Between Seer and Seen
Celebrating the Artists of Santa Barbara County
Photographed by Mark Robert Halper from January to December of 2012, and comprised of 71 portraits and 15 still life images, this collection of portraits provides an intimate view into the artist on their home ground. Captured in honest moments, this visual insight offers the opportunity at a deeper understanding of the artistic temperament.
In their transformation from the creators of art to portrait subjects, the “seers,” who make the art and are the subjects of my portraiture, become the “seen.” The concept of “seer and seen” embodies the notion that the interpretation of art is largely about perspective.
From the Introduction
by Barry Spacks
Part of the pleasure of enjoyment here stems from the unending variety of approach from image to image in portraying art-workers, and also from the inclusion of cherished items of the artist’s trade: brushes, a venerable tube of raw sienna, a band-saw. Most important, surely, through all these improvisations of approach, portrait to portrait, is the overall strategic choice of sepia as medium, giving exceptional spirit-depth to the folks portrayed, a congregation of makers of visual display from a single community blessed by its setting between mountain and sea, by its sunshine, progressive politics, eclectic taste and cultural energy.
Just as folks gather in a kitchen on a social occasion, so we feel a visceral draw toward an artist’s work-space, usually a studio where the magic we call creativity occurs. Just as the kitchen feeds our bodies, so an artist’s studio feeds the soul, or if that’s too grand a word, say at least that it helps to keep alive the part of us that sometimes wonders if it had been a wise move to leave kindergarten, kindergarten with its glockenspiel and drumsticks, milk and cookies, mat and nap, and especially its massive bottles of paint to schlosh around.
I mean, of course, that childlike capacity to love and pursue the joy of pure “making” for its own sake, as opposed to sweating the bottom line. We get a kick from visiting artistic workshops and hanging out with creative people, a special enlivening charge wherever and whenever meaningful play goes on. So, at least, says the school that vaunts art as jazz. Much art, in fact, in varied media, could be categorized under the convenient umbrella-phrase “meaningful play.”
And so we meet here a group of artists on their common ground. Santa Barbara happens to be one of those blessed towns like Santa Fe, New York, the Bay Area, where many practice the passion of invention for its own sake. It’s the sort of territory where a safe opening gambit in a conversation with a stranger could well be “what’s your art?” The spirit of making is alive in these parts. How often we hear people confess, usually sadly, that they haven’t time for the expressive medium they once practiced. “Oh, if I could get back to dance…to cooking…assemblage.” Ah, if only we’d held on to some of that creative zeal naturally fueling us in kindergarten.
Sunlight and water
Celebrating the Winemakers of Santa Barbara County
The intimate winemaker portraits that comprise Sunlight and Water rejoice in the romance of wine country, the passion of the vintners, and the artistry of great wine. This 128 page hard cover book was released in 2010, and includes 110 portraits stunningly presented on thick matte paper.
From August of 2010 to February of 2011, Sunlight and Water transformed eight tasting rooms, a restaurant, and a hotel in downtown Los Olivos into a Meandering Gallery experience showcasing Mark Robert Halper’s portraits of Santa Barbara County winemakers. The six month photographic exhibition opened to coincide with the book release of Sunlight and Water.
There were more than twenty wine and art related events throughout Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties featuring Sunlight and Water that were part of the era of the Los Olivos Meandering Gallery. Many of these events raised money for local charities, including the opening event, benefiting the Valley Foundation, and the closing event, which was in support of Return to Freedom.
From the Introduction
by Anthony Dias Blue
A photographer uses the camera lens to make a point, to open a window, to unlock a secret. The photographic portrait is an expression, an interpretation, yes but, if it digs deep enough, if it is skillful enough, it becomes the person. This was expressed by the brilliant portraitist Lucian Freud. “I know my idea of portraiture came from dissatisfaction with portraits that resemble people,” he said. “I wish my portraits to be of the people, not like them. Not having the look of the sitter, beingthem. I don’t want to get just a likeness like a mimic, but portray them, like an actor. As far as I am concerned the portrait is the person.”
Mark Robert Halper is a masterful portraitist who has observed a world — the wine culture of Santa Barbara — and populated it with real people. He has illustrated what I discovered in the cellars of Burgundy and in years of knowing these special people. Look in their eyes. Look closely.
Wine is a magical substance, but writing or talking about it in the abstract can be monotonous. It is the people behind the wine that give it life. To fully understand a wine it is helpful to know the person who made it. Often a wine seems to be infused with the personality of the winemaker.
This beautifully realized book is an achievement on several levels. It is a lovely work of art; it is a dramatic exposition of a time and a place; it is about sunlight and water; and it is about wine. How is it about wine when there are no pictures of wine? Just look in their eyes. Look closely.
A New Tradition of Family Portraiture
Lovingly curated from the family portraits Mr. Halper created during the first five years of Halper Fine Art (2008-2012), these 96 portraits are filled with the joy and intimacy of family.
Presented over 128 hard bound pages, selected images are interspersed with poignant, moving, and often humorous text that was shared with Mr. Halper by the families he photographed.
Visually influenced by the timeless quality of mid-century photography, and punctuated by quotes shared by some of the families in the book, this emotionally uplifting collection is truly inspiring.
From the Introduction
by the Reverend Grace Park
Portraits embolden the memories that are imprinted in our minds and souls by those who come and walk with us on our journeys.
Mark Robert Halper possesses an incredible gift.
Through his lens, we can sit back and adore those whom we choose to cherish and remember. He has the hands and the mind of an artist who can see far beyond his lens, and still those moments we long to treasure. From the moment he greeted us in his studio, as he was capturing our images, and to the polishing afterwards, he carefully crafted the story of our family and captured us in that moment in time.
It is he who will freeze those very special glances, the twinkle, the mystery and the essence of the person who lies behind the eyes. Mark gifts us with our legacies — he gives them to us in portraits so unique and meaningful.
So, through these pictures, we remember with joy each scar, each wrinkle, the crooked nose, and the winsome smile that leave indelible marks on our souls.
They are ours to keep.