Charles Blackburn is a photographer who owns a commercial studio in Seattle.
Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating? What mediums do you use?
Charles Blackburn: In 1980, I studied fine art photography at Phoenix College with famed photographer/artist Allen Dutton. In 1986, I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Commercial Photography from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. After graduation, I worked as a studio manager for a top photographer in Los Angeles before being recruited to shoot at a major photo studio in the Midwest. In late 1993 I moved to Seattle to open my own studio working with clients such as Nordstrom, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Amazon, Eddie Bauer and John Deere, to name a few. Besides my commercial images, I also focus on creating fine art photography and capturing images of the American landscape, such as old towns, buildings, people signage.
I take all digital photos with a variety of cameras including Leica, Fuji, Canon and Sony. I collect camera bags.
Can you tell us about your process and how the different stages go through it?
In my personal photography, my process stems from being on the open road and exploring rural areas on lost highways.
Tell us where your inspiration for your art comes from.
My interest in history plays a big role in my inspiration to document America. Historic structures and old neon signs disappear every day, and there were times when I photographed a sign, and a month later it was gone. It’s heartbreaking.
The history of photography also influences me. I am a photography book collector and often look to ancestors for photographic inspiration.
Do you have a specific genre/rhythm that you prefer — travel, food, nature, etc. ?
I enjoy all aspects of photography, from landscapes to documentary, from street photography to still life. I really don’t think you have to master just one discipline. For me, that would be boring. It’s about how you see and interpret light, composition, and the world around you. My style is my vision.
What experiences in your life have influenced your art the most?
When I was studying at Phoenix College, my teacher, Allen Dutton, would take us to ghost towns around Arizona. It was during these trips that I learned to “see”. The funny thing is that now when I go to revisit some of these cities, they look so different from when I was 20. In reality, they have changed very little.
In 2019, I did a four-day solo road trip from Davenport, Iowa to southern Missouri, crossed Missouri three times, then continued into the southern part of Kansas. From there I went south into Oklahoma, then west to the Texas Panhandle. Then south into Texas and east to Texarkana. When you travel alone, you enter a state of consciousness that you don’t get when traveling with a partner. The kilometers pass and you see everything in front of you. You meet and photograph people you may never see again. These images were used in my last exhibition with Leica.
If we want to see more of your work, where should we go to find it?
My Instagram is @charlesblackburngallery. My business website is www.blackburnpictures.com. You can email me directly for signed and numbered prints or purchase unsigned prints from my gallery’s website, www.blackburn.gallery.
What’s next for you? Something you’re working on right now that you’re really passionate about?
I just finished an exhibition at the Leica Store in Bellevue which featured 16 images and an artist talk. My next series is a collection of large prints composed in square format from my travels across America. I hope to find a great place to show them.
Finally, how do you drink your coffee? (We ask everyone!)
I take my coffee, “Black as Midnight on a Moonless Night”.
About ‘Artist of the Week’: Seattle may be known for its niche cafes and scenic waterways, but locals know it’s also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is full of artists that we love to feature every week on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at [email protected] And if you’re wondering what constitutes art, that’s the beauty of it; It’s yours! Find all our former Artists of the week in our dedicated section.