Posted on Friday, January 16,
2004 @ 15:25:09 CST by barry
By Katie Richardson | Arts
John Sfondilias graduated from the
University of Illinois with a doctorate in instructional
design and computer-based education. His "past life"
activities include working as a systems engineer for IBM, a
consultant for the U.S. Air Force Space Command, and a
designer and developer of technology-based educational
programs. His work in technology explains some of his current
direction in photography. John acquired his first professional
SLR camera more than 20 years ago, but it wasn't until the
advent of the digital camera that John's photography really
took off. In the last year-and-a-half or so, John estimates he
has taken over 4,500 digital photographs. His work is on
display until Jan. 31 at the Aroma Cafe in downtown Champaign
for the online version of the exhibit).
Why did you
make the switch to digital photography?
It seemed a
natural fit for me. I like taking as many photographs as I
wish without worrying about wasting film or incurring
processing costs. I also like the instant feedback of
downloading and seeing the results of a day's photo shoot
immediately. And, as the mega-pixels in digital cameras
increase, it only gets better. The only drawback I can see is
that I'm ending up with so many images I'm forgetting what
Why did you choose the piece you're
The primary reason is that it looks good in
black and white. I've concentrated on color photography, so I
had to search for an image that would look good in the Buzz.
"Stairway to Heaven" is also a photograph with an interesting
story. It was taken in the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe (N.M.)
In the 1800s, the "Sisters of Loretto" were asked to leave
Kentucky and begin a girl's school in Santa Fe. After enduring
enormous hardships, they made a go of the school. When their
chapel required a special staircase, legend has it that a man
showed up on a donkey, built an "engineering marvel" of a
staircase (with two 360-degree turns and no visible means of
support), then disappeared without asking for thanks or
payment (For more detail, see www.lorettochapel.com/html/history.html).
Where are you headed with your
I am currently involved in two nearly
completely separate endeavors. One is local exhibits and shows
involving my framed photography. The other is commercial stock
photography, which is posted and sold via stock photo agency
Web sites. I've heard it said that one needs to head to either
the East or West Coast to make it as an artist. I'm here for
now, so the stock photography hedges my bets a little bit.
What I really envision myself as doing someday is settling in
some wonderful little town in Colorado and opening a gallery.
Well, one can imagine.
What is your source of
inspiration in your photography?
For me, there is an
inner component and an external one. Externally, I find
photography (and inspiration) easy when in a wonderful
environment. There is no end to inspiration in a place like
the Aegean Sea or a beautiful canyon in the Southwest.
However, to avoid simply snapping pictures, one has to have
some kind of internal vision or put some kind of "voice" into
the work. I often see photographs in places that leave other
people wondering why I'm stopping and what in the world I'm
doing. If this inner voice isn't "speaking," my photography
doesn't seem to amount to much. What I really hope to
accomplish is to create a "window of interpretation" that the
viewer can appreciate. When this actually works, the viewer
has a connection to the original subject matter, one that
combines both the photographer's interpretation as well as the
Who has influenced you in your
Of course, there are the master
photographers. Closer to home, there was a former Presbyterian
minister who ran a photography workshop more than 20 years
ago. He taught me to establish a relationship with my
photographic subjects, especially as applied to human
subjects. It's just too easy "to steal" a photograph with
today's ultra-zoom lenses. I've thought of his point of view
often. Then, there is the advice I heard from a more current
photographer, which was that the only bad photograph was the
one not taken. These two viewpoints can come into conflict on
occasion. It makes it interesting when one begins to debate
ethical photographic conduct when in the middle of a photo