The restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic gave Upstate photographer John Lever a different perspective on life and his art. His creations through that time, along with some of his earlier works, will be part of his upcoming exhibition, “Close to Home,” to be held Nov. 30 through Dec. 24 in Gallery III of the Artists Collective | Spartanburg.
The exhibit will be part of the Spartanburg ArtWalk from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 16.
“My wife and I had all kinds of travel plans – that’s where I do most of my photography in normal times,” says Lever, a native of Florida. “We all know what happened to those plans because of the pandemic. I think the restrictions of the pandemic, not allowing travel to new destinations, induced me to spread my photographic reach, looking to new approaches in my photography close to home.”
For the visitor to the gallery, Lever says at first, the exhibit “may seem a little haphazard, but it has one theme, and that is the expansion of my photography into the somewhat more abstract. It begins with some photographs that are more traditionally my style – natural scenes – but then I explore a bit with moving water taken at long exposure to make a creamy, silky look. Later, I explore some of my newest directions with some laser illumination and what I call droplet photography – you will have to see it to understand.
“Displayed will be a series of prints that represent my time during the pandemic, shaped by the constraints it imposed,” Lever adds. “When life gives you lemons … but all of us had much worse than lemons. Maybe my message is ‘keep your chin up.’”
“The inspiration for my photography comes from my desire to share my views of my travels and of the natural world,” he says. “Whether this takes form as a snow-covered mountain, a tropical island or a bird in flight, the theme is the same: connect the viewer with my personal view of the world.”
Over the past few years, a big part of Lever’s photography has been while sailing aboard S/V Georgia with his brother, Paul, and sister-in-law, Chris. “This has taken me to places I might not easily get to and has afforded me a unique platform to see these places. Another major influence on my photography has been travel to the iconic parks of the American West – Yosemite, Sequoia, Banff, etc. To a person who spent his formative years on flat ground, the mountains hold a special feeling for me.”
Another inspiration for his photography is birds, especially hummingbirds, Lever says. “So visually appealing and so hard to see – they are a natural challenge to photograph. All this comes together in what I photograph.”
Twenty of Lever’s work will be included in the exhibition and will be offered for sale with prices ranging from $70 to $150.
Lever says he has been an avid photographer since the days of film photography, and he has augmented key skills and aesthetics learned at Tulane University, UNC and Carolina Nature Photographer’s Association with extensive reading and experimentation. He has been a member of the Artists Collective | Spartanburg since 2018 and is a member of its management board.
“I guess I’ve been an artist all my life, but I only thought of myself as an artist when I joined ACS,” he says. “It is a great arts organization.”