During The Pandemic: A Conversation with Roger Palframan, CA

Written by: Francesca Sinnott
Pictured above: Red, White, Blue, photography, 37x27”
 
Pictured: Roger Palframan, CA
 
Roger Palframan blends both his artistic talents and the discipline of a scientist when he creates his extraordinary photographs. The result is abstract images that capture the beauty in the order of everyday things: city buildings, surf on a beach, figures moving to some unknown destination.  “I try to break things down to their essence, with the knowledge that there are “beautiful details underneath”. 
 
"Through art I can get towards achieving the control and precision that as a life scientist I can’t always have as I work to understand biological systems.” This is a unique perspective from an artist who has been engaged in his art for over forty years. Roger is self-taught, learning from professionals he knew in a commercial photography studio. “I spent hours engaging with the photographers who (at the time) were working with medium format film and exchanging ideas on methods and processes." Roger cites Andreas Gursky and Bridget Riley as artists who have influenced his work. Roger joined Co|So in 2017. Not only has Co|So provided him with a highly respected platform to exhibit his art, but it has also “connected him to a community of artists and collectors who have “opened doors for him and given him valuable “feedback” enabling him to develop. Roger’s echoes the sentiments of many of Co|So’s artists when he advises young people to: “make sure you have a narrative, strive for strong composition, stay open to criticism and most of all make sure its fun for you”.
 
Roger works in biopharma research. “I studied pharmacology in college, but I have always had a passion for my art”.  Roger holds a PhD in immunology from Imperial College in the United Kingdom and is a postdoctoral fellow from Harvard Medical School.  He is modest about these distinguished academic achievements, but it is clear that Roger’s keen intellect has also informed his art. 
 
The pandemic has meant Roger has had to change his approach to art creation. Roger usually “travels frequently” enabling him to capture diverse and original material.  Roger has used this time of constraint to revisit and build on image series from the past, reminding himself why he created these concepts in the first place.
 
One group is his “Vik” series, in which he captured foamy white surf on a black sand beach near Vik, in Southern Iceland. The black sand originates from the basalt lava that covers much of the area. This 4-color image captures a special moment in time at the border of the surf and the sand. Taken overhead from a cliff, Roger captures in detail “the subtle textures and colors, contrasts, and the movement”.  What’s wonderful about an abstract image such as this one is that from far away people have described it as “like a distant mountain scene, or wet paint falling down a wall”.
 
Pictured: Vik I, photography, 34x24”
 
Another image Roger has revisited during the pandemic is “Summer Free”, taken on a summer’s day on Lake Winnipesaukee, N.H. The image shows a classic summer event of “jumping off the dock”, but there is so much more to it.  “I wanted to capture the theme of space in the big outdoors” evoking the “joy of freedom” at a time when our most simple freedoms have been significantly constrained.
 
Pictured: Summer Free, photography, 25x18”
 
Roger says people describe him to be a “representational and sometimes abstract” artist, and when one views Roger’s art one sees how he goes beyond the recognizable.  Roger describes his creative process in this way. “I rarely take a photo that does not have some underlying foundational reason to it”. For me it’s about communicating a theme and creating beauty around that.  First, I conceive of conceptual “themes” that I want to explore such as “line”, 
“shape” and “space”.  I then consider this concept as I travel, looking at the most routine and usual things and capturing those images that work for my concept. I prefer the “flat light” of an overcast day that brings out “the abstract and precise qualities of an image”. For printing, I partner with iolabs of East Providence, Rhode Island. They are experts in fine art printing and produce my work on high quality inks on archival art paper. Roger prefers to print in a larger format allowing for more opportunity for the viewer to engage with the piece, both from a distance and close up. He has embraced the move to digital, and how it allows him to focus on “the things that matter” to him: the textures, the lines, and the detail in the finer aspects of a composition. “I have confidence because I have full and manual control, I know what I am capturing”. “As in scientific research where one tries to understand and manage uncertainty and risk”, I have found that the control I have with digital image capture results in a better final product.
 
During the pandemic, Roger has also been exploring a new series to be in the Co|So Summer Members Show that explores humanity’s interaction with the environment, specifically with water.   He has also explored people’s interactions with each other. “I have considered the patterns of people in a crowd and how (during Covid) humanity’s interactions have changed a lot.  After this conversation, one cannot help but wonder, will Roger and other Co|So artists be able to capture images like this again in the near future?
 
Pictured: The Bridge From Above, Start, photography, 27x21"