Can just nine photographs affect a state of tranquility? German photographer Michael Lange’s exhibition WALD/FLUSS — on view at photo-eye Gallery in Santa Fe through October 17– does just that. Such an intimate show might not seem capable of such office, but once you know that wald means “forest” and fluss translates as “river,” your state of mind adapts to the ebb and flow of the photographer’s aesthetic.
Lange’s wooded and water imagery invites viewers to consider the concept of place, as represented photographically. Although the photographs were taken along the Rhine, the titles are generic, and the images conjure a sense of atmosphere, of color, and of quietude. A case in point is FLUSS R3498. Shrouded in a glaze of silvery grey, Lange’s close-up of the Rhine melds into sky where a soft flowing eddy suspended in motion is barely distinguishable from an upper register awash in dense fog with no riverbank in sight. Not unlike a dream, in which inexplicable images appear, then vanish into nothingness, Lange’s picture leaves us adrift between two journeys: that of the river and our own inner path. At 42 X 56 inches, Lange’s print nearly engulfs the viewer in an environment that is both disconcerting and mesmerizing.
Standing before WALD #2016, which isolates an expanse of towering pines, you not only sense the majesty in this natural scene, but you imagine how your most deliberate step will disturb the quietude of this place. Lange’s iterative, columnar tree trunks are not unlike the architectural components in a gothic cathedral that sweep your gaze upward. In addition, the muted palette of greys, blues, and greens — gained primarily from shooting at twilight — weds these singular images together, identifying a place imbued with dark beauty.