Biography

About Me

It all started in an eighth grade creative writing class. I was working on a research paper about the Chattahoochee river and decided to include some photographs. Armed with a Kodak Instamatic camera and embarrassingly chaperoned by my mother, I drifted down the river in a rented inflatable raft. That day, I snapped through a roll of film as the water pulled me along. When I got the prints back, I was awestruck. My hands held the same images that I had seen days earlier. Sorting through the small square photographs, I realized that my life had suddenly changed.

I went on to Episcopal High School, a boarding school in Alexandria VA. There, I studied, played sports, and took pictures, but mostly took pictures – for the yearbook, the newsletter…for whomever. At UNC/Chapel Hill, my plan was to major in physics until I showed a D in that subject. Shooting and working in the Daily Tar Heel darkroom consumed my life. It was time to transfer. At Brooks Institute of Photography, in Santa Barbara CA, I thrived.

Fascinated with the physical and chemical processes of photography, I majored in Color Technology, but my passion for those moments alone with my camera kept burning, so I kept shooting. I moved to New York City where I opened a custom Cibachrome photo lab. During business hours I made reproduction quality prints for artists such as Andres Serrano and Sandy Skoglund. In the early morning hours or at dusk, I would explore abstract compositions in New York’s urban environs.

Eventually, I left the print-making business and moved back home to Georgia, where I turned my lens to nature. Through forests, meadows, and colorful undergrowth, I found mysterious images that our mundane daily visions overlook.

I have taught at The Showcase School and The Portfolio Center, both in Atlanta. Now, I work full-time as an independent fine art photographer. For the past several years, I have been exploring the intricacies of ice and the unseen life in reflections and refractions. In short, find the images only the camera sees.

About my Work

I explore, capture, and adjust (sometimes heavily), but I do not distort. Any distortion or abstractions you see were all created by the subject matter and by the properties of light. I found these images in areas around my home in Georgia, in the mountains of North Carolina, or along the Southern coast. Where I shoot is not as important as my state of mind. With a mind at peace, I fall in love with what I see, and I can photograph anywhere.

Artist’s Statement

With my camera, I reveal images unseen through our normal human vision. I explore plants, flowers, ice, light, motion… almost anything in which I can discover new images.

Previous to this body of work, I had been shooting urban abstracts. My photographs were clearly defined and showed exactly what I saw. Then one day, I was photographing architectural details at E. Rivers Elementary school in Atlanta, and I decided to push my camera into a small boxwood to see if I could still see a discernable image. Although the image in the viewfinder was greatly distorted, I could still see the building details.

From that experience, I was intrigued with this new vision and began pressing parts of flowers or plants against the front of my camera lens, while shooting botanicals. Those petals or stems were so close to the lens and so far out of focus, I could no longer see them, but the distortion they provided changed the image. No longer was a flower, just a flower. It was a flower that appeared to vibrate or dissolve away. Realism gave way to impressionism and abstraction.

The ice and water images have different elements of distortion. What is interesting about many of the ice images, is that the focus is not on the surface of the ice. Shifting the focus in front of, or behind the ice surface, reveals images that are only occurring inside my camera lens. I am no longer photographing just the ice. I’m capturing reflections and refractions as the light passes from sun to ice to camera lens. In essence, I am capturing light itself.

I’ve photographed just about everything from sunsets, to sporting events and landscapes. I no longer care to document those images, no matter how spectacular. I want to see the unseen.

We are constantly exploring realms of the unknown: space, science, philosophy, etc… I am no different than the rest of humanity. I simply use the tool I know best, the camera.

-Billy Newman

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