Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Earth & Sky
Shooting at the edges of the day, Art Wolfe pursues an ongoing photographic quest to unite the heavens and the landscape
“I love trying to elicit emotions out of people and make them feel some sort of impact,” Wolfe explains. “We see a lot of bright, sunny photos, even beautiful mountains and dramatic light. But with this body of work, I was trying to connect the heavens to the earth. That was the mission.”
Wolfe has found a way to visually connect our little planet to the galaxy beyond. Unlike straight astral photography, though, his work is all about context. Conveying these otherworldly events—moonrises and star trails and the aurora borealis—would be interesting in any case. But when Wolfe sets them against the recognizable environment of the earth, suddenly the context for the stars—and our place within them—becomes clear.
Though he always has pushed boundaries with his photography, Wolfe says his desire to photograph beyond the earth simply stems from a need to keep challenging himself. After decades photographing the natural world, it can be easy to feel like you’ve seen it all.
“I started in Seattle as a photographer in the late 1970s,” he explains, “and I photographed everything that was in the environment—from wood ducks to elk to mountains and streams and all that. But 30 years later, if I was still doing that same work, I think I probably would have retired and gone back to doing something else. I’ve always tried to evolve in my work, and it continues to this day. I’m shooting subjects that I didn’t shoot five years ago, just to keep relevant and interested and moving forward. This body of work was something that I hadn’t done to an extent at the time when I was working on the book.”
The book is 2003’s Edge of the Earth, Corner of The Sky, for which Wolfe spent a considerable amount of time peering through a camera at nighttime skies. He sometimes finds himself on assignment in a location that may be fortuitously conducive to this type of photography, but for the most part these unique images are the result of significant planning and effort before the camera is even out of the bag.
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