All About Hal
I was born in Anchorage, Alaska little more than a week after Alaska became the 49th state. My father (Harold Gage Sr.) had moved to Alaska in 1953 with his fledgling family following the American dream. After mustering out of the military in WWII, he trained as a jeweler and horologist (watch maker). He came to Alaska following a job offer, but in a short time he opened his own business selling fine jewelery and Alaskana souvenirs .
I was born shortly before we moved into our first house in East Anchorage. Though only a year old, I still have memories of my father pounding nails and me looking through the unsheathed floor boards at him. Although I had two brothers, our age difference meant that I essentially grew up an only child.
My early years in school were unremarkable. I always had a knack for drawing and creating. Like a lot of kids my age I spent endless hours drawing familiar cartoon characters and building various things with Erector-sets and Legos. In the summers, sandboxes were my favorite play areas. You can make your connections to my Gravel Quarries series here, if you like.
By high school I had become a rebellious teen. I took up the counter culture uniform of long hair and an interest in the literary classics of the 60s and 70s. My earliest academic introduction to photography was as a sophomore where I was introduced to darkroom techniques and graphic arts.
In college I pursued painting and music studies. I showed
nothing but disappointment to my professor (Wassili Sommers). I can still hear him in his thick Russian accent admonish me with, "you lazy bum, mister." To my credit, my final color and design project (a surrealist style painting) gained me his respect. After looking at my work for many minutes he exclaimed, "you no lazy bum, mister." High praise indeed.
It was during those years that my painting mentor (Marc Bourassa) turned me on to photography as an expressive medium. That was a new way of thinking for me. I immediately went out and bought a 35mm camera (my much loved and used Pentax Spotmatic F. I used that camera for many years before graduating to my first Nikon). I can't say with any certainty whether Marc encouraged me in photography because of my aptitude for it or as a commentary on my
painting skills. Regardless, within a year I had forgotten all about painting and I rarely look back.
After I left college (sans degree), I kicked around as a rock and roll musician playing bars and events in California and Alaska (I had played drums since 6th grade, and picked up guitar and piano in college to go with my music theory classes). Not satisfied playing other peoples music, as a creative outlet I bought a studio quality 4 track reel to reel tape recorder and wrote and recorded my own instrumentals and songs. Needless to say, that career (as fun as it was) was short lived. My passion for the visual arts won out.
By the 80s, I had found work in the photo retail business (because I had worked in the summers and during college at my parents jewelery business, I had a good background in
retail sales). I dove into every camera I could get my hands on and learned with great interest everything there was to know about each. During those same years, I learn the ins and outs of the color darkroom. In 1982 I started my freelance business doing portraits and custom color printing. By the mid 80s I had learned a great deal about the craft of photography, but had not found my voice within the art. About that time I was given a copy of Ansel Adams' book The Camera (and subsequently The Negative, and The Print). Although landscape photography was not outside of my purview, it was Adams' explanation and aesthetic passion that set me afire. Thirty years later I look back on that time as a turning point in my photography.
My whole approach to photography changed after a trip to Australia and New Zealand in 1987. I met Doug Spowart of Brisbane, Australia. Up to then I had worked in the modernist style of single images that each stood on their own. Doug introduced me to the concept of thematic (or series) photography. Years later Robert Dawson introduced me to project photography.
My solo career started in 1989, when Dave Felker gave me my first one person show at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art (Minutiae). At the time I was working with Polaroid one-off originals from a Hasselblad square format camera. That was about the time I embraced the square format and medium format cameras. Up to then I had been using
4x5, 5x7, 8x10 view cameras.
In 1989 I opened my first full service retail location doing business as Gage Photo Graphics. Focusing on executive portraiture and product photography, I also offered computer aided graphic design services. In the early 90s, computer image manipulation and montage were just becoming available for the desktop computer. An early adopter of Adobe Photoshop, I started working in digital art. Long before digital cameras and high res inkjet printers became available, I was working with what was then the state of the art: reflective scanners, high res image setters, and dye sublimation printers. By the early 90s I was exhibiting digital prints in national exhibitions.
In the early 90s I led a group of photographers to Magadan, USSR on a cultural exchange. We toured that area of Eastern Russia and had an exhibition of each of our images exhibited throughout the USSR over the next few years. As an interesting side note, 2 weeks after returning to Alaska, the USSR collapsed ushering in a new Russia.
About that same time I opened the short lived, but highly acclaimed Gallery of Fine Art Photography in Alaska (The Gallery, for short). As curator, I sought out photographic artists from around the state, for many it was their first solo exhibition. The artists tested the bounds of the meaning of photography and put on some of the best exhibitions of the times. The local newspaper cited almost every show giving
glowing reviews. Alas, as a purely nonprofit gallery, it couldn't last forever. I closed down the gallery and my studio, and moved my business to my home in 1994. By this time I was doing a lot of book design, artist portfolio work and studio portraits.
In 1997 I helped co-found Homer Photo Fest. It was from that I met Marita Holdaway of the Benham Gallery, Seattle, WA. She had seen my series on Denali National Park and invited me to mount a solo show at her gallery in 1998. That same year I went to my first Houston Foto Fest in Texas. Over the next few years I had my portfolio reviewed, sold prints, and got gallery representation in Montreal, Canada, and Frankfort, Germany.
In 1999 I flew to China. I made over 4000 images (small by todays digital camera standards, but a lot in the film days) of
stock/travel images. I was represented by the stock agency, Picture Cube in Boston, MA. (later bought by Index Stock, which was absorbed into Picture Library, which in turn was swallowed up by Getty Images).
The next year I flew to England to open two exhibitions at the Phoenix Gallery in Brighton. In between the opening and closing of those shows, I flew to Arles, France for Photo Rencontres (a festival of photography—which was the progenitor of the Houston Foto Fest). There I met a couple of guys that had started a stock agency headquartered in London (Millennium Images) focused on licensing art photography for commercial use. Easily, I became their most far flung associate.
In 2004 I mounted my first museum exhibition: Ice: a personal meditation This ambitious exhibition and its 5 venue
state tour was funded in part by my first Rasmuson Foundation fellowship.
In 2010 I received my first State of Alaska 1% for art commission for an installation in the Fairbanks International Airport. That same year I also received my second Rasmuson Foundation fellowship.
Since 1983 I have been teaching photography, first for Anchorage Community Schools and later privately. For the last 10 years I have offered field workshops in a variety of photographic skills throughout the year.
Since 1992 I have taught computer skills (Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and now Lightroom) both
privately and commercially. Today I offer a comprehensive curriculum in Photoshop and Lightroom for the beginning and more advanced photographers. My outdoor photographic workshop are held all over the state of Alaska.
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