Traverse City Record-Eagle

Arts & Entertainment

November 22, 2013

TC photographer sticks to traditional

TRAVERSE CITY Greg Seman is a purist.

Seman, an accomplished art photographer, often can be spotted on cold winter mornings taking photos along Grand Traverse Bay by observant commuters as they rush past.

While passersby fiddle with the latest entertainment systems in their vehicles and poke at their smartphones, Seman is outside preserving a dying craft.

You won't see the 54-year-old CPA-by-day, photographer-by-night wandering along the water's edge with the latest digital camera, snapping images haphazardly. No, he prefers the old way of making photos the way the greats like Ansel Adams captured still-life images.

He often stands along the shoreline near his large-format camera while it sits on a large tripod exposing notebook-paper sized sheets of film for as long as 30 minutes.

"It's been an exercise in persistence as much as anything," he said. "I do it really more for myself than anything."

Seman sticks to a method that takes time and care. It's a technique that is marked by intense labor and sometimes imperfect outcomes. And persistence has helped him build a body of work that's made its way into collections across the country and into a permanent collection owned by the Dennos Museum.

"There's only one other photographer I can think of in Michigan that's doing that," said Tom Halsted, a gallery owner and dealer in fine art photography. For decades, Halsted has represented some of the greatest names in art photography. And now he represents Seman.

The film-based art is full of variables that can effect the outcome of an exposure, Seman said. Temperature changes and slight movements during a 30-minute exposure can ruin an image. But Seman wouldn't know the outcome of his work until hours or days later when he sees the image develop in his darkroom.

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