Keith Ramsdell uses long-exposure photography to create minimal seascape washes. He relies on the essential aspects of minimalism—line, shape and texture—to form greyscale images that are affecting in their simplicity. His work represents natural elements and manmade structures in congruence, reducing these parts of the landscape to their purest form. Each image conveys an almost surreal sense of stillness and balance that cannot be disturbed.
The ocean serves as Keith’s primary inspiration, and the predominant location of his work. A surfer since he was five years old, Keith has always lived and worked in close proximity to the water. His camera and surfing gear are never far from him. He attempts to capture his sensory experience of the beach, seizing on isolated subjects such as the granular surface of the sand, the undulations of the surf, a gnarled piece of driftwood, or the seemingly endless stretch of a dock.
Working in black and white allows Keith to detach himself from the chaotic reality of color. The technique of long-exposure photography elicits the subtle gradations of light and shadow that permeate his nature studies as well as his architectural subjects. Keith settles into and gets acquainted with a chosen site, by observing a place from different vantage points and through shifting degrees of light over time. He shoots with a combination of film and digital equipment, relying primarily on a manual Hasselblad medium-format camera. Taking anywhere from minutes to several hours, these long exposures reflect a process that is slow and deliberate from start to finish.
Keith often waits weeks for the perfect combination of elements to come together in a shoot. Through his lens, violent tropical storms or massive winter waves crashing on the beach are transformed into quiet, introspective moments. Spontaneous atmospheric effects, like a seeping mist, the changing of tide or descending cloud cover, can alter the initial idea of a piece entirely. In each resulting photograph, his aim remains the same, however: to strike a simple balance between the seen and the unseen—the stark realities of nature and the subtleties of personal perception.