a course in animation in which I had to draw on cels. It’s an incredibly complicated thing. I made a camel walking across the screen and all this stuff. It was two or three minutes of film. My instructor said, “Did it come out the way you wanted it to?” and I said, “Yes, and that’s the problem.” It didn’t give me any surprises. The thing with paint is that there is always a surprise. Even with drawing there is a little surprise depending on how you hold the pencil. That’s what I love about paint. It leads you. The camera leads you. The darkroom leads you.
Whirligig: When you are isolating a particular element in an image what are you thinking about?
Marion: It is a matter of how do we see? How do we perceive as we do? Why do we perceive what we do?