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Meet An Artist: Interview with Donald Verger

Donald Verger

Donald Verger, a Maine photographer, recently took the time to speak with Calendars.com as part of our Meet an Artist series. All of Donald Verger’s 2011 Calendars can be found on our site. Donald is often compared to Ansel Adams because of the fine details in his landscape shots. I personally find myself asking, “How long did he have to stay there to get that shot?” while trying to imagine myself behind the camera of his art.

Daniel Cheever, art collector and President of Simmons College says this about Donald:

This talented, award winning photographer is one of those once-in-a-lifetime artists whose work establishes their reputation for generations to come.

Friend and assistant of Donald, Anne Bryant, wrote a beautiful introduction explaining Donald to me:

His kind spirit and generous nature verify his reputation as a philanthropist and all-around great Mainer. It seems the theme here is anticipation, patience, and truth. Verger’s photography is untouched by the likes of editing software, and he relies on the camera to set the boundaries of his photographs. The result? A painterly approach that has been compared to that of Ansel Adams; an heirloom calendar you’ll treasure, with more on the way.

An Interview With Donald Verger

I’d like to answer your last question first: NINJA over pirates!

What is your name?
Donald Verger. Friends call me Don.

Where are you from?
I’m a New Yorker, born in Brooklyn.

When did you start taking pictures, and do you have an early shot that you remember fondly?
As a child I owned a Kodak camera that I’d take with me to the Bronx Zoo. I’d wait with huge anticipation for the elephants to come into view so I could get photos of them. After taking the photos, you had to send the negatives away for developing, and the prints would arrive as at tiny album with beautiful serrated edges.

What are some unique organizational tips that you feel help you through your day?
I’m always in the mindset and sensibility of seeing actively as an artist and a photographer, so, I always have my camera with me. I used to actively think, but now intuitively act in a way that answers the question, “What do I want to see and what do I want to leave out of the photograph?” What’s left is the essence of the image.

Which calendar are you selling this year?
The Donald Verger Fine Art Poster Calendar with luminous landscapes, views of Maine seascapes from Acadia National Park to Portland Headlight and Nubble Lighthouse, and others that I’ve taken all around New England. Mostly Maine, but also some great shots from New Hampshire and Vermont.

Do you plan on making more calendars in the future?
Definitely. It’s also an affordable, accessible way for more people to own prints of my photography. I’ve already submitted my latest 2011 calendar to Calendars.com, a collection of Nubble Lighthouse photographs at all times of year in a convenient desk size. We’re currently working on 2012 calendars, including a calendar that is entirely botanical, or flower, photographs. I’ll be staying with poster calendar formats, as 7 or 8 artists I really respect have made this a cherished tradition of collectable calendars. It’s been a great way to select out of my 200,000 or so photographs just 12 that stand together to mark the year.

What moves or inspires you to take pictures?
Rather than to capture, I try to hold moments of beauty- to be present in places and moments that are exquisitely beautiful. Dawn of Peace was that moment- it was 30 degrees below zero and dawn was breaking. I try to find that light that is ethereal and magical, and quietly hold it.

What do you feel makes your approach to photography different from other photographers? What other artists inspire you?
I frame the picture in the moment and avoid cropping and editing. I don’t use photoshop for editing and so my photographs are importantly real, I would never recreate a sky or work from memory. My photographs are True.

Time-wise, I go out when most people are going or staying in. The end-of-day light is most special, luminous and full of character. I also like the tug of war between the rain and the sun as the rain ends. There’s an amazing mood and atmosphere that accompanies that moment.
I enjoy and am empowered by the colors and energy of Van Gogh- his image of a swirling night sky is a very powerful image to me. Likewise, I draw from Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings of botanicals and flowers and think she was ground-breaking. Ansel Adams of course, and his true love for landscapes, has always been inspiring. When critics have compared me to Ansel Adams, I know I’m doing something right. He had a way of capturing the sublime- the impossible landscapes of the West. Maine is a craggy, rough, cherished place, too. We have a lot in common.

We know that “Dawn of Peace,” the cover photograph of your calendar, is one of your more famous images. Tell us the story of that photo – where are you and what was it like to capture this moment?
It was extraordinary to hold that moment and to witness it. I had noticed on cold mornings in inland Maine that the cold morning air sometimes caused fog across the Penobscot Bridge. Sometimes the cold air is over relatively warm water and it causes “sea smoke.” I went out early in the morning on December 14, 2004 to Thompson Lake, in negative 20 degree weather, just before dawn. I took the image as the sun rose, and the air filled with wild sea smoke. The island you see there is Goat Island. A series of beautiful photographs resulted, and the first image sold first for $1000. “Dawn of Peace” also sold for $1000, and the money from those photographs was donated to Unicef.
It’s funny that we’re talking about Dawn of Peace, because I had just been discussing this with our local photography critic from the Portland Press Herald. He called and put his young son on the phone who told me that he saw the photo at a local restaurant where I have a print hanging. This child had called to tell me he was moved by it- and it’s definitely a photograph for which I have received a lot of acclaim for how moving it is.

Which is your favorite shot?
Well, keeping in mind that the calendars’ images are selected from over 200,000 and that I like most of them a lot… it’s very hard to say. I took them all carefully and at special moments. Dawn of Peace has a special place of course, and of all my photographs it’s the most iconic and what I’m most known for. I do love the March image, it’s an ethereal gorgeous shot, with no photoshop of course, of the often photographed Little White Church in New Hampshire. I remember it was raining over the ice during the spring melt- I think the shot of that church has special meaning for me. That same sea smoke is present in that image to make it mystical. Another favorite is December’s image, has the quiet beauty of winter fog over the ocean at Portland Headlight. Another favorite- November’s image of Bass Harbor headlight in Acadia, I’m actually headed there today.

Lastly, Ninjas or Pirates?
I’m not kidding about the Ninjas.
Donald Verger

Buy Donald Verger’s Calendar here.

Donald Verger
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