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Todd Walker

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Todd Walker
contemporary photography
American, (1917–1998)
Todd Walker (1917-1998) first encountered photography through his father who worked as a draughtsman and architect on movie sets. This early exposure to film and film production was the spark that started his passionate exploration of photography. Walker began his extensive career at R.K.O. studios as a painter’s apprentice, working on black-and-white movie sets where he garnered an appreciation for tonality which would reemerge later in his artistic expressions. Next working with Shirley Burden, the two produced instructional films for military planes igniting in Walker a fascination with machines and mechanical processes. During World War II Walker himself served as a flight instructor for the Army Air Corps. After his service in the 1950’s, he set up as a freelance photographer producing innovative Ektacolor print ads for Chevrolet and winning annual awards from the ASMP. His personal instruction continued, first as student then teacher at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, which subsequently led to a joint teaching opportunity at UCLA with Robert Heinecken and Robert Fitcher. In 1970, Walker ended his advertising career to focus solely on his creative expression. He accepted a position at the University of Florida Gainesville and stayed there until 1977 when he moved back west to become a leading staff member in the newly established photography department at the University of Arizona Tucson. Walker was a prolific American photographer, printmaker, bookmaker, and innovator. He pushed conventional boundaries and expanded attitudes toward creative photography. He helped move American art away from the objective priorities of modernist photography by countering natural color and tangible space. He experiments with and makes visible a variety of developing and printing techniques, such as sabattier/solarization and offset lithography printing as seen in L204 Near Alamogordo. In this photo Walker explores the power of color especially how one color responds to and changes another. He worked not with a preconceived idea, but in a series of reactions to the last line printed exemplifying his view of the world as a field of cause and effect. Walker illustrates the play between reality and mystery by balancing photography’s obsession with verism and then manipulating the scene whose elements are often spatial but whose space becomes impossible to define. His goal was ultimately not to experiment with the technique itself as much as with the technique’s ability to express his perception of the world as a place of flux and change, defined in terms of processes and interactions, patterns of action and reaction, stimulus and response. His emphasis on line and often flattened illusionistic space remind us we are looking at a constructed world subject to human interpretation. To Walker, the meaningful world he aimed to capture in his photos was that which is perceived by humans and can be taken apart and reassembled to create a distinctly human expression.

Bonny Siler '15, Turk Intern, Scripps College, academic year, 2013-2014


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