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cliff wassmann photography

Documenting the SoCal Coast

The first image I photographed that became popular was a shot of the Brig Pilgrim shrouded in fog in Dana Point Harbor. It was late 80's and my picture framing store was just taking off and I was still focused on selling my landscape paintings. But photography was less expensive to produce in quantity and I had all the tools for matting and framing so I thought it might help supplement my income a bit so I started making small prints and selling them in my store. Then, quite literally, a lightning bolt hit! And I got it on camera! The print of it went viral locally before viral was a thing and I sold many copies of it. And I realized photography could be an actual profitable business. The race was on to find more emotionally powerful images. I was fortunate to meet David Marr, another photographer that was working with large format cameras. These cameras use large sheet film to produce stunningly detailed images. I purchased one used and started photographing the local coast and producing images that ended up documenting the changes coming to area. Many of my locations such as the Dana Point Headlands, San Juan Capistrano and Crystal Cove ended up getting developed making my images of them now glimpses of past. Some I have scanned and have online for purchase but most are still my archives.

The Road Less Traveled

My primary business, Dana Point Picture Frame Co. was booming in the 1990's and I had some expendable income. Instead of doing the smart thing and buying a house I ended up traveling to places I had dreamed out, dragging many pounds of camera gear with me. Over a 10 year period I managed to visit some truly spectacular locations. Easter Island, Antarctica, Europe, to name a few, and produced some beautiful images from those trips. And I was able to recoup my costs selling the images at the Laguna Beach Art Festivals as well as my frame store/gallery. By the late 90's I was tired of the framing business and went full-time into art and photography. After this came the stock market crash, 9/11, recessions, etc., as well as some heath setbacks and I've never been able to maintain a vigorous travel schedule since there but still venture out to shoot the local area as well as road trips here and there. The fine art photography market has changed much over the years as well. The ease of digital photography and processing has brought a huge amount of competition while at the same time devaluing the work over it's perceived easiness to create. The thrill of capturing that perfect image is still there for me and I still sell quite a few online but have stopped printing and offering them at shows and galleries.

Which Way from Here?

Despite the obstacles of selling photography in world where everyone is a photographer now I still look to the future. I absolutely love using digital imaging software and printing and all the ways you can create unique pieces of art using it. Technology is providing photographers with all kinds of ways to continue exploring. Underwater rigs, star trackers and drone photography are possibilities for me. I'm still fairly traditional in the way I work even if my tools are more advanced, I am still drawn towards epic landscape imagery. I imagine a drone system is in my future as it lets me explore new technology while allowing me to continue working even as my body wears out! Keep checking the online store to see the latest works!