Study in Black and White: For four decades, Roger Fremier has used his camera as an instrument of perceptual revolution, creating images that confront ordinary ways of seeing.
831.[Tales From the Area Code] Is a black and white study of mud, cracking and drying, beautiful? Photographer and teacher Roger Fremier thinks so. For the past 40 years, Fremier has been using his camera to create photographs such as "Mudscapes" in an attempt to redefine how we see the world.
Fremier asserts that when he "makes a photograph," he asks people to look at the real world in a beautiful way. More importantly, he wants people to stretch their imagination all the time. Fremier''s book, Techniques for Black and White Photography, Creativity and Design, provides exercises to broaden a photo student''s creative process. While his book provides a fundamental background on photography, Fremier''s greatest challenge lies in provoking others to shift their perception of the world.
Fremier is perpetually teaching in any arena where he can get his message across. Fremier just completed filming his second television program for students through MCOE--a Salinas-based educational station. For the show, students ages 11-14, were encouraged to work with color film in a nontraditional manner--"anything to capture their imagination." Whether they steamed up their lens to create a misty image, took a picture while throwing their camera in the air, or made a mobile out of their photographs, the students were treated to Fremier''s on-air, live critique of their work.
Fremier keeps himself busy, by hosting the Photo Chat Series, running his own private studio, and, for the past three decades, heading the photography department at Monterey Peninsula College, and teaching business classes.
His students rarely have the chance to nod off in class--Fremier''s lectures are peppered with phrases like "the sexy blonde", "Weston''s nudes" and "when I worked with Ansel [Adams]." And while the slightly salty-tongued professor grabs his student''s attention with comic strips, brain teasers, and slide shows of visual puns (think of a man with a misplaced baguette), there''s a method to his array of teaching techniques: They''re all aimed at inspiring his students to participate fully in the creative artistic process.
While Fremier''s classes maintain a lighthearted atmosphere, Fremier doesn''t pamper his students. He sometimes provides blunt criticism of students'' work, "Is that an interesting picture?" he asks the class. Mumbles are heard around the room. "It''s kind of boring," suggests a student. Fremier doesn''t disagree. "Why is it boring?" he wants to know. Fremier points out that his students start the semester off universally praising each other''s work in bland terms, "It''s good. I like it," and by the middle of the class are offering damning criticism: "You need more contrast, this isn''t in focus, you need to crop out this corner." And while Fremier encourages his budding perfectionists, he also knows when to back off on technique and put the emphasis on enjoying the process. As eyes glaze over during a lecture on long-exposure, he asks the class, "Do you understand what I just explained?" No one dares to reply. "I know you don''t," he laughs.
To break up what could be dry lectures on technique, Fremier illustrates his talks with stories about his own experiences as a photographer. With a thorough historical and technical knowledge of the arts, Fremier puts his intellect into layman''s terms when sharing his own mishaps. As he explains the need to carefully check out a photograph before presenting it to others, he tells of a photo shoot he was doing for a clothing line. While busying himself with his equipment, he simultaneously tried to pose the model on a windswept rock above the waves at Carmel Point as the tide was coming in. Lacking an assistant, Fremier rapidly fired off shots and rushed the proofs back to his client. As a dreadful silence filled the room, Fremier suddenly noticed what his client was staring at: In all the confusion, the model''s necklace had become completely wrapped around her left breast.
But Fremier has a self-proclaimed "bag of tricks" and knows how to rescue a sullied shot. His in-depth photographic knowledge stems in part from actually working alongside photographic legends such as Ansel Adams, and Brett and Cole Weston. "The Friends of Photography," started by Adams and the Westons at the Sunset Center, had the largest membership in the world for a photographic center. When Adams passed away, Fremier turned it into the Center for Photographic Art, which he ran from 1988-1992. Fremier, a lifelong Carmelite and Carmel aficionado, is currently the director of Brett Weston''s photographic estate. His local cultural ties are many: Fremier''s wife Elaine grew up as the daughter of the mayor of Carmel, Allen Knight--whose collection started the Monterey Maritime Museum.
Fremier warns his students that photography is an expensive interest. He wants his students to take it seriously, as a discipline, since "most art classes are watered down to make them palatable, but I believe you learn more in a formal way." He constantly advises on the importance of preserving photographs, and warns how color photographs will start to fade in less than a decade. Black-and-white, if processed archivally, can last hundreds of years. Plus, Fremier prefers the process of black-and-white development. "As Ansel said, ''I don''t like color because I can''t control it.''"
Fremier''s studio walls are decorated with his photographs of the Big Sur coastline, his three sons, and personal friends who rank high in the world of photography. He muses that he is trying to cut back on teaching so many workshops and classes, in order to focus on some new challenges such as gardening. "The design elements in gardening are so much more vast than two dimensional. You are trying to create something that matures and changes." But his main priority remains the need to make new photographs. "I love beauty, and with photography there is always the challenge of trying to expand creatively within narrow limits."