The Art and the Science – SharpByCoop Knife Photography
by Tim Vaniman
I will admit that until recently, I saw knives in purely utilitarian terms – as little more than things that cut other things. “Knives” in my mind, went with words like “butter” and “steak,” and if I was feeling particularly rugged or daring, “fishing” and “camping.”
Being a little embarrassed by this admission, I have decided to blame my upbringing. After all, you only know what you know.
But I will also admit – happily this time – that all this has recently changed.
After hours spent pouring over hundreds of Jim Cooper’s photographs, I have come to understand the tremendous skill and incredible artistry of the hand-made blade. And therein lies the power of Mr. Cooper’s craft – the ability to open closed eyes by displaying beautiful things in the fullness of their beauty.
It goes without saying that in a technical sense this is an amazing skill. But we must acknowledge that it also requires a passionate mind, because one can’t easily find – or display – the beauty in something one does not already find fascinating.
So it seems to me there are two crucial elements to every successful photograph: the How and the Why – the Science and the Art.
The science of it consists of the camera, lighting, staging, composition and hard-won technical know-how. While the art – that which breathes life into the image – is nothing nearly so easy to define. This comes from the heart – and it is, or it is not. You either have it, or you don’t.
And so, the more I digested Mr. Cooper’s work, the more curious I became about the man behind the lens. What training, equipment, and background enable him to do what he does so well?
What follows is the story behind these questions, gleaned primarily from interviews with the man himself.
This article appeared in the December 2019 issue of Knife Magazine. Click the blue box below to read the whole thing.