Pete Zaluzec Artist Review


Not all photography is fine art, most often it used to document historical events, important meetings, snapshots of children, pets and family trips. Although important, these documents of time passed lacks the principals and intention that differentiate photography from fine art photography. Most photography artists are artists in other mediums as well, so the difference between a photo and a work of art can depend on who is behind the camera. Art is for the sake of art, so the intention behind an images creation will play a roll in its relevance in the art world. Photographic societies began to form around the mid 19th century in London and Paris, where they acknowledged photography as a legitimate art form. Since then fine art photography has continued to be pushed in new directions and rejects the restrictions as to what art should be.


Moon Over Half Dome, 1960 Ansel Adams Raitman Art Galleries
Moon Over Half Dome, 1960
Ansel Adams


Fine art photography ranges in subject matter from landscapes to portraiture to abstract imagery. The artist will pay close attention to the principals of art and design to create compositions that are aesthetically pleasing and true works of art. They often pay close attention to narrative while creating their work, seeking their art to tell a story. When the intent is to have their photograph in a gallery or collected in someone’s home, a fine art photographer must create and capture something unique and awe inspiring that stands out as a work of art. Today, fine art photographers alter and manipulate their photographs physically and digitally to show their artistic touch. Fine art photography is a unique way to capture the world’s existence in a single moment of time, soon to be forever lost. This precious idea pushes artists to show the world as they see and feel it with joy, tragedy, wonder, and limitless possibilities.

Artist Pete Zaluzec began photographing animals in the wild for inspiration to sculpt his bronze animals. He accumulated over 100,000 images to serve as reference photos as he sculpted. Zaluzec was in love with the adventure of the search, patience, and the serendipity of being in the right spot at the right time when photographing wildlife. Not content to produce photographs without artistic intention, he sought new ways to print and display the animals he photographs. Though tireless experimentation Zaluzec discovered Gampi paper and though further experimentation he developed an artistic style that is immediately identifiable as his own. His life like photographs confound viewers to ask “how” while trying to decide it is real fur, paint, or something entirely new.

Brunos Poker Face Pete Zaluzec for sale Raitman Art Galleries


Principals of Art:

Space: Space is demonstrated to create dimension in the composition. Zaluzec expertly balances the negative surrounding space in his art with the positive space of the animal in his compositions. He thoughtfully composes his images to be well balanced and harmonious in what he edits out and what he includes. In "Bruno’s Poker Face," you can see how the positive space of the bear sits starkly against the negative space, that which Zaluzec has left blank in the image. This creates a clear distinction of subject matter and heightens the bears importance in the composition to beyond what it would be if a surrounding landscape had been included. It is a signature move in his work.

Color: Zaluzec works in organic colors that reflect the natural world he photographs. His palette is intentionally limited, aiming to keep color out of the conversation so the viewer's focus remains on the subject in his image. Staying in the organic color scheme heightens the reality of the animals and their textured surfaces.

Shape: Shape is considered by Zaluzec when composing his photographs both in nature and in the studio. With limitless patience, he waits outside for his wild subjects to move into interactive poses and shapes that will draw the viewers eye and connect them with the animal in the finished art. The shapes they create are balanced in the composition by removing extraneous landscapes and details that would take away from the shapes of the natural form.

Form: The fur feels real in Zaluzec's work, so much so that the viewer often wonders if it is indeed real fur that they are looking at. Fortunately, no animals are harmed in Zaluzec's process. To create such a striking, realistic image he draws upon his sculptural background and layers two identical prints on top of each other. Due to the translucent quality of the paper, dimension and values are heightened when the images are overlapped and exactly aligned. The shadows and highlights that are caught in the photograph, in addition to the qualities that layering the Gampi paper achieves, heightens and develops form and life into the animal subjects.

Value: Value relates to the tint/shade of a hue (color). Every color can be tinted by adding white or shaded by adding black. The purpose of considering value in a work of art is to help create both dimension and a mood. Zaluzec draws upon contrast to create strong focal points in his work. Deep changes in value make Zaluzec’s photographs more dramatic and visually captivating. Note the dark and light contrasting values on "Bruno’s Poker Face" and how they make him feel three dimensional and real.

Texture: Texture is a major element in Zaluzec's work. His art is essentially sculpted photography. To create physical texture, Zaluzec sculpts the Gampi paper to lift from the surface towards the viewer. This created texture allows him to push forward certain portions of the composition. A visual texture is also present in the fur of Zaluzec’s animal subjects that feels so real the viewer would like to reach out and touch the soft coat. His mastery of depth of field creates this stunning life-like quality.

Line: Line use is not a prominent feature in Zaluzec's photography, as it is rarely a naturally occurring aspect of wildlife. The addition of extraneous line work would separate the animal subject from their natural environments in distracting ways that would alter the purpose of the piece. Instead, general lines created from the shapes of the composition do define spaces. Note in "Bruno’s Poker Face" the line that surrounds the bear's form and how its crisp definition heightens the bears importance in the composition.

Principals of Design:

Balance: Zaluzec thrives in creating harmony in his work through the use of negative space. His sole intention with his art is to make the viewer focus on and revere his animal subjects. Thus, he painstakingly removes the landscapes they reside in from his work to create a striking, simple background in the art. In "Bruno’s Poker Face" the clear emphasis of the bear’s form is balanced by the faded log he rests against and the empty space behind.

Unity: The unity of a piece is what creates a sense of completeness. The surface texture of the Gampi’s sculpted surface unifies the composition as it is present in every portion of the piece. Zaluzec's limited color palette has a similar effect, as using only a few colors ties the entire piece together.

Variety: Variety is what adds interest into a work of art. In Zaluzec's work the variety of the empty negative space against the highly detailed animals creates a visual variety that is interesting for the eye.

Emphasis: Emphasis is what the artist uses to create a focal point. A truly successful composition will have one clear focal point that the eye is continually drawn to over and over again. The clear focal point in Zaluzec's work is the animals. They stand alone in importance in his compositions. More specifically, it is often their eyes. In "Bruno's Poker Face" one can not help but be captivated by the gaze of the bear looking back at you as you view the art. 

Movement: Movement implies motion is a snapshot of time. Zaluzec’s animals are filled with movement as he captures them in dynamic poses. A coyote leaping mid air in "Leap," a flight ready to be taken by a perched owl in "Launchpad," or a wolf sprinting through the snow in "Snow Sprint" are obvious examples. These animals exude life and seem ready to move right out of the frame.

Pattern: As a wildlife photographer, Zaluzec is able to create consistent harmony in his works through the repetitive patterns found in his subjects fur or feathers. "Launchpad" and "Cottontail" serve as a perfect examples given the repetitive contrasting colors in the animal's natural appearance. 

Perspective: Perspective is what’s creates a three-dimensional work of art vs a two-dimensional work of art. A fading background creates depth and space in the composition. You can see this in "Bruno’s Poker Face" in the faded trunk Bruno rests upon. This subtle perspective fade draws the bear closer as the focal point.


Tireless experimentation with hundreds of types of hand-made papers led Pete Zaluzec to his discovery of Gampi. The soft yet strong surface of Gampi paper comes from the bark of the Gampi plant and has been used for thousands of years in Asia. The plant is native to Japan. It can not be cultivated. Through a laborious process the plant's bark is turned into paper by hand. It is rare and expensive. Due to its handmade process the paper will last for thousands of years.

The process that Zaluzec uses to transpose his photographs onto the Gampi paper is entirely his own. Ask him and he will share every step of the process with you, almost in a dare to see someone else create the work that he has painstakingly mastered through years of experimentation. However, we will choose not to print all of his secrets online. To achieve the depth and realism in his work, Zaluzec layers two identical prints on top of one another. After he takes the time to carefully align every line of fur or feather, the papers are sealed together. This strong paper surface is then sculpted and molded by Zaluzec to create dimension within the two-dimensional picture plane. The artwork is mounted on a matte board with small nails, then placed in its frame that is also handmade by Zaluzec.

Pete Zaluzec's signature Gampi photography is available through Raitman Art Galleries located in Breckenridge and Vail, Colorado.