Inspired by visual wonders in cinematography and still photography, the 1968 LACMA Exhibition “Dada and Surrealism”, and especially the instruction of Jerry McMillan, Steve migrated from philosophy and film studies at U.C.L.A, to still photography. Photographing at every opportunity and later teaching it became his life’s work.
An ardent student of ancient and contemporary human endeavors, as well as the natural world, he photographs most often throughout the American Southwest and Central America.
He instructed field workshops for the University of California, Santa Cruz Extension from 1977 through 2007. In 1981, while serving as an assistant to Polaroid Corporation and Ansel Adams on the first major field expedition of their 20 x 24 instant camera in Yosemite National Park, he became involved with The Ansel Adams Gallery. From 1984 to 1990, he was an active staff member and a past director of their annual workshop, and in 2002 served as a co-coordinator for the Ansel Adams Centennial Symposium in Yosemite, “Edges and Intersections: The Evolution of Change”. Devoted to facilitating art and education in Central California for the last thirty-five years, he has served as curator, juror, and consultant for many exhibitions, competitions, and media events, in addition to teaching photography full-time at Fresno City College.
In 1979, he expanded the idea of a local gallery by gathering together charter members to create Spectrum Art Gallery, a non-profit, cooperative still providing valuable services to the community.
Through a multitude of one-person and group shows, Steve Dzerigian’s works have been exhibited throughout the United States in venues such as the Chautauqua Art Association Gallery, N.Y.; Central Washington University; Light Impressions Gallery, Rochester, N.Y.; The University of Oregon Museum of Art, Eugene, Ore.; Fresno Metropolitan Museum; Spectrum Art Gallery, Fresno, Ca.; The Ansel Adams Gallery, Yosemite, Monterrey, & Mumm Napa Valley; the U.C., Center, and the Nikon House, New York City. The Ansel Adams Gallery at the Highlands Inn, Carmel; the de Saisset Gallery of Santa Clara University; and three Solo shows at the Fresno Art Museum. His work has been seen in “LensWork Quarterly”, “Black & White” Magazine, “Color” Magazine, “Photography” by London, Stone, & Upton, and “Exploring Color Photography” by Robert Hirsch.
Words more often than not arrive after the fact for Steve Dzerigian. At some early point he realized that as he made photographs, he digested stimuli and experience more quickly and completely than his conscious thought could grasp.
Some photographers, like Steve, inevitably choose to make images by leading with intuition…responding to the experiences before them with an immediate progression of unforced feelings and thoughts rather than leading with conscious preconceptions.
Paradoxically, authentic connection with the subject matter of an image tends to recede when we pursue it too actively. It often appears that subjects tend to reveal themselves to us more on their own terms when we are “passively” receptive. Force of will, on the part of the artist, may often dominate the image content of their finished piece. While this works very well for some, those photographers who hope to convey more of their subject’s nature lean toward less control rather than more. In other words… flowing with the current rather than against it or listening more than talking. Steve allows himself to drift away from excessive deliberateness or conscious, internal dialogue so that the empirical and intuitive can become his guides.
He tends to use an inductive reasoning approach. Inductive reasoning is usually described as moving from the particular to the general, versus deductive reasoning moving from a general idea or concept to particular examples. A visual statement or idea is formed only after accumulating many individual examples sharing commonality. These emerge as he works without a preconceived plan. Once enough examples reveal a pattern, conscious decisions are then integrated as he proceeds with a series while maintaining as much of the original spontaneity and openness as possible.
His series, “The Human Landscape” addresses aspects of our influence in the world, including evidence that seems to reveal human nature. Human impact on the natural environment and environments created by people reveal a variety of interactions between nature, time, and humanity. This body of work calls to attention some of these interactions: the process of making marks, constructions, destructions, attempting control of nature, nature's reclamations, and the search for meaning in it all.
Personal interpretation of events in the natural world forms a series called “Dialogues With Nature”. As with most of his past and current work, these are created during a process of confluence (“The photographer, for a fleeting moment or perhaps longer, actually feels a kinship with the object being photographed – object and photographer become one and the photograph mirrors that union.”… Richard D. Zakia, Perception and Imaging). Often, he works with subjects that invite a sort of Rorschach test… seeing in non-human things, qualities the human psyche suggests.
The “Visual Autobiography” series consists of images symbolizing significant psychological states or events. While working on other projects, Steve often feels compelled to physically participate with subject matter to make an image beyond the documentary approach that is common in much of his work. Without conscious evaluation during the making of the exposures, this intuitive compulsion is satisfied. The autobiographical significance of the images produced in this way is later recognized and organized chronologically. The results of this process form remarkably accurate entries in an on-going, visual diary.
"Encounters in Elemental Directions" are images made in simple, directional views of common eyesight while observing the world around him: ascending, approaching, and descending. Each subject is chosen because it symbolizes some psychological issue, whether personal or more general. As is so often the case when photographic artists shift to different bodies of work or projects, a little or a lot of what they have done before shows up in their current work. While working with one theme, the next theme inevitably appears. Thus “Encounters” is an outgrowth from his series of on-going work…“The Human Landscape”, “Dialogues With Nature”, and “Visual Autobiography”.
"Sense of Place" is a series where Steve uses an “Encounter” image as a thematic focal point. Photographs made in other directions from that spot are then juxtaposed in a vertical triptych offering the viewer some context to the photographer’s choice. Since each “Encounter” represents in some way a personally symbolic event, the “Sense of Place” triptychs reveal behind the scenes, autobiographical relationships to the space, time, and events of the subject matter.
Using simple, adapted meditation techniques in the process of observation, Steve Dzerigian follows intuitive feelings and hunches when exposing with the camera. These seem to flow from the reservoir of memory and the subconscious as quick reflexes or emerge gradually from a meditative or dreamlike state. Especially of interest to him are those perceptions, which seem to acknowledge yet transcend the surface of things.
"Logic of the Subconscious" is a growing series of shadow box constructions (30 to date) difficult to represent on this web site. Three-dimensionally layered, these constructed collages, juxtapose elements chosen to work together much like Robinson Jeffers described his masonry building technique, "Stone loving stone". In the construction of his "Tor" House in Carmel, California, Jeffers would choose, roll, and maneuver each irregularly shaped stone until it felt as though it was meant to fit with its neighbors in the wall. In Steve's series personally symbolic patterns emerged through the elements, placement, and combinations chosen spontaneously from piles of his miscellaneous, unmounted prints.
About the finished prints:
After developing the film by hand, wet darkroom, printing techniques are used to produce an image that strives to maintain an unbroken spirit of connection with the initial experience. Once an artist proof is created, he hand crafts in the same manner a small edition of archivally processed prints, which are then selenium toned for permanence, signed and numbered. With some pieces he applies color pencil. While consistency within an edition of hand-colored prints is employed to maintain important connections with the image content, some subtle variation is welcomed to make each print unique. The "Logic of the Subconscious" constructions" utilize cutting, pasting, and finally shadow box framing.
All photographs in the “Black and White” portfolios are produced in this manner. The photographs appearing in his “Color Gallery” are all from scanned, color slides or digital captures (dated 2007 or later) and available as prints using the most archival materials available.