Something Clicked When They Met

Something Clicked When They Met

June 18, 2002

Photographers David and Jane Ernst create completely different pictures—often of the same things. “Our World in Color,” their exhibit at the United States Geological Survey building in Reston, includes traditional photos as well as enhanced images that the Ernsts say “take photography beyond the original photograph.".

Caroline Bell, of USGS’ Public Affairs department, said that USGS has had exhibits for “many, many years,” in what USGS staff calls the “Art Hallway.” The Ernsts also exhibit at the Artists’ Undertaking Gallery in Occoquan, Carrizozo Joe’s Coffee Shop and Gallery in Carrizozo, N.M., and the Picture This Gallery in Waverly, Iowa.

Married 28 years, the Ernsts, residents of Springfield, met through mutual acquaintances. They said they have been artists “all their lives,” but didn’t regularly show their work until about 10 years ago. Early in their marriage, they used to attend stock car races, competing to get the most photos into racing magazines, but don’t compete now. “We help each other,” said Jane.

The Ernsts have held shows called “2 Views,” featuring different images of the same things. Though they claim to have “heard our cameras click at the same time,” their contrasting images of subjects such as Knollman’s, an old country store, shows how different their visions can be.

Some of their inspiration comes from going to places they’ve never been before, Jane Ernst said: “We love old places.”

Jane works with SX-70 Polaroid film and a Polaroid camera last made in 1985. “You can find them sometimes at yard sales,” said David Ernst. His wife manipulates the surface of fresh Polaroid prints, then digitally scans them, creating images that range from abstract, like the blurred human image in “Lost in the Rocks,” to the more realistic “Stone Cottage.”

David creates his pieces with digital technology and traditional photography, and said that when he works with an image, “composition is probably one of the first things [I consider], but color and texture are important, too.” David’s exhibit included the ghostly “Smithsonian in the Snow,” color-enhanced and layered scenes like “Tree Series #7,” impressionistic pieces like “Waterford Solitude,” and black-and-neon, enhanced negative images like his “Basilica of St. Francis Xavier.”

He said some projects take months to complete. “There’s a lot more work that goes into photography than people think.”

Both David and Jane believe artists should respect their medium and not use second-rate materials. “We want our pictures to last,” said David, who matches high-quality pigments and archival inks with appropriate paper to prevent acidic reactions. He also employs special matte boards that “suck pollution away from the picture” using microcellular technology. They print each piece themselves and don’t believe in limited editions, which they say are usually printed commercially in large numbers. “You think you’re getting something rare that isn’t,” said David.

The Ernsts often go to photography lectures and conventions. “Networking is important for artists,” said Jane. Each has won numerous awards and is a member of the League of Reston Artists, the Reston Photographic Society, a special interest group of The League, and the Northern Virginia Handcrafter’s Guild. They not only create but also collect art and, due to space limitations, keep some of it in bins so it is “accessible,” said Jane.

The Ernsts both said they are “moving toward the abstract” in their work. David offered some advice to artists. “Do what you like, not what you think you will sell.”