Monday, September 29, 2008

Utah Lake Exhibit

I started a project a while ago photographing Utah Lake. I started it with Brandon Allen who was a student of mine at the time. We were intrigued by how many people thought the lake was disgusting, revolting, radioactive, cesspool, etc., etc. Yet we actually found the lake quite beautiful and a fun place to photograph. The dichotomy kind of piqued our interest. We have focused on creating and presenting an image that stands in direct opposition to the typical public perception of the lake. Hopefully by approaching this project with this mindset will force people to at least consider an alternative reality of Utah Lake than what they currently have.

We now have a show of these images that will be in the gallery at the Covey Center for the Arts in Provo, UT for the month of October. The show is entitled Perspectives: Utah Lake. The opening reception will be on Friday October 3rd from 6-9 pm. (light refreshments will be served) It is an open invitation so bring friends. Here are a few images that will be included in the show plus my artist statement at the bottom.

Since this is a photography project let me start with a quick photography lesson: How to control perspective? Perspective is controlled entirely by the relationship of film (or sensor) to the object that is being photographed. To be perspectively “correct” the film has to be perfectly parallel to the object being photographed. For instance, if you want to photograph a building and you have to look up to see the top of the building then you have altered the film plane relative to the building and the building will keystone, or get smaller towards the top. The perspective will not be “correct” in the photograph.

In other words perspective is controlled by how the photographer positions themselves in relationship to their subject. I think this explanation works for the cognitive definition of perspective as well, point of view. When you ask someone for his or her point of view you are basically seeking an opinion that is the sum of their life experiences. Their life has been different than yours so their interpretation will be gleaned from a completely different set of eyes. This person will be in a different position in relationship to the subject or question than you are.

I had many experiences while teaching photography at UVU that led me to start photographing the lake. When a student would produce an image of Utah Lake that was beautiful, all sorts of negative opinions would start to fly from others in the class. I began to wonder how many of the negative opinions were due to the condition of the lake and how many were due to the condition of the viewer.

I decided to begin photographing Utah Lake and see what the camera had to show me about the lake. I was instantly mystified. I found beauty everywhere I looked and whenever I looked. I had a hard time seeing what so many people had told me was ugly about the lake. Whenever I saw things gross or ugly it was not the lake I saw but the people who were responsible for the scar.

I have come to the realization that photography does not have the power to change its subject. Photography’s power lies in its ability to change perceptions about the subject. Once the perception has been changed then real change can occur. Once you see a well-executed and well-thought out photograph it is difficult to ever look at the subject again without seeing it from a new perspective informed by that image.

“Life is what we make it. Always has been, always will be.” I think the same holds true in this instance, Utah Lake is what it is now because of us and will become what we make of it. I encourage you to consider a new perspective of Utah Lake, the place no one wants to know.


Kelli Ward said...

congrats on the show. ive seen you working on this project for a few years now. i wish i could be there to support. you are an inspiration.

Emily Jeanne said...

hey travis! what a great show! you work is always amazing. i am living in LA and looking for work. Check out my photo/retouching blog Are you still teaching at UVSC? How is life. By the way, I got married and my name is Emily TImmreck instead of Emily Gibson.

Andrea Marie said...

Awesome! I'll be visiting Utah next week so I'm going to try and stop by your show! Congratulations!

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