Creative Play Inspires Fine Art Photographer’s Work
Marietta photographer takes photographic images to another level with his masterful techniques in creating fine art photography.
There is something to be said for tenacity and determination in achievingsuccess coupled with the financial rewards it brings. This holds true for Marietta-based artist John Clemmer, who knows a thing or two about determination as he has fought for his place among successful photographers in the metro Atlanta marketplace.
However, Clemmer’s upbringing was a far cry from where life has taken him over the years. Clemmer, growing up in Kings Mountain, NC, realized his attraction to the arts through music during his middle school and high school years. He was encouraged by his band teacher, Joe Hedden, to pursue his gift for playing the clarinet beyond high school.
So in 1967 Clemmer auditioned for the Navy School of Music in Norfolk, VA, where he enlisted in the Navy with a guaranteed job as a musician. Clemmer’s tours of duty took him to Naples, Italy; Orlando, FL; Charleston, SC; Annapolis, MD; and Pearl Harbor, HI.
While in Annapolis, Clemmer recalls being on a trip to New York City with the Naval Academy Band when they stopped for a visit to the Museum of Modern Art.
“For the first time I saw the greats like Kandinsky, Dali, Picasso and Duchamp on a wall in front of me, and I was spellbound,” Clemmer says of his first experience with fine arts.
While in Annapolis, Clemmer had two daughters, Katy and Robin, for whom he rushed out and purchased a set of water colors; however, he became so enthralled by the paint set that he had to invest in a real set for his own use.
This was a time of exploration for Clemmer as he gravitated to the concept of abstracts in his paintings. He recalls a popular artist once telling him to continue his self-study of the arts: “You’re on the right track; you don’t need to take any lessons.”
Clemmer heeded the advice, not knowing exactly how it would play into his professional career later down the road.
While stationed in Hawaii in the late 1980s, Clemmer stumbled across a new love and passion along with his love affair with music. In 1988, he purchased a Minolta 7000i autofocus camera, took a few pictures and immediately "something clicked" inside him.
“It was like an awakening. … I knew I wanted to become a photographer when I got out of the Navy three years later,” Clemmer said of his new interest.
At first it was a hobby–an expensive hobby, Clemmer admits, as film stock was the only format available at the time. But his love for the craft grew as he honed his skills, taking hundreds upon hundreds of rolls of film focusing on the natural beauty Hawaii had to offer.
But like his former work with painting, Clemmer’s photography gravitated to the abstract. He found his creative eye through the lens using reflections to create new and interesting images.
In 1992, Clemmer attended the Portfolio Center in Buckhead, referred by his brother Ray, also a photographer. The school focused on advertising in the fields of graphic design, art direction, illustration, copywriting and photography. There, Clemmer would learn about the equipment needed to perform the jobs he wanted to do.
“My creative juices were stimulated at the school,” Clemmer says of the use of props and creating sets for class assignments.
In 1994, Clemmer officially started his business, setting out to find his place among the other photography professionals in the Atlanta landscape. He began by assisting advertising photographers around Atlanta, which he says was the best on-the-job training he could have received. Several of the photographers were architectural "shooters," which gave him a different experience behind the camera.
Clemmer says he soon realized he had an eye for architectural photography and that he could not only do it, but do it well. During this time from 1994 to 2004, Clemmer leased a studio with the Artisan Resource Center, as he continued working to develop and perfect his own application of his trade of photography with his craft of the arts; what emerged was a unique blend of photographic images meshed with artistic genius.
Though Clemmer says he continued his exploration of his photographic artistic expression for self-satisfaction early on, his work soon took on a shape and style that spoke uniquely to his vision. He worked tirelessly to develop techniques that transpose images onto plexiglass and another to print images on aluminum.
Clemmer’s discoveries have come through what he considers to be "creative play," where he gives himself the freedom to play around with the camera while exploring different media he comes into contact with.
“It doesn’t matter what you photograph, it’s how you see it,” Clemmer says to his students.
Inspired by anything that moves him, Clemmer is constantly on the lookout for the next odd or different thing that grabs his attention, worthy of capturing in his lens.
For aspiring photographers and photographic artists, perhaps Clemmer put it best, “Inspiration happens.”