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Copyright ©Bob Keller
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|Wearying of conventional representational photography, I've gravitated toward the
abstract as a sort of antidote to the relentless pursuit of resolution and the
repetitiveness of subjects - I'm particularly influenced by the Abstract Expressionists
of the post-World War II period. I have a hard time these days getting excited
about waterfalls or sunsets or pretty (or melodramatic) mountain scenes, tho' these
remain always click-worthy. The fluidity of water in a remote mountain stream, with
its evanescent swirls and eddies, offers endless possibilities, especially with the
shimmering reflections of the natural surroundings and the vagaries of flow, breeze
and light. The Oregon Coast Range is incised by innumerable creeks and rivulets
fringed by beautiful riparian woods - initially while I'm wading around in some isolated
canyon or standing on a single-lane Forest Service bridge, it takes a bit of time to
visually "warm up" before I begin to see compositions in the water and am able to
isolate them and figure out how to get them into the camera in a way that I have in
mind. Sadly, in the digital age, the resultant images are often dismissed by
suspicious viewers as mere digital manipulations. The images are actually single
exposures and very minimally edited; I enjoy the challenge of accomplishing most of
the creative work in the field with the camera. That said, I intend no disrespect to
the talented Photoshop virtuosos I know - we are nearly all dependent to one degree
or another on software to help create our imagery. In reality the images are
abstractions only in the sense of of pulling out, extracting, a small portion of the
larger scene - they are actually as representational as any conventional photograph.
That's what was there in front of the lens. Over time I've established favorite
locations along many small creeks and have developed techniques to suit conditions
and devoted much time and effort to this body of work - it has become a sort of
specialty for me, and one that I find very satisfying. My time in the wild is
regenerative and nourishing. At the outset of this journey, some years back, I
began with an ongoing series called "Summer Impressions" followed by the name of
the particular stream - I tended to fill the frame with reflections. Of late I've enjoyed
finding situations in which I can show some of the stony stream bed through the
reflections of the forest or the organic, art nouveau forms of overhanging branches.
On occasion I'll include a bit of the stream bank or a protruding rock or floating leaf
as "reality checks". The variations are many; a slowish shutter speed softens the
moving water to give a more painterly feel, while a faster speed coupled with a
precisely-placed focal plane reveals intriguing pillowy convection cells at the surface of
the water - often when I get back to the studio I'm boggled at what the camera has
captured. The shimmering water seen by the naked eye conceals a wonderful variety
of design patterns which can be revealed with the camera - I have a similar ongoing
series with marshes. As always, composition is all. The work strongly enhances the
feeling of working directly with light.
I want to avoid any of the pompous, ludicrous artspeak that you see so often, and
just try to explain my approach in straightforward terms.
A selected work will be at its impactful best printed large and hung (especially) in a
contemporary setting, or at least an uncluttered semi-minimalist environment. (And,
as I've discovered, they're effective in psychotherapists' waiting rooms.) I aim for
immediate visual appeal with these, but they also have enough going on that they
can continue to please and engage over time as fresh elements are discovered.They
are a sort of distilled essence of the natural world of the Coast Range. As the
viewer, you are the other half of the aesthetic equation and can relate in your own
personal way. The images are available in a variety of presentations and sizes,
including metal, canvas, acrylic and more. I offer a sampling on this page.