Creative Cafe // Photographer Paul Anater

Paul Anater photographer. Fire Escape Light and Shadows | The Decorating Diva, LLC

The majestic play of shadow and light upon a brick edifice weathered by age and time.

I’m inspired by struggle and beauty and the more I think about those two seemingly disparate threads, the more I’m convinced that they’re actually the same thing.

I see photography as the best means of self-expression I’ve yet found. Photography, better than any other medium I use, allows me to interpret how I see the world and then share that interpretation with anybody who cares to pay attention.

Design and Architecture photography attracts me because it allows me to capture life as I see it and not necessarily the way it is in an objective sense. Clicking the shutter button on a camera is a judgment call and anybody who thinks otherwise is asleep at the wheel. My photographs, indeed all photographs, assert a perspective and a point of view. Where it gets fun is that I can assert my perspective with all my might but I can’t compel anybody to see what I see. Everyone who looks at any artwork brings with him or her the total of his or her experiences. Someone looking at art projects onto the art as much as they take in. It’s fascinating beyond words. Add to all of that the fact that no one can ever truly master photography or stop learning –all of it’s an unending process. It’s as challenging as it is humbling. In compiling the shots I’m showing how I look at them and think to myself, “knowing what I know since I processed that photo, what would it look like if I shot it today?”

If not pursuing photography, I’d probably be pursuing my bad oil paintings.

"Baby You're  a Fire Escape " Paul Anater photographer. | The Decorating Diva, LLC

“Baby You’re a Fire Escape. ” captures a rhythmic composition of architectural elements that in turn create their own art form cast upon the building by the sun.

Professional photography has influenced my view of the world as I can no longer look at anything without composing a shot. Honestly, every time I look at something I find myself framing what I see. All of this hit some kind of critical mass when I stumbled upon Instagram. Instagram forced and forces me to think inside of a small square and then throw out my vision to the world for their critique.

Tim Martin's Photographer's Guide to Lightroom. | The Decorating Diva, LLC

Tim Martin’s Photographer’s Guide to Lightroom.

The most recent photography book I’ve read and would recommend is Tim Martin’s Complete Photographer’s Guide to Lightroom 5. Martin talks a reader through all of the features of Adobe Lightroom from how to catalog photos to how to edit them. There’s a lot to learn and Martin breaks things down into manageable and logical steps.

Paul Anater street photographer. | The Decorating Diva, LLC

Capturing the moment when the artistic subject realizes he is part of the composition. Wherein the artist becomes the watched.

The most challenging shot I took was less about the procedural challenge as it was about developing the confidence to pursue my favorite form of photography – street photography. I love street photography above everything. Turn me loose with my Canon in an unfamiliar place and I could not be happier. What took me a while to get used to was photographing strangers both on the sly and with their permission. It took me a while to develop the confidence as a photographer to walk up to a stranger and say “Hi, may I take your picture?”

Paul Anater photographer. | The Decorating Diva, LLC

“Darkness on the Edge of Town.” The autumnal beauty of nature gently embraces a neighborhood of rowhouses. One is left wondering of the people living in these quaint homes and as to the circumstances that prompted the overstuffed and dated armchair to be discarded and “kicked to the curb.”

The most beautiful place I’ve visited thanks to my photography career is a toss up between two beautiful cities in Italy – Positano and Ravello. They’re important because in those places I first saw that I had a raw talent for photography. But breathtaking photographs of breathtaking scenery is easy –too easy. I find myself copying life when I’m in surroundings like that and that’s not where art lives. I get a lot more juice walking through a so-called bad neighborhood here in Lancaster [Pennsylvania] or in New York or Philly and finding beautiful compositions in places where most folks assume that there’s no beauty.

Paul Anater photographer. | The Decorating Diva, LLC

“Guggenheimish,” Soaring parking garage floats above the city of Lancaster evoking architectural memories of the famed Guggenheim museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. According to Paul this structure, “reminded me of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gugg ever since I was in high school.”

The project I dream about photographing someday is actually one I am working on now. A  photographic series with the working title “Landmarks Nobody Talks About.” I live in a part of the country that’s obsessed with its own history but only parts of its history. This region, like most regions, is obsessed with nostalgia that passes itself off as history. It’s a white washing that sees the past through a distorted lens to make people now feel like the past was somehow superior to today. The good old days that never were has a death grip on the present and it’s not just in the United States. It’s a human characteristic to think that life was simpler and better in the old days but that’s simply not true by any standard. When that sentiment becomes an agreed upon historical narrative the result is a mythology that has no real lessons to teach. It can become really damaging when those ideas work their way into political campaigns and mass movements.

What I find really interesting is how nostalgia-as-history plays into how people perceive the idea of a landmark. Colonial-era mansions? Can’t touch them. The slave quarters behind them? Bulldoze them now. Entire neighborhoods where the huddled masses clawed their way out of poverty? Fill them with Starbucks and Chipotles because upwardly mobile people want to move back downtown.

Along the same lines, it’s not the gentrified parts of a city populated by folks who’ve made it that give a place its sense of place. It’s the parts where people are still engaged in the struggle to make life better that give a city its identity. My series is about documenting those places of hardship and then showing them to an audience who wants desperately to believe that everyone’s already made it. Radical, I know.

Paul Anater photographer. | The Decorating Diva, LLC

“Air conditioner Gothic.” Historic architecture modified to please and accommodate modern man’s need and desire for climate control.

My advice to those who feel the call to pursue the art of photography is to buy a camera and editing software, and then make many, many mistakes. Meet and talk to other photographers as often as you can.

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Paul Anater photographer. | The Decorating Diva, LLC

“Fire Escapes.” I love playing around with shadows in black and white. Living in the Northeast affords me with examples of the play of light against brick and steel I couldn’t get anywhere else. I was standing in a courtyard a couple of weeks ago at sunset. I looked up and saw this.

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Paul Anater photographer. | The Decorating Diva, LLC

“West Grant.” This is a pretty typical side street neighborhood in Lancaster PA. As these neighborhoods slide into trouble I’m always amazed by how that slide is aided and abetted by the lack of infrastructure improvements. So-called Nice Neighborhoods never have webs of utility cables like this block does. I wonder why that is.

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Paul Anater photographer. | The Decorating Diva, LLC

“Speed-o-Wash.” Lancaster’s a small city that’s in the throes of gentrifying its admittedly beautiful downtown. As downtown gets remade into the image of the people who can afford to live there, the folks who work in the charming shops and restaurants get pushed to the boundaries in a quest for places to live that an $8 an hour job can pay for. This laundromat is a couple of blocks away from a historic district that’s straight out of a brochure and as that historic district gets more charming every year, this neighborhood gets more run down.

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Paul Anater photographer. | The Decorating Diva, LLC

“452.”  I took this photo in a marginal neighborhood in Lancaster, PA. The neighborhood is shifting radically and this was on the front door of a 100+ year-old rowhouse that’s being renovated. The clever person who cobbled these numbers together was just trying to communicate the address of the property but he or she was making art at the same time, Maybe without realizing it.

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Paul Anater photographer. | The Decorating Diva, LLC

“South Water.”  This is a rowhouse that would have been built sometime around the beginning of the last century. It’s fascinating to see the decorative elements that remain on this building.

Photographer Paul Anater.

Photographer Paul Anater.

Paul Anater is the director of marketing at The Reclamation Project and its parent company, ABK Today in Lancaster. He’s a native transplant of Lancaster, Pennsylvania in that he was born and raised in Lancaster and moved back recently after a 25-year sojourn along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. He’s been affiliated with the kitchen, bath and building product industries for the last 15 years and along the way has worked with such noteworthy companies as Google, Blanco, Delta Faucet, GE Monogram, Bosch, Houzz as well as a variety trade events in the US and Europe.

Follow Paul as he documents his photographic exploration and journey via his Instagram account Paul_Anater.