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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Laszlo Layton

Dates:  1959, 24 April -
Born:  US, AZ, Phoenix
Active:  US
Contemporary American photographer. 
Artist statement: 
Cabinet of Curiosities
This series of photographs evolved from my combined interests in Art and in Zoology. After many years spent painting I decided to explore the use of photography as a fine art medium after researching and learning about its origins in the 19th century. Further research regarding the old methods of print making and the new practitioners of “alternative” photography convinced me that photography could be a medium that involved much hand craft, which is one of the aspects of art making that I love most.
My Cabinet of Curiosities series borrows most heavily from the old illuminated books on nature from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Those scientific tomes were illustrated mostly with engravings and lithographs of drawings—usually taken, not from nature, but from mounted specimens or written accounts of the animal species as interpreted by the artist. What these illustrations may have lacked in scientific accuracy they more than made up for in artistic expression. In later years, with the widespread use of photography to document, the illustrated nature book was able to reveal living creatures, often photographed in their natural surroundings. While our 20th century natural history books were much more scientifically accurate, there is a certain romantic charm that I admire in the earlier illustrations that is lacking in the photographic representations.
With this series I am attempting to recapture and distill the essence of those old natural history illustrations, but through the photographic medium. Add to this mix my own artistic interpretations through use of light, composition, and sometimes, color.
In homage to my favorite photography movement, pictorialism, I have chosen to photograph this series exclusively with vintage soft-focus lenses hand-ground in Boston, Massachusetts by the Pinkham & Smith Company. Pinkham & Smith were opticians who had an interest in photography and designed and manufactured their own lenses made to order for clients including Alfred Stieglitz, F. Holland Day, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Gertrude Kasebier and George Seeley.
I plan to pursue this series for a number of years so that I can include a great many animal species that are extinct, rare, forgotten, or mostly unfamiliar. Many of the species I have chosen to photograph are species which, for personal reasons, somehow have related to my own life experience, giving the series an autobiographical aspect as well.
Pictorial Zoology
As a continuation of the Natural History series that I began in 2003, this new group of thirty-six photographs picks up where my last portfolio, Cabinet of Curiosities, left off. While Cabinet of Curiosities was most heavily dominated by bird and mollusk imagery, this group of photographs brings in more representation from the mammal kingdom.
My goal with this series as an homage to 18th and 19th century natural history illustration has remained the same; however, I decided to loosen up my self-imposed rules and criteria for the images and introduced a more creative, and photographic, approach to my subjects. Greater emphasis has now been placed on capturing the mood or attitude of the individual creature rather than how to best represent them in their entirety. The result of my interpretation of nature may be less scientific this time—but hopefully, more artistic as a consequence as the series continues to grow and evolve.

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Laszlo Layton 
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Laszlo Layton

Raised in Tempe & Scottsdale, Arizona. Lived behind Phoenix Zoo. Studied to be zoologist, and later, art and theatre.
Moved from Arizona to California in 1981-lived in San Diego (Ocean Beach) for nearly two years. Worked weekdays as a word processor-weekends spent at Sea World and the San Diego Zoo.
Moved to Los Angeles in 1982. Worked briefly as a makeup artist. Employed by Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Television for over twenty-one years primarily in the legal department as an administrative assistant.
Inspired by the resurgence of landscape painting in the late 80's took up painting-created two series of paintings in watercolor, acrylic, oil and encaustic. One series of the boulder strewn landscape in Joshua Tree National Park-the other series of the eroded multicolored hills of The Painted Desert. Paintings were created in studio from photographs taken on location hikes.
After reading an article about contemporary photographers using archaic processes from photography's 19th century beginnings, purchased an old mahogany 11x14 Deardorff studio view camera with three sets of well-worn bellows. Spent one year restoring the camera and collecting vintage lenses while learning about old printing processes from online chat groups. Developed the idea of creating something unique by merging my love of zoology, old natural history books, and the aesthetic of the pictorialist photographers.
My series of natural history photographs have been exhibited at Photo-eye in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Peter Fetterman Gallery in Santa Monica, California; The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County; Buck House in New York City; and Joseph Bellows Gallery in La Jolla, California. My prints are in many important private collections as well as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, and the International Wildlife Museum in Tucson, Arizona.
Retired from the Entertainment Industry in 2006, moved to a new home and studio in Gold Canyon, Arizona to pursue photography.
Solo exhibitions
2004/2005 Laszlo Layton: Cabinet of Curiosities, November 13 – January 29, Peter Fetterman Gallery, Santa Monica, USA
2003/2004 Laszlo Layton: Natural History Portfolio, September 23 – July 31, photo-eye (Photographer’s Showcase), Santa Fe, USA
Group exhibitions
2006 Eyes on Collections: Terry Evans and Laszlo Layton, March 26 – May 21, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, USA
2006 Seeing…Blue, September 20 – November 30, 2006, Buck House Gallery, New York City, USA
Contact details
Peter Fetterman Gallery
2525 Michigan Avenue #A7
Santa Monica, California 90404
(310) 453-6463
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