Book Review: Wald

Wald, by Michael Lange

In Wald (The Woods), German photographer Michael Lange explores the twilight hours of dawn and dusk in the forests of his country. Gloomy at times, glowing at others, the images present a complex view of the woods. Nothing human ever appears — no people, no houses, no signs, no trash. Lange creates a storybook forest; a forest of dreams. As poet Wolfgang Denkel writes in the book, “This is not a place we go — it is where we have always been, unaware.”

And what are the pictures of ?? Stands of pines, tangles of deciduous branches, ferns, leaves fallen into water. There’s never any direct sunlight — these pictures were made in the hour before dawn and the hour after sunset, when only a long exposure could capture enough light to create an image. Perhaps because of this dim light, the pictures avoid being nature photography. They are more mysterious and muddier than calendar photos of forests. And Lange’s composition, which declines to offer points of attention in the images, makes the work compelling.

Lange dedicates the book to Joko Charlotte Beck, his Buddhist teacher. And his meditative approach to the woods is partly the result of his 20 years of practicing Buddhist meditation — though he stressed in an email to me that the book should be understandable to anyone.

— Willson Cummer

Steve Davis

Beauty can lurk in strange places, and I find myself drawn to landscapes which suggest ambiguity, emptiness, and the spiritually untidy. On the edges of the developed West, I seek backdrops to stories and dreams — vague suggestions of the earth as a temporary gesture.  They are as close to nowhere as I can get. 

— Steve Davis, Olympia, Washington, USA

Christine Carr

In the song (Nothing But) Flowers, David Byrne sings about the end of the world as he knows it: nature has taken over and there are no more cars, highways or fast-food restaurants. I was working a few blocks from the White House during the attacks on 9/11, and as I walked home I witnessed smoke rising from the Pentagon. Since then, catastrophes such as Katrina, economic collapse, torture, war, the Haiti earthquake, the Japanese tsunami and news of widespread rape have left me in a state of perpetual anxiety.

In this ongoing body of work entitled Nothing But I am photographing to help process traumatic events that are not only constantly unfolding, but also completely out of my control. These images are a way to deal with feelings of distress, outrage, frustration and helplessness generated by human malevolence and by the tragic consequences of natural disasters.

— Christine Carr, Roanoke, Virginia, USA

Adam Thorman

This series, Out Along the Edges, explores the intertidal zone of Northern California during extremely low tides at dawn. The exposed intertidal zone is an ephemeral place that allows access to an underwater world that is usually closed to us.

Neither ocean, nor land, the intertidal zone is a hybrid of the two: a border not as a line that separates, but as an entity unto itself.

Each organism carries reminders of the water. This tiny world describes, in reverse, our daily struggles to keep our heads above water. The wide blades of kelp and seagrasses are slick with a layer of mucus that keeps them damp and reflects an oily rainbow. Translucent bulbs hold a supply of water to survive the air, just like a diver with a built-in air tank. The closed anemones squirt with every misstep. Each of these wonders exists all out of scale, a living museum at the edge of the abyss.

— Adam Thorman, Oakland, California, USA

Kate Greene

My work stems from a curiosity regarding visible phenomena in the physical world. At the same time it is fueled by an anxiety that revolves around the hidden, the undetected and the unknown. I use nature as an entry point into my examination of this interconnected wonder and fear and the camera as both a revelator and a witness.

Influenced by the peculiar visual form of early occult photography, the symbolic content of 17th century Dutch still life and the obsessive process of botanical recording, I photograph both carefully-constructed nature tableaux as well as the outside world as it is transformed by light and time. By visually describing the phenomenology of nature I attempt to elicit a sense of amazement in the viewer while simultaneously alluding to the gap between the logic of the physical world and the human experience of it.

— Kate Greene, Los Angeles, California, USA

Lauren Marsolier

My work deals with the psychological experience of transition, a particular phase when our parameters of perception change; we suddenly don’t perceive ourselves, our environment or our life the way we used to. We undergo what could be called a gestalt change. That transitional phase feels like being in a place we know but can’t quite identify.

Living in a hyperreal world that mutates at an exponential speed, we multiply experiences that propel us into that mental place where the reality we knew is not the one we sense any longer. We repeatedly get that feeling of disorientation, dissonance and false reassurance, as we try to adjust to a post-modern society marked by the implosion of the boundaries between the image and its referent, appearance and reality. We have been introduced to a new stage of abstraction, a dematerialization of the world in which images and signs take on a life of their own and cause a shift in the human notion of the real.

The loss of concrete connections to the objects of our senses creates a void within us, and unleashes a flow of new and elusive perceptions. Giving them the visual characteristics of a landscape is my way to explore them. Echoing our partly simulated environments, I blend the real and the fabricated, creating images whose verisimilitude prompts the viewer to question the nature of both their medium and their content.

— Lauren Marsolier, Los Angeles, California, USA

Álvaro Sánchez-Montañés

Landnemar takes us through primeval settlements, lifeless roads, road signals that seem to have no one to guide, minimalist villages for minimalist landscapes. It is a visual reflection on one of the worst errors of mankind, trying to subdue Nature, trying to turn Nature into society. Its images of solitary places, whose human scale — human as a quality and as a being — is fully determined by the environment, make us become aware of the fact that true isolation happens precisely at the moment when we turn our backs on the Earth. True isolation means not just isolation in a literal sense, but in a tragical one as well, which can only be overcome under utopian circumstances.

Only those in deep harmony with their environment will refrain from trying to dominate Nature and will understand that surrendering is the only way not just to survive but also to coexist. Through this surrender they will finally find peace. Dostoyevsky said that no land should reject its own life. It will rather live harshly than live the life of others or simply not live. It is impossible to figure out if somebody once whispered these words into the ears of these modern colonists’s ancestors. Maybe genetics made it unnecessary, as courage run naturally though their veins.

— Álvaro Sánchez-Montañés, Barcelona, Spain

Daniel Mirer

The ArchitorSpace photographs display my specific interest in as well my fear of enclosed areas and the banality of urban spaces. These places are typologies of contemporary post-industrial architectural aesthetic which makes the individual appear so displaced within the uncanny. The photographic strategy is to purposefully make these images heavy with absence; these forgotten deserted (non-sites) are environments that are entirely familiar revealing no history or functionality but yet are commonplace.

The environments depicted within the images are sites that conjure up subconscious memories pointing out the familiarity within the redundancy of blandness within postindustrial space. These non-spaces that exist in the images are the enclosed public arenas in which you are viewed and exposed to the scrutiny of others. They reveal an emptiness that is particularly banal, and commonplace, that has become the current prominent state within the post-industrial spaces that we as a modern society navigate and inhabit.

I photograph these  locations from a direct, frontal point of view, at sufficient distance to include the entire space creating a flat and melancholic state. These architectural portraits become places of a matter-of-fact that demonstrates a primary function of the still photographic image: to record. The photographs are of spaces in which a building facade, alley or a corridor is virtually indistinguishable from another; repetition and redundancy collapse into an architectural singularity. Within the images, the subjects who otherwise occupy these spaces are engulfed into the void of here-could-be-anywhere, into the monumental dissolution of space in contemporary architecture.

— Daniel Mirer, Leiden, Netherlands

Marcos Goymil

In recent years industrial tourism emerged in Spain as a new branch of cultural tourism, especially in regions such as Catalonia and the Basque country where industries have developed more. This tourism is not only dedicated to see the development of products, but also to visit the places where previously were mined materials such as salt, cement and coal.

The existence of caves, now instituted as museums, such as Cardona Salt Mine, Cement Museum of Castellar de N’Hug, Salinas de Añana or Collbató mines, generated in me an interest in making a photographic record of its interior spaces. The idea is to record the spaces generated from the extraction of materials and show a fact which deserves to be known and admired.

The accompanying visual material is the product of research, analysis and production, trying to uncover a hidden natural landscape, in which the hand of man intervened only to extract natural resources, creating new scenarios.

— Marcos Goymil, Villa María, Córdoba, Argentina

Emelie Johansson

My photographs explore the interconnectedness of place and sense of self. Through self-portraiture and landscape photography, I explore the symbolic relationship between the mind and the land, documenting the journey and struggle of connecting to place.

I’m interested in the way the landscape shapes our sense of the familiar, of home, self, and family as it functions as a container of memories. Scholars in various disciplines have differing definitions of the term “sense of place,” however, I’m primarily interested in the idea that having a “sense of place” may allow us to belong to a place momentarily even though it is not “our” place. It allows me to connect to nature and cultures that are not my own or reconnect with a familiar place. I find my relationship to place to be unstable, not constant, and always changing. I connect and disconnect.

My work is derived from my process of making a home in an unfamiliar place, driven by my transition between two countries and cultures, Sweden and the United States. Recurring themes in my work address psychological struggles of isolation, displacement, and longing as they relate to my ability to understand, own or accept a specific site. The resulting photographs shows how place can be absent or unavailable and how the search for “home” is a mythical search, filled with tension and anxiety but also moments of solace and peace.

— Emelie Johansson, Greencastle, Indiana, USA