Artists Profile: John Shuptrine May/June 2020

Wooden Camera Sculptures and PhotographyPhotos by Lucas Moore Lynchburg Living Editor Shelley Basinger: John, where can you trace your love for photography and cameras back

Wooden Camera Sculptures and Photography
Photos by Lucas Moore

Lynchburg Living Editor Shelley Basinger:
John, where can you trace your love for photography and cameras back to?
John Shuptrine: It started when I was a teenager and continued through college. I grew up on film and at a time when it took longer to learn the craft of photography because you didn’t have that instant feedback. I started to get serious about photography about 25 years ago. Most of my photography is black and white.

SB: This was while you were working as an anesthesiologist?
JS: Yes, photography was a wonderful outlet. Along with the support of my family, it helped me stay centered during some of the busier work times of my life.

SB: Where did the idea for these wooden camera sculptures come from?
JS: After I retired, I literally woke up one morning with the idea of building these wooden bodies and then adding on some old camera parts. I had dabbled in woodworking all my life. It quickly evolved from that. They were a little crude at first but got more finished over time. Now, I display them in local and regional craft shows, and have won some awards. I’ve also been published in Artful Home magazine.

SB: About how long does each camera take?
JS: I would say at least a couple of days—from gluing different pieces of wood together to shaping the wood to adding the parts. I look at the piece for a while and I kind of just let it tell me what to do next. I just let my mind go.

SB: What’s your favorite part when you are creating?
JS: For me, it’s all about the wood—the beauty of some of these pieces of wood and incorporating them and their colors. It’s got an energy and a life to it. I also feel really good about repurposing old or non-working camera parts, give them a new life.

How many have you made so far?
JS: About 300. Of those, I’ve sold or donated about 150. Occasionally, a local organization needs one for a fundraiser and that means a lot to me that I can help that way.

SB: What’s next for you? Are you itching to start up any new projects?
JS: I have started to create more furniture, some end tables and coffee tables. It’s delightful to make functional woodworking stuff. And I have ideas for some huge boxes of leftover metal camera bodies. But first I need to learn how to weld. I recently joined Vector Space on Fifth Street so I can do that.

SB: What’s your advice to aspiring artists, young or old?
JS: Be patient. And be kind to yourself. Let yourself make some really ugly stuff… until you don’t. I’m learning how to paint right now. Painting is very challenging for me. So I’m having to be patient and kind to myself. And let myself make some really bad-looking paintings.

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During the Pandemic…

“I’ve found a greater need to spend my quiet time being creative. I’ve found with all of the stress around us, it’s been a place of sanctuary.” – John Shuptrine


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