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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Elemental Energy

Rafael Rojas sorts through the earth’s kinetic frenzy to create structured, graphic images that connect the viewer to the scene and to nature as a whole

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Rojas originally was trained as a geological engineer, and this abstract image shows his ongoing appreciation for the rock core that makes up the foundation of nature.
Trained as a geological engineer, Rojas left his job to pursue nature photography full time, but the love of rocks that led to his earlier career still shapes his life.

"Looking at rocks," he says, "I tend to think about what has happened to them for millions of years, when they formed, when they were sculpted by the wind, rain and ice. I have realized I am particularly obsessed with geology, the northern oceans and the forests. Any place strong in any of these components will draw me magnetically. I like photographing the sea, since it never stops and reveals itself as an almost living organism. I even tend to feel the trees 'growing' as I photograph the forest. I like to see myself being part of that active, never-stopping world. We are all part of a macro-living organism, our planet, and in the end, looking for that flow or energy beneath everything around us makes me feel like I am discovering the soul of the matter. It also helps me connect better with the surroundings at an emotional level, something which normally leads to a higher emotional load in my photographic work."

That planetary energy that turns mountains into boulders is reflected throughout Rojas' portfolio. He's almost better defined as an elemental photographer rather than a landscape photographer, drawn as he is to the earth's energy that manifests in mountain winds blowing snow from a peak, tides pushing jagged shards of ice into kinetic sculptures, even the slow progress of water and wind carving stone.

"I love the energy of those conditions," he says. "It is like feeling the energy of nature, like feeling alive in a way. I see our planet as a living organism, where everything is in constant movement, change and adaptation. Movement, flow, energy, time—all these things are something that explicitly or implicitly I tend to consider while seeing the world and when photographing it. In practical terms, that energy or flow appears in my photographs in different ways—extreme and energetic weather conditions, transient and quickly moving light bathing the landscape, inclusion of contrasts or edges like the edge between night and day, good weather and bad weather, land and sea, the inclusion of visual tension and subjects that tell a story about time or action in the landscape, like an erratic boulder looking toward a valley sculpted by ancient glaciers.

"I always feel a mixture of excitement and satisfaction when I strip down an image to the most basic structure," Rojas continues. "I realize that is when the concept really finds its voice, when I find that I am saying a phrase with my photograph and not a paragraph. It is also because basic, simple—but not simplistic—and well-structured compositions need a lot of input from the photographer, and thus those resulting photographs are normally more bound to the photographer than to the subject they reflect.

Finding chaos is easy; finding structure takes a lot of effort, personal effort, on the part of the photographer. That is something I always strive for—putting my stamp on the photograph—and that purity of structure is part of it. Simplicity of forms, purity of structure and strong compositional ingredients are something I always strive for in all my photographs.

"As I say to my students," adds Rojas, "if you cannot draw with a few pencil strokes the basic structure of a photograph, chances are you failed in transmitting the message you were after. The photographs I like the most are those where a full abstraction of the visual design has been made, where the play and interaction of tones, colors, shapes and textures is so strong that it almost becomes the subject over the subject matter. It is only then when the visual language can be used to transmit something that goes beyond the tag, identifying the subject matter."

See more of Rafael Rojas' photography at www.rafaelrojasphoto.com.


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