Photos Clockwise from top:”Contemplating the Goddess” is from Ethridge’s “Solitary Voyagers” series.”Pieds” is from Douglas Ethridge’s “Solitary Voyagers” series, on display at the Open Shutter Gallery in Durango.”Tea Time” captures the aloneness one can feel in public. The photographer uses shallow depth of field, a technique that focuses on the man at the counter, while the rest of the shot fades out of focus.”Grace” is from the “Primordial Seas” series that captures the feeling of water outside the cabin door of the photographer’s vacation home in Washington state.
Two shows by the same photographer are on display at Open Shutter Gallery.
Ten 23″ by 34″ abstract photographs draw the viewer into splashes of color refracted in the movement of water from Douglas Ethridge’s “Primordial Seas” series. Two other rooms display 34 of his black and white images of people in differing states of aloneness from his “Solitary Voyagers.”
The most contemplative is “Primordial Seas” a series the artist began in 2006 from his cabin on Hood Canal in Washington state.
Ethridge began photographing the water he saw from his front door every day. He set out to make images that were impressions of how the water felt; some are calming, others intensely energetic. The work relies on Ethridge’s use of shallow depth of field, a technique when areas are intentionally put out of focus.
“The more abstract the images became, the more clearly they touched an emotional chord, becoming microcosms of the greater world,” Ethridge wrote.
The series is divided into four themes: Genesis, Apocalypse, Grace, and Illumination.
Genesis explores a stream of beginnings, the recombination of water and light into changing patterns. Apocalypse captures the unleashing of power. Grace shows the state of calm, yet beneath the surface restless energy remains.
No images from the Illumination theme appear at Open Shutter, where the artist captures the raw elements of pure energy in which nothing but light remains. This is an unfortunate exclusion.
The editions are archival inkjet prints captured with a traditional film camera. But the results are photographs that look like colored pencil or pastel, with delicate fuzzy lines and sudden crisp, sharp areas that sparkle. In “Genesis 11” and “Genesis 18″Ethridge captures streaks of light in the water.
“Solitary Voyagers” is also a powerful series. Images like “Suspend,” “Runner” and “New in Town,” where an individual’s shadow is captured among the afternoon shadows of buildings and columns and benches are unsettling. They reach into that space within us all that longs for companionship.
Other images in the series such as “A Curious Girl,” “Tea Time” and “Contemplating the Goddess” capture solitariness in a group. And since most of Ethridge’s images are faceless, “Curious Girl” stands out. The girl stares into the camera while those around her are softly out of focus.
Images that didn’t work for me were: “Babushka Bikers,” “Crossing Over,” “Anticipating the Journey” and “Shopping Fatigue” where the people seem to be interacting, linked in some way, in contrast to the idea that we are all at some point a solitary voyager.
Ethridge is an accomplished photographer and once again, Open Shutter brings to Durango the high quality work of an artist who presents images that are ambiguous in time and place and motivate us to respond to the image and finish the story.
Prices range from $475 to $1,300 depending on size and framing.
“Solitary Voyagers” and “Primordial Seas” photographic shows by Douglas Ethridge, through Dec. 5, Open Shutter Gallery, 755 East Second Ave., 382-8355.
Artsjournalist@centurytel.netLeanne Goebel is a freelance write specializing in the visual arts.