David Johndrow — Macro photography

We are happy to fea­ture another inter­view and more pho­tog­ra­phy from Adore Noir Mag­a­zine. Adore Noir is pub­lished online from Van­cou­ver, B.C. Canada and is ded­i­cated to fine art black and white pho­tog­ra­phy. This inter­view fea­tures David Johndrow, an Amer­i­can fine art pho­tog­ra­pher from Austin, Texas.

Mantis by david Johndrow

Man­tis by David Johndrow


AN: Please intro­duce your­self. Where do you live and work?

DJ: My name is David Johndrow and I live and work in Austin, Texas.

AN: How did you get into photography?

DJ: I stud­ied pho­tog­ra­phy while get­ting a film degree at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas. The first time I saw an image of some­thing that I shot appear in the devel­oper tray I was hooked and decided I wanted to do pho­tog­ra­phy full time. I started doing com­mer­cial work after graduating—mostly doing por­trait work. I sup­ple­mented my income by work­ing as a cus­tom printer in photo labs. I’m glad I had that expe­ri­ence because it forced me to put in a lot of hours in the dark­room. As I got bet­ter at mak­ing prints that were stronger, I also got bet­ter at visu­al­iz­ing my own work. I learned a lot from work­ing with other peo­ples pho­tographs, both good and bad.

Orb weaver spider by David Johndrow

Orb weaver spi­der by David Johndrow


AN: Tell us about your pas­sion for macro.

DJ: My use of macro came out of com­bin­ing my obses­sion with gar­den­ing with my inter­est in pho­tog­ra­phy. For a long time I had no inter­est in shoot­ing pho­tos in my gar­den. It was mostly because I didn’t want to do what other pho­tog­ra­phers have done so well before. But as I spent more and more time out­doors, I started to notice the most sub­limely beau­ti­ful things going on a very small scale and they looked amaz­ing in the nat­ural light of their own habi­tat. So, I began exper­i­ment­ing with ways to get up close and still be hand-held. I wanted to be quick and mobile. So I put exten­sion tubes on my reg­u­lar Has­sel­blad lens and dis­cov­ered that although this set-up pre­sented some restric­tions (lim­ited abil­ity to focus, lower light gath­er­ing power), I liked what I saw. In fact, the forced sim­plic­ity of the set-up allowed me to focus more on the image than on the tech­ni­cal aspects of shoot­ing the pic­ture. I used the lens wide open out of neces­sity because the film I use is rel­a­tively slow for the shade light I like. For­tu­nately, it turned out that the shal­low focus worked great at iso­lat­ing the details of the things I was shoot­ing. Sud­denly I would get lost look­ing through the camera—like enter­ing another world. Ordi­nary things took on an aura of grandeur and impor­tance. I decided I would treat the sub­jects in nature as for­mal por­traits and try and make them look iconic and, at the same time, retain their wildness.

AN: What is your inspiration?

DJ: Pho­to­graph­i­cally, my biggest influ­ence is Irv­ing Penn. I love how he can make any­thing look ele­gant , from fash­ion mod­els to tribal peo­ple to found objects. I love his high con­trast print­ing style and how graph­i­cally strong his com­po­si­tions are. I also like Edward Weston and Karl Bloss­feld. Bloss­feld was really good at show­ing the archi­tec­ture of nature. Another influ­ence on my art is the botan­i­cal artist Ernst Haeckel. I have repro­duc­tions of some of his draw­ings up in my dark­room to inspire me. He really shows the beau­ti­fully intri­cate designs of nature at all scales. Some­thing about his art is won­der­fully weird and psy­che­delic. Besides these pho­to­graphic and artis­tic influ­ences, I also need to men­tion my love of Lau­rens Van der Post’s sto­ries of the bush­men of the Kala­hari and how they revered the small things in nature the most.

Stinkbug by David Johndrow

Stinkbug by David Johndrow


AN: What do you wish to con­vey to your viewers?

DJ: I hope that when peo­ple look at my pho­tographs, they get a new per­spec­tive on the things that are all around us that we some­times take for granted. We tend to get dis­as­so­ci­ated from nature and for­get what a mir­a­cle it is. I am always amazed at the new things I dis­cover out in my gar­den. Things seem to appear to me as if by magic. I try to cap­ture some of that magic to share with oth­ers. It’s a real chal­lenge to depict some­thing that has been pho­tographed so many times. What I’m learn­ing is that the ways of expe­ri­enc­ing nature are infi­nite. I hope peo­ple who see my pho­tographs come away with a greater appre­ci­a­tion of the beauty of com­mon things.

AN: Can you tell us about your post pro­cess­ing techniques?

DJ: I like to print my images on sil­ver gelatin, platinum/palladium or gumoil. I let the image dic­tate what medium I will use to express it. Although I orig­i­nally cap­ture all of my images on film, I some­times make enlarged inter-negatives, either with my enlarger or dig­i­tally, depend­ing on the image, so that I can make con­tact prints. By using alter­na­tive processes I am able to have a wider range of expres­sion in my print­ing and a greater chance of the “happy acci­dents” that I think make pho­tographs unique. I strive for extreme sim­plic­ity in my images. Pho­tog­ra­phy, by its nature, is a reduc­tion of infor­ma­tion. By remov­ing what is nonessen­tial, images get clearer and more pow­er­ful. This is also the rea­son why I love work­ing in black and white.

AN: Do you have any projects on the go?

DJ: I am now exper­i­ment­ing with sim­ple pho­tograms, bypass­ing the cam­era alto­gether. I’ve got­ten so into it that I’ve amassed a large col­lec­tion of objects that I can print just using sun­light. Of course I still work in my gar­den with my cam­era close by and keep my eyes open for the next mys­tery to present itself.

Toad by David Johndrow

Toad by David Johndrow


This inter­view and accom­pa­ny­ing images was reprinted with per­mis­sion from Adore Noir.
Adore Noir is a sub­scrip­tion based online pho­tog­ra­phy mag­a­zine spe­cial­iz­ing in awe­some fine art black and white photography.


  1. job says:

    cool images

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