At the start of his cinematography classes at Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television in the 1980s, the late Ian Conner would tell his students, “A motion picture can be just one frame long, but it better be a damn good frame!”
After later viewing the photography of his student Robert Kawika Sheer, Conner knew that Sheer had taken his words literally.
Venice resident Sheer creates long-exposure photographic images with spirit-like human shadows that pop up throughout the images, which he considers “single frame motion pictures.” Sheer shoots in exotic historic locations throughout the world where he feels the spirit energy is high, he says.
“I like to walk into my shots with my body and spirit, take my body out and leave a bit of humanity behind,” says Sheer, who grew up in Hawaii influenced by the indigenous culture there. “You can’t tell the race, color, creed or religion of the silhouettes in my work, just the pure sense of humanity.”
He merges the “spiritual energy” with his unique art photography technique in Spirit Shadows, an exhibit of Sheer’s works, on display through Saturday, March 3rd, at LaFoto Gallery, 806 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. Admission is free.
Sheer will give two free lectures touching on both the inspiration for his images and technique behind his long-exposure photography at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, February 2nd and 3rd.
In addition, Sheer will host multimedia theatrical presentations geared around his imagery at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday, February 9th to 11th, at LaFoto Gallery. Admission is $20, or $18 for students. The presentations will include a slideshow, poetry readings, music and a moving presentation throughout the gallery.
Sheer likes to refer to his works as performance art photos, due to his laborious involvement in creating the shadows that pop up throughout the long exposures that often are shot over a six- or seven-hour period at night.
The labor-intensive photographic process is reminiscent of another Venice photographer, Dean Chamberlain, who Sheer says is one of his many inspirations. Whereas Chamberlain, known for his portraits of psychedelic gurus, “paints” in the colorful light while the shutter is open, Sheer “paints” in the shadows.
Like Chamberlain, Sheer stresses that there is no digital manipulation ý la Photoshop and no multiple exposures in his process.
The roots of Sheer’s photographic journey began after graduating from film school when he began to work doing motion picture time-lapse photography at night for producers in Hollywood, creating “insert shots” of moving skyscapes and landscapes for film.
During this time, he says he was forced to learn and develop techniques shooting in low-light and no-light situations in order to complete his work assignments.
Sheer later worked on Michael Jackson video in the early 1990s for the song “Who Is It?” which never wound up receiving much airplay in the United States due to Jackson’s first scandal when the pop star was accused of pedophilia.
During his stint working on a program for the Discovery channel program, Sheer got the chance to travel to exotic locations throughout the world. It was during that time that he would head out late at night, often around 2 a.m., and spend hours putting his photo technique into play at mystical sites in India, at Stonehenge and numerous other sites of interest around the globe.
One night, a coworker on the production team complained to a studio boss about Sheer’s activities at night, suggesting that Sheer should be sleeping so he could be more productive during the day. Sheer was called into the studio boss’s office the next day. Fearing he would be fired, Sheer brought a box of his images to show what he had been working on each night, he says. To Sheer’s surprise, instead of being reprimanded or fired, he wound up selling the studio boss about $2,000 worth of photos, Sheer says. It was at this point that he decided to put more effort into marketing his images. He started selling them on Venice Beach a few years before the Boardwalk regulation went into effect putting curbs on artists and expression.
“It was such a crazy, creative place,” he remembers.
He says he sold numerous prints on the boardwalk to both locals and tourists from around the globe.
Sheer now shows his work at about 25 art festivals per year throughout the western United States and in New York.
He says his influences come from not just master photographers like Ansel Adams (whom Sheer pays tribute to in one of his images), but also filmmakers Alfred Hitchcock and Akira Kurosawa, fine artists Salvador Dali and Vincent van Gogh, and maverick thinkers such as Albert Einstein.
Information, (310) 664-1563.