Curtis Hans Miller — A feeling for photography

Local artist Curtis Hans Miller displays his eclectic style through “Selective Focus,” a print photography collection currently on display in the Munro Gallery located inside the Bobbit Center for the Arts.

Miller’s works are far from unfamiliar to the halls of the Bobbit Center. Year after year, his pieces find their way onto walls of the Munro and Dickinson galleries.  At Albion College, Miller was an art major, though he did not set out to be one. He started with a general course of study, taking courses like Basic Ideas and various philosophy and literature classes.

“I took my first art class just in order to fulfill a humanities requirement,” Miller said.  “I was hooked in no time at all. Within a couple of weeks of making my first drawings, I think I knew I would be an artist.”

His passion for art initially drew him into working with landscape paintings using techniques involving pastels, encaustics and other oil paints. Although his passion for art led him to working with paintings, something was wrong.

“I switched from painting to photography during a hiatus from painting,” Miller said.  “I had been painting intensively for several years and needed a change of pace.”

Though he still enjoys working with pastels and other paints, he discovered, through experimentation, that photography was a highly-personal and expressive art form.

Throughout the exhibit, Miller achieved emotional and visual compatibility through a collaboration of sepia tone, diffuse photos that share a common thread by using a feature known to photographers as selective focus.

Miller’s works remind me of another American photographer: Landscape photographer Kevin Winzeler, who also uses landscape photography as a mean of personal voice and expression.

The title of the exhibit, ‘Selective Focus,’ was chosen because many of the photos chosen for display were taken using a selective focus lens. This specific lens is sharp in only a small area of the frame and diminishes the rest of the frame out of focus by creating various degrees of distortion. For examples of this technique, please reference the photos titled “Barn Blurred,” “Fire Cut” and “Receding Fence Line.”

Many of the other photos on display were shot using conventional lenses that show different styles of depth and angle. Miller says in an introduction that shallow depth of field is achieved by simply using a larger aperture when exposing the photograph, but it acknowledges a way of seeing that is not normal to us. For examples of this technique, please reference the photos “Hydrangea Blossom Single,” “Hydrant” and “Angel.”

One of the most intriguing aspects of the prints on display was their visual performance. Miller’s works gently tap the viewer’s curiosity and bring forth a sense of nostalgia through simple photos that take one back in time.

Although some of his photos are portrayed under an austere light, others have subtle qualities that reveal existence and the withering effects of Mother Nature throughout time.

You can see the effects and destructive force of weather in the photo titled “Hydrant.” This piece is especially interesting because of its character. It almost resembles an old man who has aged with time. Even though this photo was not shot with a special lens, I was still able to look into the cracking paint and ridges built into the hydrant as if they were tangible.

To fully experience Miller’s exquisite but pseudo-vintage photography, you must visit this exhibit. The Gallery will have his works on display until Oct. 20. I highly recommend this exhibit to photographers and admirers alike. It truly represents how wonderful local art can be. But, to fully understand the emotion of these photos, there must be active thought taking place. Behind each painting lies an artist, and behind each artist lies emotional thought.

Check out Curtis Hans Miller’s website here:

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