Interview with GD Whalen

Visit GD Whalen’s Gallery in Asheville’s River Arts District.
Visit GD Whalen’s Gallery in Asheville’s River Arts District.


interviewed by Dennis Ray

Rapid River Magazine: The first thing I notice when I walk into your gallery is that you have pictures from all over the world. Are you a travel photographer by trade?

GD Whalen: No, I am not. However I do love to travel and I love photography. The two tend to go hand in hand. I am very lucky to have been able to travel as much as I have to some of the most beautiful places on earth. My photography just seems to be the perfect compliment to that.

RRM: The second thing I noticed was the enormous size of your prints. Why is that?

GDW: First, along with my love for seeing the world and taking the images I have an equal love for printing my work. The final print is the tangible proof of the image itself. I believe that landscape images need to be large so the viewer gets the most accurate representation of the image I was seeing when I actually took the shot. I can print my images any size but the larger the better.

Sedona,  GD Whalen Photography
Sedona, GD Whalen Photography

RRM: Given the size of your printed images you must shoot large format cameras.

GDW: About half of the work presently showing in the gallery is large format film. I shot those with an Arca-Swiss 4 x 5 view camera. About 40% of the prints are shot with my Hasselblad 3d-50 megapixel camera. The Hasselblad produces amazingly sharp and crisp images. Ten percent were shot with my Leica 35mm. Those are primarily the Africa images.

RRM: Do you do your own processing?

GDW: When I was shooting film I did develop and print my own negatives. I got tired of the chemicals used to develop and print film both personally and environmentally. Digital processing is much cleaner and much better for the environment.

RRM: How long have you been doing photography and why are you attracted to it as an art medium?

GDW: I’ll try to keep this answer short. In some form or fashion I have been doing photography most of my life, over 40 years. As a kid I had a Kodak Instamatic camera and in college I shot Nikon and had a darkroom in my bathroom. I think the “why am I attracted to photography” question is really pretty simple.

I am a very visual person but I can’t draw or paint at all. I see things but have no skills to paint them. Photography allows me to connect to what I see and put it to paper. Also, I am attracted to the technical aspects of photography. There is a strong learning curve to get images out of the camera as you see them in your minds eye. That can be a challenge and I like challenges.

RRM: The other thing I noticed in your gallery are the portrait and model images. How does that mesh with your landscape/nature work?

GDW: A lot of people ask me this question and the easiest way I can answer it is to say that I don’t really see specific objects. I see colors, shapes and forms and try to make those subjects as interesting or beautiful as I can.

I love taking portraits of people but I don’t like taking them in the traditional – sit and shoot format. I like to take portraits of the persons personality, not just their physical self. This may sound contradictory to my shape and form statement but it ties in with wanting to portray someone as they truly are, not as the appear to be.

It is complicated but it makes sense to me.

RRM: What about commercial work, do you do that?

GDW: To be clear I love shooting anything as long as I can find the beauty of the object. Whether a watch, finished piece of word carving, bicycle, whatever – all objects can be shown in their most beautiful or compelling way.

Light is really what photography is all about so having the freedom to shoot a product, the way I see it, can be a very enticing reason for me to do commercial work. Shooting something in a very creative way is one of my strong suits.

RRM: Finally, it is very obvious in talking with you that you have a very strong passion and love for photography. Why is that?

GDW: Three reasons I think. One, as I stated earlier I am a very visual person. I see colors, tones and shapes everywhere I look. I am always looking for the right light and interesting shapes and forms.

Secondly, why do I love it so much? I was just born this way I guess. Everyone should have a passion for something, anything. Having a purpose and passion in your life is the very energy that makes our lives interesting.

Thirdly, I like challenges. I like taking pictures of things, that may not be overly interesting in first site and making them beautiful. Bringing out the view of that scene, person or object that someone else would miss.

I love the challenge of seeing something like no one else has ever seen it.

GD Whalen Photography
191 Lyman, #104, Asheville’s River Arts District