Striving, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2005
One of the more fascinating art galleries we visited in Santa Fe was one featuring the work of South African artists. As photographer, my challenge was to honor the artists’ own vision, yet also express my own feelings about it. I was drawn to these silver figures climbing colored cubes, topped with silver vases. To me they symbolize the act of striving – making great efforts to achieve something seemingly beyond their reach, yet still perhaps possible. The glittering reflections spilling from the arms of the figures make them metaphors for energy and strength. Light also reflects off a vase on top of the yellow cube, drawing the eye down to the shadows that suggest stylized sun rays. Without reflections, this image would not speak to us. With them, it becomes a dual expression of both the artists vision as well as my own.
Path of light, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2005
This image is essentially a photograph of reflected light. The three people in the boat provide the context, rather than the subject. I built this image around the way the evening sky and the setting sun were reflecting off the water, carving a gradual path of color through the shadows that seems to begin with pale blue and end in a rosy glow. That path expresses the idea here – it represents a progression from one state to another. These abstracted people drifting along an Amsterdam canal seem to be symbolically moving towards us in a reverse direction. How we read meaning into the different shadings of color will determine what this image might say to us.
Imperial Spirit, Waterloo Battlefield, Belgium, 2005
In June 1815, England and Prussia routed the Grand Army of the French emperor Napoleon in battle near the village of Waterloo, forcing him into abdication and exile. One hundred and ninety years later, Napoleon still haunts the battlefield. I found him in the window of a souvenir shop, surrounded by racks of post cards. By bringing my wideangle lens down to waist level and then shooting up at the glass, I was able to avoid picturing my own reflection and also summon the Imperial Spirit by enveloping the ghostly figure in reflected clouds. I originally posted this image in color. I converted it to black and white after viewer David Clunas asked me why I did not have any black and white reflections in this gallery. Now I do. This image was an excellent candidate for conversion, because of its surreal expressive qualities.
Where Time Stands Still, Bruges, Belgium, 2005
Bruges, an hour commute from Brussels, still retains its medieval appearance. It was never bombed, and bans billboards and high rises. This early morning view from a bridge overlooking a glassy canal with its picturesque pair of swans is as close as we can get to time travel. Little seems to have changed in this scene since the middle ages, at least on the outside. The surface of the water itself is the key to this image. There was no wind, and the dimensions of this canal were relatively modest, making the water as smooth as glass. The only texture in the water comes from the concentric ripples encircling one of the swans. The rest of the water reflects the houses, trees and clouds and one of the swans perfectly. The light also plays a role in the calming effect of this reflection – the low angle of the sun bathes the buildings in color, while the reflections of the gray clouds darkens the water, heightening the sense of calm and creating an idyllic mood.
Plank, Willemstad, The Netherlands, 2005
The canal surrounding the ancient Dutch town of Willemstad lies within deep banks. I am not sure about the intended function of this plank, which I found standing in stagnant water and leaning against the high wooden side of the canal. Is it a gangplank used for boats? Or is it a duck plank, allowing the canal’s resident ducks to have easy access to land? In any event, it was the reflection that inspired this image. As the plank enters the water, it shimmers off into two directions. The underwater portion of the plank leads left, the reflection leads right. Both are mysteriously suspended in darkness. Reversing directions, we see them as alternative paths of ascent, merging above the waterline into a final climb carrying us up beyond the limits of the frame. Going up or going down, the plank tells its story according to how we choose to interpret it.
Silver sculpture, Place du Grand Sablon Antiques Market, Brussels, Belgium, 2005
Each weekend a large antiques market is held in Brussels' Place du Grand Sablon, a square on the side of the hill between the upper and lower halves of the city. Among the antiques on display was this sculptured silver head, which, along with the urn behind it, caught my eye because of how the light is reflecting off of it. I created this image to demonstrate how reflected light alters the subject and makes it incongruous. The head appears to us almost in liquid form – giving the illusion of transparency. I want my viewers to see more than a silver object. I want the image to go beyond description, and activate the imaginations of those may see it.
Golden window, The Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium, 2005
One of the greatest concentrations of Flemish Renaissance buildings in the world line the four sides of Brussels’ Town Square. Originally built around 600 years ago, these buildings once functioned as royal administration buildings, as well as home to the city’s many trade guilds. French canon blew them apart 300 years ago but they were rebuilt in the style of the time. They represent the golden age of art, architecture, and commerce in Belgium, and today are collectively known as The Grand Place, the geographical, historical and commercial heart of the city. To express that golden age, I did not choose to describe an entire structure. Rather, I found a group of windows reflecting a sun-splashed building just across the way. The wavy 300-year-old glass abstracts the reflection, and we see a wash of gold on them that conveys a sense of wealth and power. The red flowers and the sculpted frieze below them add context and contrast.
Memling’s Eyes, Bruges, Belgium, 2005
Past and present come together as Bruges' opera house is reflected on a glass-covered poster featuring the gaze of Flemish artist Hans Memling. The poster features a reproduction of Memling’s self-portrait, painted in the 1400s. The cracking paint of the portrait brings an aged texture to the image and the huge eyes float within the softly reflected building. The cracked paint and the soft reflection unify and symbolize –- it looks like a composite montage made with Photoshop. But this is image is not an electronic blend or a double exposure. It’s an abstract, surreal reflection with multiple interpretations.
Reflection in water (1): Surreall Windmill, Bruges, Belgium, 2005
Over the course of a weeklong canal barge trip through Belgium and The Netherlands, I had many opportunities to photograph reflections in water. In this, the first in a series of five reflected images, I offer a new look at an old windmill. The reflected waters of a clear blue morning sky provide the backdrop, while the motion in the water, created by our moving barge, stretches and bends the windmill until it becomes whimsically surreal. It stimulates the imagination, and calls out for attention.
Reflection in water (2): Time Warp, Ghent, Belgium, 2005
I use reflections to abstract this canal side building, altering its structure until it implies a time warp. I used the reflected underside of a canal bridge to envelope the entire left side in darkness, giving the building a foreboding context. The image becomes dream like, and prods the imagination to take it further.
Reflection in water (3): Transformation, Ghent, Belgium, 2005
Shooting from Ghent’s Graslei promenade at dusk, I merged an explosion of golden ripples into a shimmering reflection of one of Ghent’s historic buildings. The energetic effect seems to transform present into past and past into present. The picture is based on a combination of the golden light of the setting sun on the building, sudden movement in the water of the River Leie, and a deep blue dusky sky.
Reflection in water (4): Inversion, Ghent, Belgium, 2005
Because reflections are a form of abstraction, we are free are to orient our images in any way we wish. In this case, I turned the reflected image upside down, implying that the dark pattern flowing from a corner is smoke from a chimney, which morphs the scene into an inverted medieval cityscape.