A master at illuminating and abstracting nature, John Atchley’s
work captures a sense of light and movement that offer us a unique perception of the natural world. Atchley graduated from Yale with a Master’s Degree in photography in 1972. When he began his Master’s at Yale there was not a Photography department. In 1970 they decided to accept four photography students, one of which was Atchley. Walker Evans was associated with the program as well as guest artists like Robert Frank and Ansel Adams (one of Atchley’s role models at the time along with Eliot Porter, Minor White and Paul Caponigro). The program continues today as one of the most prestigious universities for photography with Gregory Crewdson as the Director of Graduate Studies and nine students per year.
After Yale, Atchley set aside the camera for nearly forty years.
By that time the digital revolution started and he embraced it in
all of its forms, so glad to leave the darkroom behind. His initial interest in the medium was born from a love of nature. Atchley
started to see that the same subjects he had started with could be reinterpreted in ways that really made sense to him - intentional camera movement, out of focus images, long
exposures, camera apps, all giving him incredible choices as to how he presented the world as it appeared to him. While most of his photography still happens in the outdoors, he often focuses on color forms, the lights and darks, the subtle
gradations, the overall “feel” of a scene, or what he calls “distillations”, breaking the composition down into its basic
elements. Atchley sees beyond the obvious details of a scene and interprets them into fluid abstractions and alternative process-like textures that embody the spirit of place and evoke the artist’s sense of connectivity between mind and nature. Often compared to Rothko and Yves Klein, he has the ability to detach and abstract the visible from the real. Ultimately, Atchley is a photographer because he feels that he has something to say about the way he sees the world. His abstracts are suggestive of landscape but lend themselves to contemplation and reflection. The consistent pull between light and darkness, line and color, emotion and reality, environment and dream, give his work a distinctive grasp of nature on a deeper level. “To me, photography is an art of observation. It's about finding something interesting in an ordinary place... I've found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
Atchley has been featured in almost 50 exhibitions since he
re-emerged as a photographer in 2010. In 2015, he received the Martha Boschen Porter Fund Grant from the Berkshire Taconic Foundation and has received many accolades including twice winning the Epson Pano Awards Four “Bronze” Awards, placing in the NYC4 PA “Rural Impressions” Award and FIER Institute “Romantic Landscape” Award. His work is widely collected by private collectors and is in the permanent collection of the Polaroid Corporation.