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Albert Horner On Becoming The Pinelands Photographer

 

Albert Horner has been a photographer for more than 35 years; however, he was never quite satisfied with his work until he decided to dedicate his career to photographing The Pinelands in 2005. “I think there is a lot of raw beauty in The Pinelands, and that’s what I try to photograph,” he says, adding that he originally became a photographer to show others that there is beauty everywhere if you just look for it.

Horner believes that photographers who really succeed often live where they photograph.

“It helps to focus on one subject and know it well,” he adds. After nine years of living and photographing the area, Horner was able to publish a book entitled Pinelands: New Jersey’s Suburban Wilderness. “I think the book in itself, which is basically nothing more than a photographic monograph of my work, shows the beauty of The Pinelands and the reason why it should be preserved forever and always.”

Is there a certain time you choose to shoot?

I choose to do my photography at sunrise for, actually, several reasons. The light is the best then as far as I’m concerned. Also, as the light progresses, you can shoot for a long period of time. The first thing I do is decide where the sun is going to come up. There needs to be a wow factor. Before I take a photograph, I envision it hanging on a wall. I use a viewfinder and if it looks pleasing to me, I will come back when I think the time is right and take the shot.

Why did you choose The Pinelands?

I’ve been running around The Pinelands ever since I was 5 years old. I like The Pinelands so much, I even came out here when I learned to drive. I just felt more comfortable being out in the woods. As I got older, I decided I wanted to live out here. You see these little glimpses of beauty from the side of your eyes and you think “that’s really pretty” and you go back and photograph it. Timing is everything. It was just a question of learning when to shoot, not just turning the camera and taking a picture but creating a piece of art.

How did that evolve?

It doesn’t happen the first time, many times. I’ve had several places that I have spent a couple of years on and off revisiting locations until I got just the right photograph. People tell me my photos look like paintings and that inspires me to continue to make more and perfect my technique. If it is not art, then I don’t photograph it. There are times I have spent hours loading equipment before dawn and trekking through murky conditions to capture an exact moment in time that produces art.

You have efforts against off-roading. How did that come about?

What ultimately happened is that I became a strong advocate for The Pinelands. As I progressed, I realized that these photographs could be really helpful to help preserve The Pinelands and make people more understanding of the amazing natural resource we have in our backyard. I think of all the things, because of the physical-ness of off-road vehicles and the amount of destruction that only a few of them can do at any given time; this is the now biggest threat to The Pinelands in my estimation. There is one area called Quarter Mile that has been devastated. I don’t know if it will ever return to its natural state at all, it is that bad.

What did you decide to do about it?

I realized it was an immense area—it is about 85 acres and you can clearly see it on Google Earth. So, what I did start a blog and the name of the blog is The Scar. The reason I called it that was because it appeared to be a huge scar on the land. When I finally got back there to where I wanted to photograph, I found the devastation to be so immense, I could hardly believe all the destruction I saw. Wharton State Forest along with a group of volunteers posted signs in an effort to deter the off-roading activities. There is not much more we can do. We lack the resources and manpower to enforce regulations. In the end, it is a matter of community education. People need an intrinsic sense of caring for our natural resources to make a difference.

Since 2005, Albert Horner has produced more than 150 images of the 1.1 million-acre Pinelands area, 80 of which can be found in his monograph. He is a Pinelands Preservation Alliance board member and uses his art to continuously advocate by giving presentations and spreading knowledge.

For more information about Horner and The Pinelands, visit PinelandsImagery.com/About-The-Artist.

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