Polish-born photographer Art Zdanowski’s first visit to Laguna Beach provoked an instant reaction: he recognized his future home. Even more significantly, he found the artistic inspiration of its atmosphere and people profound.
To express his appreciation to his adopted hometown, the four-year resident presented the City Council with his dramatic photograph of the town’s Main Beach lifeguard tower last month.
Titled “Laguna Guardian,” the black and white digital photograph won first place at this year’s Orange County Fair. “I fell in love with Laguna, with its magic and charm that has given me so much as an artist,” he said. “This is a thank you.”
After helping Sawdust Festival artist Rosalie Marsh-Boinus put her booth up, Zdanowski presented, at her urging, his own work for the first time at this summer’s show, which concluded on Sunday, Aug. 28. He plans to show his work again during the winter festival.
Zdanowski spent five years in Warsaw, Siedlce and Naleczow honing his skills in a variety of art forms and techniques before graduating in 2006. “We had to study all the basics: drawing, painting, design, photography and even wood working, to turn us into well-rounded artists,” he said.
He settled on photography, which he found to be a usefully portable medium that meshes well with the wanderlust common to many of his compatriots. He had traveled throughout the United States before succumbing to Laguna’s charm.
Even though the lifeguard tower had been photographed thousands of time by tourists and professionals alike, he felt drawn by its iconic presence.
To capture the tower as he envisioned it, surrounded by a cloud formation in a dramatic light, he digitally combined nine separate images into one, utilizing computer software. “The camera does not see as distinctively as the human eye and through using different exposures for various sections of the image and a digital system known as HDR (high dynamic range), I was able to make the final picture,” he said. “HDR” is the digital equivalent of the “zone system” invented by nature photographer Ansel Adams, he explained.
After observing the tower and its surroundings for seven months, all the right elements finally came together on May 8 of this year.
The creative result now hangs in City Manager John Pietig’s office area. “We think the photograph is wonderful. We made certain to hang it where the public could see it,” he said.
A skilled carpenter as well, Zdanowski would also eventually like to design and craft furniture but, his ultimate ambition lies in videography. “I see myself becoming a film maker some day,” he said.
This Sunday, Sept. 4 his work can be seen at the Laguna Craft Guilt exhibit on the cobble stones of Main Beach and also on www.artzfp.com
Photographer Art Zdanowski with his blue-ribbon winning portrait of Laguna’s lifeguard tower. Photo by Ted Reckas.