David Fokos believes that great photography is time full rather than timeless.
He has joined the ranks of elite photographers working in black and white as a result of his belief that the passage of time is necessary to capture images as they are felt by the viewer.
His work is displayed in galleries from West Tisbury to Tokyo.
The San Diego-based photographer, who developed his creative process over years on the Vineyard, displays his work at The Granary Gallery on State Road in West Tisbury and will attend a reception between 5 and 7 p.m. on Sunday at the gallery.
Mr. Fokos has spent a lot of time, about 30 years of trial and error, in a self-directed odyssey to find the right camera and the correct time exposures (up to 60 minutes), exploring film developing and framing techniques that produce successful photos — photos made to be felt as much as seen.
The results are photos of subjects we’ve often seen, including Vineyard subjects, which make the viewer react differently.
“What I’m trying to express in my work is what I feel at a place rather than what a place looks like,” he said in a telephone interview this week.
“I got to a place where I’m happy with myself and it turns out that the work resonates with others,” he said.
Mr. Fokos has found that longer exposure settings, allowing the camera to “see” the object longer, creates more knowledge and feeling for the subject. Often he does not have a specific object or photographic goal for a shot. He has come to trust that nature will take care of itself, that time exposure will reveal more than a designed shot, a belief strengthened in his study of Zen Buddhism.
“I can use the unique ability of a camera to capture passage of time. If we could see over time, that’s what we would see. Perhaps other animals see that way — maybe their world looks completely different than our perception,” he said.
He also has learned along the way that both 19th century platinum developing techniques and now state of the art Photoshop technology allow him to produce images that promote feeling rather than a moment in time.
“Our eyes are our quickest sense. They take snapshots. Our ears, our skin, react in different scales of time,” the Cornell University engineering graduate said, indicating that pictures taken over time synchronize the senses and heighten the experience of feeling.
“I learned most of this on the Vineyard where I shot the same shots over and over for years and wasn’t able to replicate the feeling I had looking at the scene,” he said.
He used pounding waves, a classic Vineyard shot, as an example. “Waves are rhythmic but rhythms require time to be effective. Artists have used time passage as technique for a long time.
“Cubists, Picasso, artist David Hockney in the 1950s, all dealt with the passage of time, the way in which we come to know a place,” he said.
Pedestrian subjects, such as the underside of a bridge seen from Storrow Drive in Boston, become captivating under Mr. Fokos’s camera.
“My work becomes rewarding when people call me and say they passed a place for the thousandth time but on that day, saw it differently than they ever had,” he said.
“That means that I have helped them to see more clearly,” he said.
David Fokos will attend the free artists’ reception from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Granary Gallery at 636 Old County Road in West Tisbury, for an exhibition of his photography, as well as works by Claudio Gasparini, Barry Rockwell and McAdoo Rugs. For details, call 508-693-0455 or see granarygallery.com.