“Photography is an all-consuming passion for me. It is my way of expressing the beauty of the world around us all. It is a real pleasure to be able to capture unique moments of beauty. I am attracted to landscapes that are calm and serene. I try to capture these feelings in a way where the experience has the effect similar to a deep breath fresh air. What I hope to accomplish is to create an experience of peace and relaxation when someone looks at my photographs."
Al DaValle, Photographer
DaValle took his first images in the 1960s, shooting with his father’s Brownie box and Exacta film cameras and later with a series of Polaroid cameras. The Illinois-based photographer was always intrigued with the expressiveness of the medium. As a regular reader of Life Magazine, he began experimenting and shooting what he describes as quiet landscapes and environmental portraits using a friend’s 35mm camera while in college. Shortly thereafter, Al’s wife gave him a Canon AE1 Program 35mm film camera as a wedding gift. “I have always loved looking at photographs. For me, there is something very special, even magical about the still image. The best ones capture the viewer’s interest immediately yet leave enough unsaid so that the viewer must engage in order to connect the dots and finish the story. This helps the viewer become invested in the image. It becomes personal.
“I was always very aware I had a deep interest in photography but for many reasons, not the least of which was time and money, I was never able to take the time to pursue it in a serious way.” explains DaValle. Soon after college graduation and getting married “life got in the way” and photography took a back seat to family and career.
It was in 2004 that DaValle rediscovered photography. He chaperoned his daughter’s choir group on a trip to New York City. DaValle took along a small digital point and shoot. Once home, he edited all the images and created a slide show of the trip. “I was immediately addicted! I absolutely loved capturing the personalities of the kids in a single image, a single moment in time.” Then, in 2005, once relatively high quality digital cameras became available DaValle decided to give photography a serious try. It was then he purchased his first DSLR, a Nikon D70 as well as several high quality lenses. He justified the hefty expenditure by initially using the new kit to capture images of his daughter’s high school dances, horseback riding and other events. In addition, DaValle is an avid and talented woodworker. DaValle combined his passions and utilized the equipment to take images of his artful furniture pieces. It wasn’t long thereafter that he was spending all his free time expanding his subject matter to include landscapes, portraiture and abstracts.
“From the first day, the purchase of that camera changed my life absolutely,” recalls DaValle. “The idea of instant feedback is part of my generation, and what digital has done for me is to very quickly shorten the learning curve. The technology side of digital lured me in initially but it is the artistic side of photography that continually challenges me and commands all my attention. I fell in love with photography and it has consumed all my free time ever since.”
DaValle has traveled extensively to capture a wide range of landscapes including the Alaskan fjords, Antarctica, the Patagonian Mountains, the Maine coastline, the deserts of the southwest, Scotland and much of Western Europe.
“I enjoy color photography. However, on many images, color gets in the way by providing almost too much information which results in a kind of sensory overload,” says DaValle. This explains his evolution towards simpler, more monochromatic and even B&W imagery. “My best images are the simplest ones, very stark, moody and often with little to detract from the main subject. I often like to use a slight duotone tint with my black and white images. I feel this adds a bit of mood. I will also sometimes add a slight softening to selective areas of the landscape to create even more atmosphere.”
While admitting that it is somewhat of a commonplace notion, DaValle says that it is the quality of light in a given image that most attracts his eye. “Without sounding trite, photography is all about light, and I tend to be attracted to very soft, ethereal light that creates a mood of peacefulness, solitude or even loneliness,” says DaValle. “Typically those are the kinds of moods I try to convey in my images.”
In addition to his more traditional landscape work, DaValle also likes to experiment with more abstract and graphic approaches to the medium. One of the artist’s most intriguing projects has been a series of pictures of saw dust and wood shavings he photographed in his wood shop. DaValle's abstracts are an innovative take on the everyday world that is within our grasp.
DaValle’s imagery has been showcased in several publications (Lenswork and B&W) and his work has been on display in several art shows where he has won awards for his excellent imagery. DaValle has also self-published a book on the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau made on a trip to Poland. A Scar is a collection of 40 black and white images that attempt to envision some of the stark images a prisoner in the camps would have experienced. DaValle operates his studio out of a turn of the century factory building in St. Charles, Illinois that has been subdivided into smaller offices and studios. There he has a small gallery and a portrait studio.