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Charles Kohlhase  –  photographer & digital artist
Click for larger image " I have found that within every good photograph are many interior excellent photographs of smaller and smaller areas. "
How were you motivated to choose your particular field?
  I wonder if art can be "in the blood". My great grandfather was a superb painter and architect, and my grand uncle's B&W photographs of the Great Smoky Mountains in 1924 convinced the Congress to make that area in eastern Tennessee into a national park. Whenever I visited my grandmother at her quaint octagonal house in Knoxville and saw many of these works, listened to her exquisitely detailed stories each night before falling asleep, and observed the beauty of the surrounding natural area, I felt compelled to draw incessantly and also capture images on film.

My senses were regularly flooded with the myriad textures within the woods, as well as those upon the many fruits and vegetables within my grandfather's garden. I can still recall seeing an indigo bunting one spring in a small dogwood tree that grew near an area teeming with butterflies. There was also the winter frost, the fallen buckeyes, and the cottontails. The list is endless. Nature has an enduring way of filling the heart and soul with lasting images of great value.

Scale model building (mostly of model airplanes and railroad cars) further gave me the wish to become an architect, but the 5–year university program was too expensive, so I eventually settled for a B.S. in Physics instead. As the years passed, I did a lot of backpacking to remote wilderness areas and always took along a camera. Later, when computer graphics and 3D modelling finally blossomed, moving from straight photography into digital art was a natural.

  Click for larger image
What can you share about your creative process?
    The key to creating good photographs and digital art is to blend two abilities – the ability to "see" the latent image at all levels of scale, from the wide angle to the close–up, and then apply good compositional techniques to capture an image in esthetic balance. I have found that within every good photograph are many excellent interior photographs of smaller and smaller areas. The mood of the light makes a remarkable difference! At times, vast landscapes are appropriate. At other times, only the barest of detail is best. Mies van der Rohe had it right when he said, "Less is more." In the spring of 1998 after unusually heavy rains, I did some of my best work using a close-up lens on local flora and fauna.

Recently, I have become intrigued with "forging" virtual 3D sculpture on a computer, then rotating it about to find a pleasing 2D view to capture. There is unlimited scope here. The result is appropriate for the new millennium. Making some of these sculptures out of real metals would be nearly impossible, but not in the virtual world of shapes and textures. It also allows order from the scientific world to join composition from the artistic world. The use of your imagination, a good 3D modelling program, and Adobe Photoshop can lead to interesting results. Indeed, the mind, the heart, and the computer, as a team, can enable the creation of anything that can be imagined.

What ideas do you have for a future human community on Mars?
  In addition to suggestions under the sciences section, the artist in me recommends that the first Martian village be endowed with inspirational architecture and breath-taking views from almost every room. It is also important that ample bandwidth allow for streaming artistic images, music, and educational materials in real time from great archives either on Earth or brought to Mars from Earth. The use of light and color to establish an upbeat ambience is important, but it must also be possible to easily update and change lighting and color schemes. One should also explore the inclusion of novel sports and dance that take advantage of the low–g on Mars.

Though next to impossible to compete with the magnificent flora and fauna of Earth (except by the lengthy process of terraforming), the community must cleverly be made the envy of people back on Earth, an enormous challenge to meet as long as Earth keeps its great wilderness areas and its abundant water. The village layout and architecture must also provide for expansion over time as the village grows. It must be planned in from the start, not added later as an afterthought. But as the village grows, the Martian environment must not be polluted as humans have done here on Earth. Protecting the Earth's precious environment remains our greatest imperative.

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