Twenty years ago, Tom Mohr was living in the financial district of New York City, working in the art department at Barron’s, a U.S. financial magazine.Then 9/11 happened. Mohr and his wife, Jil, lived across from the World Trade Center. They weren’t home when the Towers fell, but they lost their apartment in the process. So, after living and working in the city for 30 years, the couple went on the road, where Mohr pursued his photography.
“I summarize it by saying that 9/11 was the worst time of my life, but the best thing that ever happened to us because it kicked us onto a whole different path,” Mohr said.
After years on the road and abroad, the couple has settled in Colfax for a time, where Mohr is exploring his distinctive photography technique. His work will be on exhibit at the Whitman County Library in March and April. We caught up with him to find out more about his work:
Medium: Landscape and community event photography
Artist background: Pratt Art Institute (Brooklyn, N.Y.) with degree in painting, commercial and freelance photographer, photography lab work, Barron’s magazine art department
Photographic technique: “Everything I do deals with multiple exposure. What I say is that I paint with photography. With panoramas, I work left and right. With the color technique I use, it’s just putting layers together and changing the channels.”
Inspiration and background for this photographic technique: (“I learned) a process called dye transfer, which is a complicated way to make a photographic print. You make separations — red, green and blue separations — to get the print that you need.”
Moving from film to digital: “It took me a while to realize what I was doing in film I could do on the computer. If I do red, green and blue filters on digital, it blows it all out, it doesn’t work. But by doing it this way — by making layers and changing the channels — it’s great. It gives me all kinds of control. It really is more painterly.”
Painting with photography vs. painting on photography: “I don’t use a brush and a palette, I use different exposures. … People don’t always get it. They assume it’s done in a paint program. But because there’s different layers, there’s a certain quality to them that you wouldn’t get in a colored image (that has been painted on).”
On the Palouse hills: “They can look different from day to day, from morning to afternoon. They’re always changing. People who have lived here all their life, they say the same thing.”
On local feedback to this technique: “I was in a group show and I had a man come up and say, ‘I’ve seen these landscapes my whole life and I’ve thought there’s gotta be something that could be done with these that people aren’t doing. And you know what? You’re doing it. You’re doing just what I imagined.’ ”
On the exhibit’s title: “If I talk to someone and tell them I moved here in October, the first thing they say is ‘Why? Why would you move to Colfax?’ And the answer is the photography. And so I called the show ‘Why I Moved to Colfax.’ ”
On the process of moving to Colfax: “I really love this area, I think it’s spectacular. We drove through it once and I couldn’t believe what we saw. I made an effort to come back and do some photography. We came back a third time, and the fourth time was this summer. … I was very productive, so I proposed we spend a whole year, see what four seasons would be like. So we rented a place and we’ll be here until next October.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: “Why I Moved to Colfax” photography exhibit by Tom Mohr
WHEN: Exhibit runs March 1 – April 30, with a community reception from 5 to 7 p.m. March 10
WHERE: The Center at Colfax Library, Colfax