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Arts & Culture

Visual Arts: The Photography Of David Fokos

Wooley Reservoir, Northumberland, England. By David Fokos.
Wooley Reservoir, Northumberland, England. By David Fokos.

Rarely do you meet a man so perfectly named. Like a character straight out Dickens, David Fokos (pronounced "focus") has a name that aptly describes his photography practice.

His images emerge out of a continual paring down of distractions. He shoots with one camera and one lens, uses long exposures, and shoots in black and white, with horizons always in view.

Fokos is so focused that in a 30 year career, he has created only 60 images, a selection of which are currently on view at the Ordorver Gallery in Solana Beach. The exhibit is appropriately called "Haiku: Photographic Meditations."


Fastidious to the end, if an image doesn't rise to Fokos' standards, it doesn't make the cut.

On black and white vs. color, Fokos said via email: "Color is such a powerful element in an image that I believe the most successful color photographs are about the color." Even when it's not a part of his practice, he zeroes in on the elemental nature of an image.

Fokos uses an 80-year-old camera, a large format, 8x10 Korona View field camera. The idea of using only one lens is the more shocking to my amateur photographer ears. I'm always fumbling to change lenses quickly (and recently dropped one!).

Fokos seems to have the rational, zen master answer to my scattered approach: "When you only have one lens, you never have to think about it. Instead of being paralyzed by indecision, I am free to concentrate on my compositions."

Those compositions are minimalist and sparse. They are anchored by horizons and are studies in line and patterns, disruptions and symmetries. The long exposure creates a shadow of movement, as if the wind has just stirred the currents and we're seeing the settling in of stillness.


Put simply, Fokos is capturing time for us. He explains, "Using my camera’s ability to average time through long exposures, I can reveal what our world “looks” like based on a longer time scale...In a way, it is like peeling back a page to reveal a world that, while very real, is not experienced visually. We feel it. We sense it. But in general, we don’t see it."

You can see Fokos' record of of time spent at the edges of fields, lakes, and oceans at the Ordover Gallery through the end of the summer. Viewing the exhibit is time well spent. While most of us are looking at various sizes of screens with pop ups and scrolling feeds, consuming and sharing information, Fokos' work is a meticulously crafted antidote.

David Fokos will give an hour-long talk on Sunday, July 11, beginning at 11am in the Ordover Gallery's Solana Beach location. Following the talk will be a question and answer period. Twenty spaces are available; advance tickets are recommended.