An interview with Taylor Jorjorian – photographic surreal impressionism

Taylor Jorjorian

Taylor’s abstract photographs are unique and visually compelling. I find they  have a sense of movement and depth you don’t expect in the abstract. In fact the first time I saw them I paused, first drawn to the movement, then the colour and finally the suggestion of a deliberate photographic process.

“Yard Bunny, Moving” © Taylor Jorjorian – This is my personal favourite. I love the pallet and I find I am drawn deeper and deeper into the swirls.

“The first reaction I usually get when someone sees one of my prints is oh, that’s a picture of a painting.” – Nashville Arts Magazine

I first came across Taylor Jorjorian browsing the blogs on  Son to  fine art nature photographer (Byron Jorjorian), Taylor Jorjorian’s first aspiration was to be a commercial chef, but as he describes it,  photographing food was more satisfying than cooking it.  Creatively his journey has moved from painting, to commercial photography to fine art photography focussing on the abstract.

Taylor’s photographs are created using a process he calls the Liberum method; a technique he is not prepared to share except to say it is physical, not Photoshop based. Looking at his portfolio I think that is an important aspect to his creative process. Despite the fact the images have a painterly feel they also seem to lever the dimensionality we have come to expect in a photograph. He told Nashville Arts Magazine that:

“MASKING” © Taylor Jorjorian

“Wanting more control over my imagery I have developed a method for making photographs that allows me to escape the viewfinder and create deeply personal images from imagination and memory.  I call this my “Libuerm” method.  Liberum is a latin word meaning free and unrestricted.  This simple definition fully embodies what my work is all about.

They are actual photographs created with a camera, using purely photographic techniques. This is important, as I believe it gives my work a more organic feel while maintaining a sense of honesty and integrity. When you view one of my photographs, you know that you are seeing something that is real and was in front of the camera for a moment in time.” – Nashville Arts Magazine

Flores Theatro
“Bouquet Four Session One #1” © Taylor Jorjorian – While Taylor is focussed on Libuerm Method photographs I really love his soft focus impressionist images.

Reading Taylor’s blog you immediately understand that his approach to photography is thoughtful and deliberate. Despite the appearance of spontaneity his photographs are created; not found.

Taylor recently agreed to share some of his thinking with me.

Interview with Taylor Jorjorian:

“Memoir Number 26″, © Taylor Jorjorian – from the collection “Memoirs from the Plunge” a spectacular collection of black and white abstracts.

Thanks for finding time to discuss photography with me.

SD: I was interested to read in Nashville Magazine that your father was a fine art nature photographer and that you started as a commercial photographer. However I don’t see any artifacts from those roots in your abstract images. Was your journey from straight photography to abstract photography a eureka moment or a journey?  

TJ: I have always been attracted to the abstract, both in my own work and the work of others.  Before I ever picked up a camera I experimented with other mediums and always tended to portray subjects in an obscure manner.  When I did finally take up photography (which was a eureka moment itself, taking place in single night) the desire to create abstract work naturally carried over.

Flores Theatro
“Bouquet Five Session One #5” © Taylor Jorjorian

Professionally I was a commercial photographer and mainly did advertising work for restaurants.  I really didn’t have any connection with this work and found it non stimulating.  In my spare time I experimented with abstract photography using some common methods but found this as equally non stimulating.  As much as I as I loved the unique abilities of the camera I found myself feeling creatively constrained by it, unable to fully express myself.  

Earlier in life when painting I enjoyed the feeling of being able to convey onto canvas anything I wanted without restriction.  I wanted that same freedom photographically.  To achieve this I decided to focus on creating and controlling the subject that was projected to camera.  Thus turning the camera into a sort of high tech blank canvas.  This was a eureka moment but it was definitely a journey to get it right.  Once I felt I had developed a solid working method I dropped commercial photography all together and decided to only focus on fine art work.

“Number 3 Of Spring” © Taylor Jorjorian – Taylor writes: “Photo created using the “Liberum” method, which is based on the philosophy that one can make photographs with the same artistic freedom that a painter or sculptor has by focusing more on creating what is in front of the camera”

SD: Do you think your  work falls into an already established genre like abstract impressionism or abstract expressionism or is this something new? Is there a label you use to describe it?

TJ: Visually my photographs could fall into a number of existing genres.  Early on I studied many of these trying to find a fit for my imagery but none of them truly encompassed my work in its entirety.  After dissecting my work visually and technically I decided to classify it as “Photographic Surreal Impressionism”.  This classification signifies that the images are created with a camera and conveys a personal interpretation of a subject in the same dreamlike way it is mentally imagined.

I also gave a title to the process used to create the work, “The Liberum Method”.  Based on the philosophy of subject creation rather than subject documentation this method is all about manifesting what is portrayed to the camera.  Liberum is Latin word meaning free and unrestricted.  This simple definition truly represents what my work is all about.

“Mildred On The Phone Talking About The Weather” © Taylor Jorjorian
SD: While your vision is very different from many exploring the edges of contemporary photography it looks like you have been struggling with a couple of universal themes. For example your blog post “Portfolio Rejection” underscores the debate “what is a photograph”. I am wondering what you believe photography brings to your abstract images?


“Red Slightly Balanced” © Taylor Jorjorian – Taylor writes:”I have had a really hard time with this photo. I have keep it to myself for almost a year. On the one hand I don’t care for the composure I used on it, on the other I am drawn to it’s “awkwardness.”

TJ:  Without photography my body of work could not exist.  The camera has the unique ability to capture and portray a moment in time precisely the way it was.  No other artistic medium can truly do this with the same sense of honesty that photography can.  Using the camera allows me to convey this sense of moment through my imagery.  When you are viewing one of my photographs you know that you are viewing something that was real and existed for a moment in time.  This helps to convey a sense of honesty and provides a more organic feel to the work.  that would not be possible without the element of integrity that a camera can offer.

SD: The debate around truth in photography has been with us for a long time. Even Ansel Adams suggests a subjective element in straight photography when he said “A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.” You added to that debate with  a thoughtful essay on the subject titled The Photography Lie in  which you suggest the pendulum has gone too far; that digital art should be separated from photography. What was the reaction to your ideas in that essay. Do you think the debate matters to the public or is it only relevant to photographers?
“THIS IS A PHOTOGRAPH” © Taylor Jorjorian – The rejection slip read “”Taylor, this is a PHOTOGRAPHY magazine, that means we publish photography and relevant issues. Perhaps you should send your illustrations to a more fitting venue. Do more research before submitting your work and avoid wasting everybody’s time.” Taylor’s reaction is a great read.

TJ:  It was overwhelming. I would be lying if said I didn’t know this would be hot issue but I did not expect the volume of responses I received.  My inbox was filled with responses.  As you might expect I received a good bit of harsh criticism, some of which was very “colorfully” worded.  On the other hand I found many like minded artists in my corner.  The majority seemed to agree that there was a difference in what we have traditionally called photography and digital-art that should be better defined.

I actually believe this debate is more relevant to the public than the artists creating the work.  The photographer produces the image but the viewer is subjected to it.  One example of this is the effect that over processed fashion/glamour images have on the audience.  How many people, especially young persons, have made themselves sick both mentally and physically trying to look like the models in these “photographs”?  When in reality these images have been so heavily edited that they are more like paintings rather than photographs.

SD: Another aspect of the impact of technology on contemporary photography is the rise of the web followed by the rise of social media. I know your interest is in fine art prints. What has your experience been with the internet?
“Tracey did I lock the door? Are you sure?” © Taylor Jorjorian – Taylor’s personal favourite.

TJ:  I am/have always been a bricks and mortar type of guy.  Most of my efforts have been in trying to get my work shown in either physical form or in print.  While I have always understood the importance of a personal website I was a nonbeliever in the power of social media and neglected the use of it in the early stages of my career.  This was a mistake. 

After eventually being persuaded that I should have some kind of social presence I realized how wrong I had been.  In the two years since I started a blog and became active on various social media sites I have been awakened to there power.  Solely through these online tools I have had multiple opportunities including write ups, magazine features, exhibitions, meeting some great people and even the chance to do this interview.  Many times these have lead directly or indirectly to relationships with new collectors.   Had I not has a social presence these opportunities would have never presented themselves.

All that being said I am still a brick and mortar type guy.  I don’t think an image posted on a webpage can ever be as compelling as seeing the physical piece in person.  

SD: Which image is your personal favourite and why?

TJ:  It seems like every time I finish a successful shoot I come away with a new favorite.  If I had to name one that stands out to me it would be, “Tracey Did I Lock The Door, Are You Sure?”.  Completed in 2009 this photograph represents one of the first times that my philosophy towards image making and my experimental techniques truly came together harmoniously.  At the time this image vindicated, for me personally, the direction I was taking creatively.

Photographic Surreal Impressionism
“Showtime, Give Them One To Remember” © Taylor Jorjorian
SD: Last thing I want to ask you about is an interesting theme I see in your writing and that is the role of ethics in photography. Why is that important to you when your genre is not tied to journalism?

TJ: The term photography implies a process that is fundamentally understood by most people.  The loose application of that term is misleading to the viewer and breeds a mistrust towards the photographic medium.  I am not suggesting that a photograph itself need be honest or anything like that.  Only that the photographer/artist be so regarding their creative process.  

SD: Thanks for that. This is an exciting time for impressionist photography and I am looking forward to seeing where you take your vision.

You can learn more about Taylor Jojorian’s photographs on his webstite at, his blog an intersting piece in Nashville Arts Magazine and Lenswork Magazine Vol 102.

words where not quoted © stephen d’agostino

images © taylor jorjorian

4 thoughts on “An interview with Taylor Jorjorian – photographic surreal impressionism”

    1. Thanks – Taylor is certainly challenging what we think of as photography, even impressionist photography, with great results. I am looking forward to seeing where his work may evolve.

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