In Atmosphere, photographer Evan Anderman’s previous exhibit at his Journey Through Landscape gallery, he recalled the sinuous cloud images of early 20th century master Alfred Stieglitz’ and his famous ‘Equivalents’ series. In Anderman’s new work, Hidden World (also at the JTL), an artist best known for his exploration of large spaces (especially the western landscape) investigates a hidden world of small spaces—the humble leaf. By turning his artistic gaze on the leaf Anderman now recalls the work of other early masters of photography, especially William Henry Fox Talbot, Anna Atkins, and Imogen Cunningham, who also found in the simple leaf a subject as visually and emotionally compelling as a sweeping landscape or gothic cathedral.
Hidden World exhibits a score of prints; each print images a single leaf. However each leaf is rendered in razor sharp large scale that reveals remarkable fractal detail. Anderman chose front lighting on some leaves so as to reveal fine texturing of petiole and margin. Backlighting on other leaves reveals the marvelous fractal patterns along the veins of the leaf blade. Whether reflecting or transmitting light, the colors of these leaves are rich, vibrant and dramatic. It is precisely because front lighting and backlighting reveal a leaf in dramatically different ways that the most interesting photographs in the exhibit are paired: three different leaves, each imaged twice, once in backlighting and once in front lighting.
Finally, what is perfect about Anderman’s leaves is that they are imperfect. They are weathered; some have spots and worm holes. It is precisely these imperfections that mark them of the real, if somewhat hidden, world. Just as poetry must do if it is to succeed, art photography too must make some connection to the real world else there will be no long lasting emotive connection with its patrons. With this exhibit it is clear that Anderman used his art not so much to reveal a hidden world as to reveal hidden visual poems.
The photographer sees the world in a different way. He sees the object before him as it might be distilled to its essence when, by his artistic choices and the lens of his camera, it is isolated by frame, flattened onto a plane, revealed by the shades and tints of color reflected off its surface, and featured or understated by perspective. Still, even the most experienced photographer is often surprised by how his photograph has rendered a subject; indeed that element of surprise is one of the real joys of photography. The social documentary photographer Garry Winogrand once observed “There is nothing as mysterious as a fact clearly described. I photograph to see what something will look like photographed.“ With Hidden World, Evan Anderman has carried out the photographer’s task to perfection; he has clearly described the leaf for us. We are left only to enjoy its poetry and wonder at its mysteries.
Hidden World is currently on view (through October 13, 2012) at the Journey Through Landscape gallery in Denver.