Tom Reed in ArgentinaABOUT TOM REED

Tom Reed is a wilderness photographer based in Fort Bragg on the Mendocino Coast of Northern California. While his art is nature photography in general, he specializes in black and white landscape photography, especially mountain photography, which he exhibits as fine art. In recent years Tom has been focused on creating portraits of granite towers in Patagonia, Argentina, especially Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy, a.k.a. “El Chaltén,” for his new book, “The Granite Avatars of Patagonia.”


I studied photography at Rutgers University while attending as a Geography student in the ‘70s.  Upon graduation I pursued outdoor adventures, and became weary of hauling the “glass and steel” of my camera equipment in my backpack, and living without access to a darkroom.  I met a woman in Alaska who was a watercolor artist and philosophic thinker, and who taught me the value of truly seeing what was before me. A few months later, when my camera was crushed in an accident while sailing in the Caribbean, I decided to lighten my backpack and take a zen approach to witnessing beauty on my adventures, that is, to pay close attention to the details captured by my eye, and create a mental image that would endure as a photograph would.  In that process I began to ask, “Why is this beautiful?”

When I built a cabin in Alaska, I followed my creative urges, creating works in pen and ink, acrylic, watercolor, and sculptures in wood, and selling them at local galleries.  My themes were landscape and wildlife.  At that time I also began training in Japanese martial arts.

Years later I came to California to pursue martial arts, and supported my intense training with my sculpture and design skills.  This training continued for eight years and led to an advanced rank and teacher certification in an art who’s name (aikido) is translated as “ the way of harmony with the animating force/principle of the universe”, which can be viewed as a study of the harmonization of positive and negative forces.

In 1999 I came to the Mendocino coast to open a school, and met Dr. Shozo Sato who’s deep understanding of Japanese zen aesthetics impressed me so much that I immediately became a student at the Center for Japanese Arts in Northern California.  I have since centered my study of aesthetics on the practice of the Japanese Tea Ceremony (chado), which includes the practice of ink and brush calligraphy (shodo), ink painting (sumi-e), and flower arranging (ikebana), as well as the appreciation of many other arts associated with Tea, such as pottery and architecture.

This education has profoundly built upon my martial artist’s visceral understanding of the dynamic forces of positive and negative, entering the realm of active space vs. empty space, and, on paper, subject matter vs. black and white spaces.  My compositions now are influenced by the model of “dominant / sub-dominant / subordinate” as well.

The recent advances in digital arts have drawn me to return to photography, my first love.  Naturally, Black and White is my genre, but I have become fond of the artfully placed red “chop”, or personal stamp, used in ink painting and calligraphy, so I include it in my prints.


“My art is black and white photography, inspired by many, but especially by the photographs of Ansel Adams, the plein air paintings of the Sierras by Edgar Payne, the wilderness paintings of the Hudson River School, and the deep understanding of aesthetics by Dr. Shozo Sato, a master of the fine arts of Japan.  The subject is often dramatic mountain peaks, but you will find more than mountain photography. I am also moved by forests, canyons, and waves of the wild ocean. All are natural compositions.  The medium is digital, each photograph bears my personal “chop” or red ink stamp, a traditional way if indicating authorship in Chinese and Japanese ink painting. It is my hope that my images will create a stirring of awe and instill a reverence for the spectacular planet that we inhabit and must care for.”


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