"Almost all photographers I have ever seen try to be too clever with their technique, they miss the idea of art altogether and do not even consider it. Even though they have all the tools, they miss the mark and fail to communicate anything at all, the work being empty and devoid of spirit. Therefore I hardly look at photography unless something forces me to; painters, it seems to me, are decidedly better at being real communicators because they are coming from a more non-technical place." -- Gordon Hiebert
Gordon Hiebert Photography has been around for many years under a few different business names. But all that has settled down to just using his real name. From the beginning, when Gordon became interested in photography, he decided to get his hands wet, printing his own color prints in the darkroom thus bypassing black and white altogether. This of course sped up the learning curve and he became reasonably good quite quickly. As a result local galleries in Chilliwack had no trouble hanging his pictures because they would sell. For example over a thousand pictures of the CNR Station in Chilliwack have sold, and one was even sent by the city to Charles Schultz in the early 80's. This is the one:
Also, one if his early 35mm prints, of all things, won Best of Show at a Chilliwack Chatauqua event. Quite overwhelming for someone just starting out! Here it is:
In addition to gallery work he went on the road and sold at many arts and crafts events as far away as Alberta. Once moving to Alberta due to available work, after a dry spell of discouragement, he decided to branch into panorama photography of the prairies. This has worked so well, being such an exciting venue, that he has not stopped building the library of images.
If you pass through Red Deer you can actually visit Gordon's home workshop and see all the available, currently published, work hanging on the studio walls.
Gordon Hiebert (1948- )
Gordon is one of a small handful of photographers worldwide who specialize in panorama photography - wide angle views of the landscape. A panorama image tends to match what a person sees within their peripheral vision when standing at any outdoor location, something the standard type of image cannot do. Much of his work is of the Alberta prairies with a strong preference for inclement weather, so you will see many tumultuous skies and wind-blown landscapes. He also has a liking for the old-world buildings left by the original homesteaders. All of his work reflects a Christian world viewpoint.
The tools of his trade in the past have been swing-lens panorama film cameras, medium format, and more recently higher-end digital cameras as well.
Gordon has worked in the field of photography since 1978. Having his own color darkroom from the very beginning, he has always made his own prints. He often displays his work in fine art galleries or participates in juried art shows. During these latter events he likes to spend time talking to visitors about the principles of art and color rather than camera technique. This is because no expertise with equipment alone can reproduce the spirit of a scene, it takes much more than that.
Presently he has a small studio in Red Deer, Alberta, where besides building his image library, he makes his own picture frames in a wood workshop. His catalog of over 350 fine art images ranges from abstract to landscape stills to very large panoramas. Normally in public viewings he brings out only his panoramas; this is his main focus. Currently published, immediately available, work can be viewed at www.gordonhiebert.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/gordonhiebertphotography.
Condensed slightly from a recent Interview
To get a real sense of Alberta’s prairies, you need look no further than Gordon Hiebert's dramatic landscapes. His collection of panoramic photographs captures the stirring prairie skies, the excitable changes and grandeurs of the weather, with the still remnants of abandoned homesteads, and that charming character old buildings, grain elevators and vehicles have as they grow old gracefully. You can almost feel the spirit and drama of what has been of the land, as laying farm equipment decays under lush greenery.
For Gordon, the emotions that come across in his prints represent what is in his own spirit. “I have a sense of history as I go exploring, although I am not specifically trying to create historical records, but the history draws me in. I can feel it in the soil and in the artifacts. At times at an empty corral I have touched the ground and felt the pounding of hooves and heard the lowing of many cattle even though there is nothing around but an abandoned farm.”
Almost never looking at other photography, but rather in paintings, post Impressionism is where he finds inspiration. He admits “I love Alfred Stieglitz though, the father of us all, his work was ethereal and more than the sum of its parts. I sometimes wish we could go back to the old, more laborious ways of producing a print, so that people would be forced to think and imagine.” Adding to his explanation “Garry Winogrand was an exquisite street photographer. He could say something with almost nothing. Vivian Maier, discovered posthumously, it is mindblowing. These photographers demonstrate my primary rule: Say as much as you can with as little as you can.”
In 4th grade Gordon Hiebert vividly recalls watching a film about the Group of Seven, from then becoming highly inspired by this group of Canadian landscape painters. He remembers the fall scenes, the beautiful way they represented landscapes. Apart from that moment, there did not seem to be an artistic bone in his body.
In his late twenties Gord began to discover an enormous need to express himself after a huge personal loss, and bought himself a cheap 35mm Canon camera, and then a much better medium format Mamiya. But he found it very difficult for me to learn to use the camera as a tool for self expression. A year of trying led to a complete meltdown caused by total frustration of not being able to present a landscape with the power he felt he wanted to convey. He came out of that with some real insights into how the camera can work as an expressive tool.
He began to successfully sell his work in galleries and juried art shows but had to leave that for awhile to raise a family, finally moving to Alberta. After a number of years, and with extra time on his hands he noticed some very interesting aspects of prairie landscape and weather, so took up photography again with some trepidation, wondering if the inspiration was still there.
“All of my work up until 2013 was film. In 2012 and 2013 I converted all of my images to digital because color chemical darkroom equipment was no longer available. I now have a digital darkroom.” Gord had always mixed his own chemicals and developed his own film and prints, using the Kodak darkroom process. “I have endeavoured to refine the digital process to give me the same results as the chemical process did. The same wonderful look and feel that are my roots.”
With a collection of cameras, ranging from a medium format Mamiya RB67 (6x7cm film), a Noblex swing lens camera. and a Rolleiflex twin-lens camera to a digital Canon 5DMkII, he explains how digital photographs are different from analog. “Film is quite forgiving. Not so with digital. Lights and darks lose detail, it’s not the same as film at all. I had to work for several years learning to get film-like results in digital cameras but in the end I succeeded.”
Gordon Hiebert has been a photographer for 38 years, and recalls the highlight of his career was getting that first panorama image “Approaching Storm”. Since then he has been hooked on panorama, the format was exactly what he had been looking for. Expressing that “It turns out that the panorama view is reflective of what a person sees in real life due to their peripheral vision.” It has been a gradual climb and while he received initial recognition in the 1980’s he has put all that out of his mind. “My work is completely different now.”
Nowadays his photography has him attending up to thirty shows a year, making this a full-time career. And we can expect a lot more from Gord Hiebert in the near future, possibly publishing his own coffee table book of prairie panoramas and a how-to book on art photography. Wanting to participate in larger events, he is also working on more prints of old grain elevators, and plans to do some photography of the coast, and of BC landscapes, more waterfalls too. If opportunity arises he will try for wild horses, he says “I have no panoramas of the Rockies yet, and am working on it. A definitive mountain print is at the top of the list right now.”