Oak Harbor photographer Christopher Saxman likes to look up.
Perhaps it’s because he is an architect by trade and is enamored of the cornices of buildings.
But cornices are not the only things he likes to look at through a camera lens.
Saxman also appreciates the simplicity of bikes, doors, walls and the beautifully flat quality of a piece of rusted junkyard steel, its rivets explicitly riveting to his eye.
He hangs around fish markets of distant cities in romantic countries to capture the steely silver heap of kingfishes or tuna in the early morning before they head off to someone’s table.
One such photograph is entitled “Red heads” and shows off the reddish luminescence of a pile of fish.
Saxman said he strives for a flatness or a two-dimensional effect in his photos which gives his work a modern feel, avoiding a representational or naturalistic outcome.
“It’s that simplicity that I find appealing,” Saxman said.
“I try to get the image to look the way I remember it.”
He looks for landscapes that may include the predominance of blue in an unclouded sky with a single line of building cutting across its perfect uniformity, the line of the sea’s edge that meets the inviting white sand of a beach, or the ever-seductive line of the horizon beyond a wheat field’s sunburnt color.
Saxman was born into a family of photographers; his father and aunt were both professional news and studio photographers.
At 13, he received his first camera with training from his father, and has been rarely caught without his camera since, shooting photos around the world in places such as Venezuela, Italy, Portugal, Mexico and Nova Scotia.
Saxman will tell you that his 40 years of experience with his camera have given him an eye for composition, light, detail and color, arranging compositions from the things he sees in daily life just as they are.
He only started to exhibit and sell his photos about three years ago, and this will be his first year participating in the Open Studio Tour.
Saxman said he enjoys talking to people about the photos more than the techniques he uses.
“I could care less about the technical side,” Saxman said.
“As far as I’m concerned the camera is like a hammer, and all it does is drive the nail or get the image.”
Recently, a woman told him she bought one of his photographs of two doors on a street because it reminded her of one of the biggest decisions of her life.
This woman had made a choice years ago when she decided to give her baby up for adoption. Like the doors in the photo, she had a choice about which door to take. Things worked out for the woman, who had recently reconnected with her child and was very happy. Saxman’s photo of the doors became a talisman for her; a reminder of having made the right choice.
Saxman retold the story with the satisfaction of an artist who has given something back to the world.
“I like to talk about the art,” he said.
Saxman’s work is shown continually at Penn Cove Gallery in Coupeville. His studio is on Bayshore Drive in Oak Harbor, underneath the restaurant Zorba.
Click here for info on this year’s tour.