Inspire Speaker: Robert Norman


In this series of blog posts we are introducing people who are speaking at and attending Inspire 2014. Today we’d like to introduce you to Robert Norman of Robert Norman Photography who will be leading a workshop on Photography and the Encaustic Process

Robert Norman

This year at Inspire, I’m doing something rather different in what I’m jokingly calling my ‘Arts and Crafts’ class where we will learn about the wax encaustic process. I’ll spare you all the details of the class, as you can read about that on the website, but I wanted to chat a little about the background of my interest in it.

I’ve always been fascinated by ‘old stuff’, vintage things and (as Sarah Lehberger called it) ‘nostalgia’. I once worked on a gallery project where I took old 2 ¼ film negatives, and painted and scratched them before making 16x20 B&W fiber prints. The concept being, “What if I found an old, beat up box of negatives, printed some and found REALLY cool images on them?!” That whole discovery process absolutely fascinated me.

Jump ahead many years to the PhotoPlus Expo in NYC where I saw my first encaustic image in person from a company that was offering them as a unique wedding alternative. The whole dreamy, somewhat otherworldly feel the images took immediately spoke to me. I always try and take a trip each year to do work for myself that is not wedding related, and so several years after THAT, I got to try the process myself at the Rebirth Workshop in Mississippi (you can talk to Inspire Speaker Mr. Chris Williams about that, as he was one of the main folks involved) One of the many alternative processes there covered was encaustic, and while I realize that first piece I made was rather remedial, I became immediately hooked.

I think for me part of the fascination was it brought me back to my art school roots. It was Graphic Design and not photography that was actually major in school when I started out. (…and photographing a WEDDING?! Well, you can forget THAT!) The process in school, of allowing time for a piece to ‘come to you’ and taking your time allowing for changes and mistakes, is something you lose in typical wedding/portrait photography. You know – you’re getting paid and expected to produce! Part of the joy of encaustic is the unearthing process, as since you’re dealing with melted wax, you never quite know exactly what you are going to end up with – it’s incredibly organic. It also allows back tracking, changing your mind, reworking an image or even starting over! Some pieces of mine I will go back to a month or more later and makes adjustments to. One I hated and melted everything off of entirely. Some are finished in a snap—you just never know.

There’s a beauty in not knowing – in letting an image reveal itself with time. We all get very hung up on checking our LCD screens and taking 16 images of shoes to edit it down to one. We rarely allow ourselves to slow down and discover something deeper with the luxury of time. I hope you will join me to spend a little time with both your images as well as yourself.



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