I first saw Julie Verdini‘s work in last month’s show DIALOGUEat Newspace curated by Laura Moya. On opening night, her print had a little red dot placed beneath it so Julie was grinning. Continuing my informal series, Eye on PDX, I asked Julie a few questions about her work.

What are better, humans or trees?

Trees are unrivaled in their ability to be silent and still. Without staring at a screen or being caught in deep R.E.M. sleep, humans have difficulty remaining aware and immobile. Trees’ receptivity make them a welcomed ally for an artist; they mirror creative energy and I find them to be great company.

Humans however, are far superior at moving, having distinct personalities and drinking spirits.

What are your influences?

The landscape influences me mostly. I definitely pay tribute to the new topographic movement and William Jenkins‘ idea of “stylistic anonymity.” I think its interesting that when this type of work was initially shown, many devalued its artistic merit. I appreciate how freeing the medium from stylistic implications allows for subtlety and historical perspective. I find nature to be so visually dramatic, photographically speaking, that I just try to get out of its way.

The habit of documenting typologies has always been inherent to my photography practice. Bernd and Hilla Becher are fine tuned examples of this technique mastered. Finding patterns and making connections exercises your visual thinking in such a playful way; it’s like being four years old perpetually. I appreciate how typologies can starkly document yet carry a whole set of theoretical implications about the human race.

I am influenced by Werner Herzog in part because my background is film-making. With environmental consciousness on the rise we frequently see portrayals of nature as victim to human destruction. Herzog speaks so bluntly about the vileness, disorder, chaos and “overwhelming murder” within nature during his time in the Amazon. The idea that nature is an unstoppable force that will prevail, long after our species has perished is one I find my camera seeking. I think that when you work with the landscape their is always a dialogue of the destroyer versus the destroyed. I find that some of my images speak critically of man’s relationship to nature while others come across as symbiotic or even idealistic. So the narrative comes from the environment itself, from each situation.

How do you characterize the photo scene in Portland?

Interested and open. Having lived here many years, the town is small enough to recognize names and faces. My personal experience points to the opportunities for education (Newspace, NCP, ASMP). But, my view could be slanted since I teach and am constantly thinking and talking about photography in an educational context.

Fine art opportunities exist here for certain (albeit through a very limited amount of top-notch organizations and galleries).  However, I often feel I operate as a satellite and only occasionally cross paths with other fine art photographers. I would be interested to see opportunities for community growth beyond classes and occasional shows. However, I may not be the best person to asses the pulse of any social scene — after all, I am most often found in a cluster of trees rather than a crowd of humans.

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Eye on PDX is a continuing, weekly series that features images and brief statements by photographers currently living in Portland, OR.