Louis Draper: Retrospective at Candela Books + Gallery

Louis Draper, Hughie Lee Smith, Gelatin Silver Print, 6.5 x 9

The Louis Draper retrospective at Candela Books + Gallery is a quiet and persistent telling of  another side to mid-20th century life in the United States that stands in stark contrast to the  clean-cut and oversimplified suburban lifestyle that is often depicted to represent this era. Draper’s sensitive and probing portraits provide a distinctive view into the the reality of African American culture and people living in a parallel universe to nuclear standoffs and clean-shaven “Mad Men” advertising executives shaping a culture of brand consumption.

Louis Draper, Woman with earring, Gelatin Silver Print

Louis Draper, Billy, Gelatin Silver Print

John Edwin Mason has already written a detailed account and review of Louis Draper’s life and work at the NY Time Lens Blog, so this review is is a more narrow analysis of Draper’s use of design, composition and light to express the dignity of his subject and a nuanced view of the life and times of the 1950’s and 60’s in the U.S.

Draper’s portraits are all tightly framed, but some present the person, whether child or adult, as a counterpoint to a complex abstraction of graffiti textured walls and doorways.

Louis Draper, Boy with lace curtain, Gelatin Silver Print

Louis Draper, Boy with paint splatter, Gelatin Silver Print

In “Boy with lace curtain” and “Boy with paint splatter” Draper builds the frame around a dynamic arrangement of fragmented architectural forms and gritty textures that set the context for the portrait of the child. While occupying a very small portion of the frame, the child’s face and expression, whether resolute or disarming, dominate the image composition; Draper creates a conversation between foreground and background, the present and the past, a life and it’s conditional existence. In both cases the young boys break out of the visual pattern yet are intricately woven into the fabric of the composition and visual dynamic of their environment. This a recurring theme and compositional approach that Draper seems to apply even to the point of leaving the human presence indicated by just a faint shadow of a figure.

Louis Draper, Graffiti silhouette, Gelatin Silver Print

In other portraits, Draper conveys the silent dignity and fortitude of his subject with dramatic, yet soft, shadows with his subject framed in front of a simple and plain wall. In “Young man in beret” a straightforward expression is split by the face half in silhouette. Stability and the strength of character is conveyed by the width of the body filling the bottom portion of the frame and the nearly symmetrical arrangement of the elements of the composition.

Louis Draper, Young man in beret, Gelatin Silver Print

The exhibit presents a series of these profound and striking portraits through which a viewer feels like they are getting an intimate glimpse into the soul and reality of these individuals in their time and place.

Louis Draper, Mississippi Sharecroppers, 1971, Gelatin Silver Print

“Mississippi Sharecroppers” is an incredibly dynamic composition that is conceptually shocking, yet elegant in presence. It is shocking to see the date of the image combined with the depiction of manual labor that seems more appropriate to an earlier century – an extended family, including a child, toil away hoeing a seemingly infinite stretch of crops. Draper establishes the basic structure of the composition with the symmetrical rows of crops reaching into the horizon line established around 3/5ths of the frame high; a plain sky simplifies the tonal contrasts. The workers, all in light clothing, contrast with the geometrical lines of the rows and the organic shapes and textures of the plants.

Pay attention to the way your eye tracks through this image to get a sense of the sophistication of Draper’s use of space and frame. The strong and detailed foreground draws in our eye first and then the rows pull your attention to the far couple, smallest in the frame, but the gestures of the two men on the left side of the group pull our eyes back and finally over to the young man whose gaze redirects our focus to the woman in the foreground….and then our attention is pulled back through again.

Each figure is a strong vertical column rising out of the diagonal movement of the rows of crops – these are forceful representations of stability and endurance in the face of hardship. Despite the conditions documented, the content and design of this image reminds of the enduring human spirit and our connection to the land. The image is the definition of Cartier Bresson’s “decisive moment” as it captures a perfect slice of time when each aspect of the photograph works seamlessly together to convey the meaning of that moment and place.

The images in this post are but a facsimile of the original gelatin silver prints on display at Candela Books + Gallery – it is well worth the visit to see the originals! As usual Candela Gallery has curated a significant exhibit of exceptional quality.

Louis Draper’s sister, Nell Draper-Winston partnered with Candela Books + Gallery for “Louis Draper: Retrospective,” Jan. 10 to Feb. 22. The first-of-its-kind exhibition is part of Race, Place and Identity,” a series of Richmond events highlighting civil rights and social justice

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Summer announces itself in Richmond with Unbound 2! at Candela Books + Gallery


Cesar Rodriguez Beccera, “Venado Rojo,” 2013. Archival pigment print.

It is hard to tell if summer will ever arrive in Richmond, Virginia this year, but a good omen is the announcement of the opening of Unbound2!, the annual summer invitational exhibition at Candela Books + Gallery running July 5 through August 3, 2013.

The exhibition will open to the public Friday, July 5th, with a First Friday Art Walk reception from 5 to 9 pm.

Santa Elena

Christa Blackwood, “Santa Elena,” 2013. Photogravure.

The preview images of the show display a pretty eclectic group of images, which is right in keeping with the ever expanding reach of Candela Gallery’s exhibits. Documentary, postmodernism, digital surrealism, alternative processing,and studio photography will all be on display – something for everyone no matter your photography style.


S. Gayle Stevens & Judy F. Sherrod, “Nocturnes 13,” 2012. Wet plate collodion mammoth plate pinhole tintype.

2013’s UnBound2! will include notable and emerging photographers, including Vivian Maier, Jeff Bridges, Jessie Mann & Len Prince, Courtney Johnson, Galina Kurlat, Kurt Simonson, Thomas Alleman, Cynthia Henebry, Rachel Phillips, Kristin Skees and Phil Nesmith.

Girl Looking Sideways

Christine Osinski, “Girl Looking Sideways,” 1983-84, printed 2013. Gelatin silver print.

UnBound2! generates opportunities and exposure for participating artists far beyond traditional group or juried show opportunities by raising funds to purchase select works from the exhibition. Purchased works are added to the Candela Collection with the mission of supporting photographers through collection of their original photographic work and actively pursuing future opportunities to donate that work to notable art institutions.


Nadine Boughton, “Peril,” 2010. Digital collage, archival pigment print.

Candela will close the exhibition by bringing back some legendary hoopla! The UnBound2! gala event on Saturday, August 3rd, 7-11pm will include beer & wine, sangria, adult sno-cones, back alley chicken and other southern fare, live music from the Photosynthesizers, RAWFL’s lady arm wrestlers, laser cake via Big Secret, comedy from Coalition Theater, door prizes, raffle, and who knows what else. Event tickets and raffle tickets will be sold in advance and at the door; and will generate the funds toward purchase of artwork for the aforementioned Candela Collection.

See you there!  Check back here in July for a review of the exhibit!

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Aaron Siskind at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Photo detail, Aaron Siskind

New York, 1951 (detail), Aaron Siskind, 1951

In a narrow hallway adjacent to the Amuse restaurant you will find a small treasure of photographs by Aaron Siskin, Harry Callahan, Minor White and Gina Lenz. that revolutionized photography in their time.  Curated by Dr. Sarah Eckhardt, Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, these representatives of abstract expressionist photography are on display at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts until June 16, 2013.

Aaron Siskind American, Jerome, Arizona, 1949, 13 1/2 x 9 7/8 in. © Aaron Siskind Foundation

Although Siskind’s photographs are of recognizable artifacts, they are considered abstract because the images are not narrative in nature, rather  they are about  formal elements and the meaning of the content within the social-cultural context of the time. Abstract-expressionism was a driving force in the art world when Siskind made these images and his work asserted that photography had a role to play in this art movement.

Aaron Siskind, New York, 1951 © Aaron Siskind Foundation

Siskind chose to photograph objects of no value; many of the objects are the discarded remnants of industrial society: rust, peeling paint, patches of broadsides, gloves, and erased posters, among many others. These are not the majestic landscapes of Ansel Adams or the refined nude studies of Edward Weston – these are gritty and sordid selections from the backside of industry.

Uruapan 11, 1955 Aaron Siskind (American, 1903 – 1991) Gelatin Silver Print; 14 7/16 x 19 1/2 ©Aaron Siskind Foundation

For photographers, Siskind established that anything and everything was game – that anything could be aestheticized. You didn’t need to travel across the world, find a beautiful model, or wait for the perfect moment. You just had to stop and look down at your feet, look at the wall you just walked by, or the corner you just turned. This is the stuff of banal daily existence, but Siskind has used design, light, and framing to create visually dynamic and culturally rich images.From his perspective, the photographer is a visionary, selecting material and putting it on display in a new context.

Chicago, 1960 Aaron Siskind (American, 1903 – 1991) Gelatin Silver Print; 10 1/2 x 13 7/16 ©Aaron Siskind Foundation

Aaron Siskind said, “When I make a photograph I want it to be an altogether new object, complete and self-contained, whose basic condition is order — unlike the world of events and actions, whose permanent condition is change and disorder.” (Siskind) In image after image we can see this purpose as the essential thread linking all his images – taking the chaotic remnants of mass manufacturing with the urban environment it requires and imposing visual and conceptual order.

We are in a technology environment that results in more nuanced social and environmental impacts. The shopping malls have clean walls and large corporations have campuses that rival a private college. In this sanitized environment it is a relief to experience the authenticity of Siskind’s tattered posters and layers of decomposing paint.

More information on the work and legacy of Aaron Siskind can be found at the Aaron Siskind Foundation.

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At Candela Books + Gallery – Louviere + Vanessa: Counterfeit

Louviere + Vanessa
“In the Land of the New Mother,” 2010
Injet on Kozo paper, gold leaf, paint and resin on dibond, 38.5″ x 55″

Counterfeit is the perfect title for an exhibition layered in irony and built with large-scale images of microscopic digital scans of global currency pressed with gold leaf and embedded in resin. Each image is extravagantly framed with unique  carved wood stock creating a precious artifact out of the most common form of exchange in a capitalist society. The artwork is infused  with golden light transmitted through multiple coats of translucent resin, but there is more than layers of gloss to examine.

Candela Gallery’s selected exhibitions often seem to ask  the audience to reconsider how photography is defined and this show is no exception. These artifacts contain layers of photographic reality beginning with the original process to print the currency, which was then photographed at a high magnification with a scanner, converted to large scale using digital photography software, and finally printed in photographic quality on a fine art archival fiber paper. Throughout the process the artists have integrated gold leaf, paint, and resin into the light and shadow of the photographic imaging process. The result is a highly tactile and textured object that is far removed from the unified and bland surface of a photographic digital print.

Louviere + Vanessa
“A Snowflake Cracked the Stone with a Smile,” 2010
Inkjet on Kozo paper, gold leaf, paint and resin on dibond, 38.5 x 55

Louviere + Vanessa are a creative team whose previous works include the “cinegraph”, which is a physical montage of thousands of Super 8mm filmstrip frames shot and assembled in such as way as to create a still image composite. If one watched the film as film was intended to be viewed, over time, then it we would see a meaningless stream of  blurred images, but presented in a grid fashion after David Hockney’s photo assemblages, a new and comprehensible still image is visible.

In Counterfeit, Lourviere + Vanessa take the most common form of human exchange – currency – and aestheticize it. They have dug out of these complex colorful bills, embedded images that represent a republic’s identity and then re-contextualized the symbols as unique artifacts, now coated with gold leaf and resin, and carrying an existential  significance. The titles, such as “A Circus Never Forgets its First Hurricane”  are absurd or nonsensical, and pick up on a visual similarity to build a fragmented meaning.  (Note the series of rings in the image below.)

Louviere + Vanessa
“A Circus Never Forgets its First Hurricane,” 2010
Inket on Kozo paper, gold leaf, paint and resin on dibond, 38.5″ x 55″

In some ways these images are very much what is expected of a photograph. We expect for the photographer to act as an observer to extract moments and spaces of the real world for us to view. Aaron Siskind made abstract photographs about peeling paint and crushed gloves – he observed and used his craft to beautify what many ignored. These images are based on the slips of paper we carry around in our billfolds – which magically have value – and exchange for a cup of coffee or a work of art.  Despite their mundanity, these bills have been carefully illustrated and designed by artists to exacting specifications and approved by a government somewhere to represent wealth. The figures and symbols in our currency contain our nation’s fundamental values. Louviere + Vanessa have carefully scrutinized these currency prints and selected small fragments to show us. By scanning a miniscule proportion of the currency and blowing it up, Louviere + Vanessa remove it’s monetary value, then enormously increase it’s value by reassembling it into an artwork literally covered in gold, which of course, is what currency substitutes for in the first place. In doing so, they bring these hidden elements and meanings out into the light for us to examine. If you have forgotten about commonly held beliefs of nationalism, patriotism, national mascots, and sacrifice for country and honor…well, here it all is unfolded for you in a golden splender stained with ink blots, smears and polyurethane.

What is more real than money?  What is more fictional than money? Currency exists in both realms. We all share a mass belief (or mass delusion) in the value of money to purchase and currency is the physical manifestation of that belief. As a society we use currency less and less and simply accept the concept of money as a value in our checking and credit accounts that may be transmitted through a smart phone, click of a virtual button, or swipe of a card. Soon there may not be the opportunity to create counterfeit currency and and a historical archive of those notes will join their image shadows in Louviere + Vanessa’s art work in a museum somewhere. Most likely… the shadow will hold it’s value far longer than the original.

Louviere + Vanessa : Counterfeit is at Candela Books + Gallery through June 22, 2013. Another success for a regional leader in photographic exhibitions and publications.

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Lets take the digital out of photography

Ever since the first sensor was mass produced we have been considering and analyzing the differences between the use of film to darken silver grains compared to the use of a CCD to record light. In 2011 I wrote a series of articles on some of the differences between digital and analogue photography, including how we conceive an image, how we go about photographing in the digital format in a different way, how knowing what we can do in post-production influences our creative process, and finally how managing the organization of our photographs has  revolutionized how we view our photographic archive and consequently our perception of our images.

Now I’ve realized that there are several generations of photographers for whom the analogy to analogue is meaningless and digital technology has penetrated our medium so profoundly at this point that even photographers shooting film end up scanning their work for digital post-production.

It is time we stopped calling our medium digital photography and just called it photography.

The question is, what is photography then – what is and isn’t a photograph? Cameras come standard with the capability of recording images over time in high definition with sound; video cameras have come with ability to record still images for some time. Some photographers even combine both the still and a moving image by integrating an isolated element of video within what looks like a still image. The box that we use to record light has changed over time, but ultimately it still maintains the same function of capturing light as it reflects off of objects. Whether film or digital, it is still a mechanical recording where the hand of the artist is restricted to specific controls unique to photography, such as range of focus, amount of exposure, optics, framing, angle of view, and movement (stopped or in motion). These elements are the language of photography and have only been enhanced by the addition of digital capture over time.

In “Photography as a medium of reflection”, German photography critic Bernd Stiegler (2008), describes photography as a means of constructing and disseminating reality. He says:

Photographs continue to be visual reflections of reality; they are realism mediated by the medium and concentrated in images–even if this reality is a radically constructed one, at times consisting of nothing more than visual material generated and manipulated by a computer. (Stiegler, 2008, p. 194)

He further defines photography as a “reflective medium”. The more I thought about this I realized how the dichotomy between digital and film-based photography is false. There are many aspects of digital capture, post-production, and printing that have changed the creative process and workflow for photographers, but in essence no matter what you do, the mechanics of the process mean that any image is a reflection of a reality of some kind.

Whether you focus the lens, stop movement, blur movement, move in close, photograph a white wall or a magazine image using a camera phone, a pinhole camera, or a $35,000 medium format digital camera…in all cases you are capturing reflected light based on the light itself. There is no translation from one medium to another (observation to pigment) and as much as an artist might want to intervene in that record, any image at all on the sensor or on the film is the result of the impact of light. Even when we take the image into post-production and manipulate it by squishing pixels together, layering exposures to create an surreal range of tones, or montage images seamlessly, all in all, it comes down to an image originating and being constructed by light.

Stiegler goes on to point out that we will never be able to sever the link between reality and photography. While we dont’ believe in the objectivity of photography, and while the perception of the photographer and their audience are clearly in play, “we do still regard photographs as, in some way or other, our reality” (Stiegler, 2008, pg. 197). So, it seems to make logical sense that now is the time to ask ourselves if we really need the term digital anymore; if we really need to distinguish between silver and pixels. Photography is photography and it can encompass all new technologies.

-Douglas Barkey


Stiegler, Bernd. (2008). Photography as a medium of reflection (E. Kieffer & M. Christian, Trans.). In R. E. Kelsey & B. Stimson (Eds.), The meaning of photography (pp. xxxi, 211 p.). Williamstown, Mass. New Haven: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute ; Distributed by Yale University Press.

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Resurrection, Easter 2013

resurrection (1 of 1)

Resurrection – Easter 2013 © Douglas Barkey

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Landscape Photography – Three Photographers, Three Visions

El bosque multiplicado #6 by Fernando Puche

(Puche, 2013b)

The landscape of nature is like the human figure – it is a subject with endless possibilities for expression. Photographs of the environment can be appreciated simply for their depiction of beauty; they can reveal truths about our relationship to nature and our understanding of wilderness; they can teach us the basic elements of design. Landscape photography can reveal as much about the photographer as it does about the meaning of the landscape, because their photographic treatment reveals their artistic vision.

In this essay, we will look at the design and meaning of an individual work from each of three landscape photographers, Fernando Puche, Jay Patel, and Cole Thompson who represent various directions in landscape photography.

Fernando Puche (http://www.fernandopuche.net/) is a Spanish photographer with many years of experience and significant public recognition for his work. He has published several books, including, Photography and nature: Beyond the light (2003), The Inner Landscape (2005), An Imaginary Journey (2007), Chronicles of a skeptical photographer (2009),How photographer Fernando Puche works (2009) and Diary of an amateur photographer (2012).

The work I’ve selected to look at for this essay translates as “Multiplied Forest #6” and is from a series of the same name where the photographer layers natural elements over each other to create an near-abstract image using multiple-exposure. He says of his this series:

This portfolio is an attempt to go beyond all those images which show the natural world as something beautiful and spectacular. A way to go beyond that “taste” of reality that exude my former images. The multiple exposures technique let me to create images standing between reality and fiction, so the resulting work is more abstract and much less “documentary”. (Puche, 2013c)

Many of the images take on a symmetrical composition, as it appears that he rotates the film (or sensor) holder in the 4 x 5 camera as each exposure is made. It seems clear that these works are still about what is “beautiful and spectacular” just as much as the photographer’s previous work, which consisted of images of nature a la Eliot Porter (an early pioneer of color landscape photography) – very tightly composed and subtly colored –  that depict sublime nature.

To depart briefly from the main topic to discuss what it means to make photographs of the sublime in nature, we can simply consider what other approaches there are. Other photographers make images that are about other aspects of nature beside the sublime: how we view nature, how we treat it, how we try to replicate it.

Japan. Miyasaki. The Artificial beach inside the Ocean Dome. 1996 © Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

(Parr, 1996)

It is the case that these new images are no longer about the sublime, because the photographer is paying less attention to the appearance of the elements in their natural state and instead using their form to create other textures, colors and shapes. In other words, a photographer interested in depicting a romantic view of nature will compose the image to only include those elements consistent with grandeur and rationale order, often excluding details to create the illusion of nature untouched by humans. Puche’s images are still very much about beauty, but in a different way:  they are carefully chosen elements that are delicately layered over each other to build intricate patterns and nuanced color.

Puche’s stated purpose is to use natural elements to create fictions of nature, but these images are as much fictions as the photographs in his portfolio which do not involve any obvious manipulation. In this older images, which Puche refers to as “documentary” he was also creating a fiction of nature, it was just a different story. For example, in the image below,  Puche has created a fiction about water flowing down a cascading waterfall. It is an aesthetically pleasing image using the technique of long exposure to give the water a misty smooth experience, which contrasts with the sharp edges of the shale and the texture of the leaves.

White National Forest, New Hampshire, by Fernando Puche

(Puche, 2013)

Water does not look like this in nature to the human eye – the image is a fiction about nature. This view of running water exists only because the photographer used a long exposure. It is as realistic a view of nature as water frozen in motion at a very high shutter speed – our eyes cannot perceive either end of the spectrum of motion. A photographer chooses this technique for a variety of reasons: it looks magical, soft and smooth; it creates an unexpected and pleasing texture; it cleans up any imperfections in the water; and it creates a spatial layer in the image. The story it tells is of the place; it is a story of the sound of the water as it rolls over the shale, the transparency of the water as it bends over the edge of the stone and the idea of an unending flow of water passing down the mountain into the valley.

When we talk about creating a fiction of nature, it is not to be critical, rather, is is simply important to acknowledge that the act of making a photograph is a complete fiction – the photographer starts changing reality the minute they frame the image, choose an exposure, select a shutter and aperture combination, among many other choices.

Are Puche’s new images between reality and fiction? This is not really their main topic. In other words, the technique the photographer uses extracts shapes and textures from the reality of nature and combines them in a manner not visible in nature, but this is exactly the same as use of long exposure.

My interpretation of these photographs is that they are still very much about place, but the photographer is acting more vigorously to tell that story. As we look at the image of the tree tops layered over each other in “Multipled Forests # 6”, it conveys the feeling of expansiveness, layered space, and even the dizziness resulting from  tilting your head back and looking at the tops of the trees. The layering of pattern that Puche builds his images with amplify the design of nature and convey the quality of the space and place.

Harbinger 1 by Cole Thompson

(Thompson, 2008)

Cole Thompson (http://colethompsonphotography.com/Portfolios.htm) is a versatile photographer with interests that span from documentary photography, portraiture, and landscape, but for the purpose of this essay we will focus on the Harbinger series. Many of his landscapes images are not about the landscape at all, rather, they are analogies of emotional or spiritual states. This is actually quite different than Patel and Puche, who both keep their work referenced to the subject itself. Thompson introduces us to his series using the definition of harbinger:

Harbinger:  \ˈhär-bən-jər\   noun

      1. one that goes ahead and makes known the approach of another; herald.

      2. anything that foreshadows a future event; omen; sign.

(Thompson, 2008)

Although this textual context is important to help the viewer have a point of departure to interpret the images, he does an effective job of getting this across in the image itself. Lets look at how he goes about this.

Thompson’s compositions have a minimalist style in this series – they only include the essential elements to make the visual statement. He uses framing and exposure to do so. Many of the images are low key, in other words the middle tones are darkened considerably, the shadows are exposed to be solid black, and the highlights shown are only those at the high end of the spectrum. It is likely that he uses filters or digital color conversion to achieve this effect.  The result is an image in which the sky is surrealistically dark, the landscape is reduced to limited detail and basic forms, while the light tones of the cloud are dramatically emphasized. The cloud as “harbinger” appears either as a menacing element or as an omen of good on the horizon, although centering the cloud in the frame leads to a more optimistic possibility. Cole Thompson’s photographs build expectation; the image is frozen, but a mysterious event is implied. His images are a visual representation of a foreshadowing.

The idea that photographs of elements in nature could refer to other possibilities was popularized by Alfred Stieglitz with his “Equivalents” series in 1926, so Thompson is building on an a tradition in photography as valid and as significant as landscape photography that is  completely self-referential

Photography by Jay Patel

Elowah Falls, Columbia River George, Oregon by Jay Patel

(Patel, 2012a)

Jay Patel (http://www.jaypatelphotography.com/)  is a meticulous landscape photographer who uses the latest developments in HDR techniques to present highly detailed, richly colored, and carefully crafted compositions of nature. His website describes the purpose of his work:

His photographs try to capture both the physical and emotional nature of light. “Light in nature takes on astonishingly diverse shapes, forms and colors that allow us to interact with the world around us…. He is well aware, however, that his photographs can convey only so much of the wonder as it is beyond his abilities to replicate the awe and magnificence of the natural world. (Patel, 2012b)

Jay Patel uses the highly controlled digital exposure and layering techniques he has developed to fill his shadows, midtones, and highlights with even more tonal detail than our eyes can perceive. His application of technique is directly related to his objective of exploring the way light describes elements of the landscape.

Although Patel describes his purpose as “replicating the awe and magnificence of the natural world” (it would be hard to describe the sublime in nature any more clearly),  I see Jay Patel’s work as being about abstraction even more than the work of Puche. Jay Patel’s work is unabashedly about the way he sees nature – about the beauty that he sees… and he has developed the visual and technical skills to really communicate this very effectively. The reason he can make such compelling images of nature is because he is able to abstract the essential design elements of the scene. He communicates his vision and feeling for the place by deconstructing the space into essential forms and carefully arranging his composition to build an image that communicates his vision.

For example, in “Elowah Falls”, Patel uses the same long exposure technique as Puche in White National Mountain Forest” to transform the waterfall into a misty stream of flowing white energy that creates a dominant vertical presence in the frame positioned right at the 2/3rds mark of a horizontal grid of the frame. The very diffuse light that describes the rest of the valley, which is dominated by large massive shapes in the form of moss covered boulders, creates soft undulations of green hues. The large shapes of the stones are broken up by the diagonals of fallen tree limbs which add more visual movement to the frame without disrupting the dominance of the waterfall. In order for Patel to compose this frame, he must look at it abstractly – he must move conceptually past the  moment and the physical three-dimensional reality and see it as form being shaped by light.

You can read more about this particular image and how he actually cropped it from his original exposure here. His crop removed an appearance of the mountain stream from the bottom of the frame, which improved the composition by providing a  stronger visual foundation to the image and gave the waterfall much more preeminence in the image.

If you were thinking that a good landscape photographer brings you a document of the landscape they photographed, think again, because what Puche and Patel reveal to us is that  good landscape photographers present us is with their coherent and striking vision of how they saw and experienced nature.

So how do we compare the three photographers? Jay Patel and Fernando Puche’s work depart from a similar premise – to share their vision of place – they speak to use about their subject, telling us stories of the design of nature and light. Cole Thompson uses the landscape to express a concept that is not related to the landscape at all, but rather is related to the human condition and our expectations in life. All three photographers create work that merits reflection and consideration.


Parr, Martin. (1996). Japan. Miyazki. The artifiical beach inside the Ocean Dome.   Retrieved 3/30, 2013, from http://mediastore2.magnumphotos.com/CoreXDoc/MAG/Media/Home1/e/8/7/c/LON14581.jpg

Patel, Jay. (2012)a. Elowah Falls, Columbia River George, Oregon.   Retrieved 3/29, 2013, from http://www.jaypatelphotography.com/photography/quick-tips/quick-tips-cropping

Patel, Jay. (2012)b. About.   Retrieved 3/29, 2013, from http://www.jaypatelphotography.com/jay

Puche, Fernando. (2013)a. White Mountains National Forest. The Charm of Fall.  Retrieved 3/29, 2013, from http://www.fernandopuche.net/Files/portfolio0201.html

Puche, Fernando. (2013)b. Multiplied Forest #6. The Multiplied Forest.  Retrieved 3/29, 2013, from http://www.fernandopuche.net/Files/portfolio0909.html

Puche, Fernando. (2013)c. Artist Statement. Retrieved 3/29, 2013, from http://www.fernandopuche.net/artiststatement.html

Thompson, Cole. (2008)b. Harbinger 1. Harbinger.  Retrieved 3/29, 2013, from http://colethompsonphotography.com/HarbingerImages.htm

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