Our earliest experiences as children have the power to shape our lives for years to come. For fine art photographer Douglas Biklen, a member of the Brandon Artists Guild who specializes in abstract images, his earliest childhood moments fostered a lifelong love of art — and a life of artistic exploration. Art was alive and well on the home front: his mother was an amateur painter and his father had a passion for design and architecture.
For the young Biklen, photography captured the imagination. As a young boy, he was often spotted out and about with his Kodak Brownie (he later outfitted himself with 35 mm single lens reflex cameras, then a Hasselblad). It gave him the ability to explore, analyze, and understand his world — and see the unseen, that which was not immediately apparent to the naked eye. He poured over the negatives that produced remarkably detailed, focused prints. It was this opportunity to see the unseen beauty in close detail that would later become his signature. Each roll of film developed offered up new discoveries: “I remember… impatiently waiting for film to be developed; it usually took a week from the time of dropping it off to picking it up at my local camera store in Connecticut.”
It was in seventh grade that Biklen’s ideas about art began to mature. “I had a remarkable art teacher who introduced the class to truly interesting projects,” he said. One of those projects was a film that the students produced as cast and crew. Biklen was assigned photographer duties for the project. At the end of the experience, he came to the realization that art could not only be a passion, but a profession. It was an exhilarating moment.
Biklen sought out other teachers — he recalls the advice of the director of the Maine Photographic Workshops, who challenged students to look outward in their artistic development, that is, to visit art museums and to observe and study other artists. Here is where his seventh grade teacher was again instrumental. It was he who encouraged his students to museums, too. So, he visited places like the Guggenheim and Museum of Modern Art to see the works of Mondrian, Picasso, Klee, and more.
Biklen’s work is very much informed by the aforementioned artists — he is concerned with geometry and color. “I think of myself as doing art that fits comfortably with mid-twentieth century modernism. In each work, I seem to aim for simplicity in design and color, leaving room for viewers to interpret the work through their own subjectivity.” He typically uses three or so dominant colors to tell the story in each piece. His photos present the intersection of the real and the abstract.
In his “Surface Scenes” series, he uses the camera not as a lens, but as a paintbrush, creating abstract “paintings.” This series of photographs, examine the up-close surfaces of boats in dry dock. Biklen finds “scenes” and “landscapes” in places in which the hull has been damaged and repaired or repainted, the boundaries of where the water interacts with the boat, and on the rudders and other surfaces. In doing so, he frames beautiful scenes from seemingly mundane surfaces — seeing the unseen.
“Sometimes, the colors or textures are unusual, adding to the mystery of the work, for example red mountains across a rough sea or spikes of white that appear to be snow covered grasses reaching to the night sky,” he explains.
Biklen also enjoys photographing urban art, scenes of nature, and people in motion, amongst other topics.
Throughout it all, Biklen has had his trusty camera at the ready to capture art wherever he finds
it. “Photography was always a part of my world,” he says — and so it always will be a way to explore the world, being surprised by what his finds along the way and leaving the viewer with new ways to see the world, too. That’s, after all, what art is all about.