Carlisle Photographer is Drawn to Architectural Subjects

At 59 years of age, photographer John Wright is back where he was as a teenager in Battle Creek, Mich. There, he began to explore photography as a fine art and, after years in the commercial trade, has returned to his youthful interest in the medium’s aesthetic side.

“My dad gave me his twin lens reflex Yashica camera when I was in high school, and I started composing abstract pictures with it,” he says. “I had a drive to master the medium. I wanted to learn the technical side of it cold. And enlisting in the Navy helped me to do that.”

In 1977, the Navy sent Wright to Syracuse University for instruction in photojournalism. “It is a renowned program, in place since the early ’60s,” he says. “And during my era, each branch of the service sent a very select group of students.”

Six years later, Wright left the Navy and began a series of photography jobs in the Tidewater region of Virginia and Washington, D.C. He landed in the Carlisle area in 1998, working for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and then Coyle Lumber and Millwork. “When the economy went south, I was laid off in 2009,” he says, “and decided to get back into photography.” His studio, located at 340 East Louther Street, Suite 6, in Carlisle, offers services in art reproduction, image processing and fine art printing, as well as individual instruction.

Of his own work, Wright says, “I’ve come full circle. I’m reaching my voice. What I’m doing now is a culmination of all of my training and desires. I have the technical competency. Now, it’s all about expression.”

Consistent with his interest in architecture, a recent series of photographs, entitled Echoes, uses Harrisburg’s multilevel Strawberry Square parking structure as a foundation for striking black and white images. He spent a dozen Sundays at the site. The manner in which Wright has cropped, manipulated and presented them confers a non-objective mien to each one.

“I was taken by the quality of the light,” he says, “its softness in contrast to the cold hardness of the concrete on which it was cast. And I liked the repetitive shapes, structured with gaps in between. When I look at them, I hear music…jazz, specifically.”

Wright’s technical knowledge amplifies his vision. Using a Canon 5D Mark II digital camera with a variety of lenses, along with the application of post-exposure software, he can achieve the desired results. As an example, his tilt-shift lens is able to alter perspective and focus and control lines. “There has been a sea change since I began,” he says. “Digital is like a whole new medium. But the tech side is not my vision. It only serves to support it.”

The messages in Wright’s Echoes series are ambiguous, and he prefers it that way. “One viewer confessed that she was ‘disturbed’ by some of them,” he says. “Another stated that light coming from a recessed area was mysterious.”

“Art, not photography, is what inspires me,” says Wright. “The paintings of Richard Diebenkorn, many with architectural themes, have provided a major influence. I spend a lot of time talking with and observing the work of artists Tim Hoover, James Krabiel and Dave Reinbold, who maintain studios at the Haverstick Gallery in Carlisle. This is fertile ground.”

Looking ahead, Wright declares, “I’m absolutely fascinated about my next project.” When asked what it will be, he replies, “I’ll let you know when it finds me!”

To learn more about John Wright, visit