Our Beautifully Strong, But Fragile Earth: An Interview with Local Photographer John MacLean
Franklin is home to many artists who are inspired by life in a blue ridge mountain valley. Photographers in particular find themselves surrounded by infinite possibilities to capture and create art, and one such photographer, John MacLean, showcases his incredible work in a gallery downtown near the gazebo.
MacLean accepted our invitation for an interview, and we were inspired by all he had to say about being an artist in Franklin, North Carolina.
How long have you been a photographer, and how did you discover your love for the medium?
I’ve been a photographer for about 50 years. My father introduced me to B&W shooting, film processing and enlarger printing around 1972 when I was 9 years young. My dad will be 93 in January and it’s wonderful to still share this craft with him. It’s been the longest love affair of my life.
What draws you to natural photography in the mountains, especially in the Franklin area?
The infinite variety and natural light of landscapes have always attracted me. The mountains of Western North Carolina provide a never-ending palette of color and illumination.
For photographers who are new to the area, which locations and times of year would you most highly recommend to shoot?
My favorite locations would probably have to be on the BRP. It’s just magical up there. And, of course, amazing waterfalls are everywhere, with a few very famous ones local to Franklin. I also really like some of the fire towers for views. (If aspiring photographers want lessons, I provide small workshops/photo tours and 1 on 1 training in the field or via online mentoring.)
Every season offers a different and inspiring composition. For vivid colors and more atmospheric vistas I would say any time from Spring thru Fall. The winter usually requires a long freeze to produce enough interest for me to go out in cold weather. That being said, I thought my fingers were going to snap off while at Dry Falls during the Polar Vortexes of 2014 and 2015. But I got some unique images. Lately I’m becoming more temperature challenged. 😉
Have you always lived in Franklin? What is the best part of being a local here?
My family has been here for 40 years. I spent 30 years out West, but visited often. I moved back East in 2012 to help my parents in their Golden Years after losing my older brother here a couple years before.
Photographically the best part of being local is having direct access to the area without having to travel long distances. As you know, the weather conditions here change the lighting, by the second. The air and water are great, and lifestyle-wise the traffic is non-existent compared to areas even within a couple hours away. The mountain life gives you more time and subject matter to explore and to experience its wonders.
What message do you hope to communicate through your art?
It’s my goal to capture the essence of each scene and visually communicate that to the viewer. I’m not just recording it with a device that replicates the location, but I’m trying to also put my optical spin on it, while keeping it as natural and organic as possible through controlled exposure and processing. My end result is to hopefully evoke a response that ultimately our beautifully strong, but fragile earth is in need of protection, or else we’ll just be left with beautiful images of it.
For more information check out johnmaclean.com.