TOPHOGRAPHY, Heights Arts’ latest show’s title playfully nods to its medium and subject matter: photography and topography, or the natural world in a general sense. The exhibition highlights five Northeast Ohio artists whose relationship with the camera and their subjects gives us varying degrees of immersion into each artist’s tophography. While some photographers transport us into the natural world, others give us a glimpse of their experience.
Philip Brutz offers one of the most immersive experiences while looking through his stereoscope, made from two Hasselblad cameras with aligned focuses and shutters. Looking through the stereoscope at lush forest images transports us into Brutz’s experience, from the fullness of the growing season to the quiet stillness of winter. The enormous sense of depth in each image, care of the stereoscope, seemingly engulfs the viewer in this fecund space.
G.M. Donley’s 360-degree photographs remind rather than transport. They serve as visual maps of a hike, a walk, or a ride. Overlapping frames from 8 exposures of 120 film create a panoramic effect. The descriptive quality of each roll manifests through specific titles and textual signposts. One series of overlapping photographs features “Mt. Lincoln” and “lunch” inserted as both labels and moments in time. They function, in a way, as keepsakes for Donley of a remarkable hike on Mt. Washington or a more ubiquitous experience: a commute, which exhibits the urban landscape of stop signs and electric lines.
Matthew Fehrmann sits us on the back of his motorcycle as he transverses a large swath of the continent, north to Alaska and south to Mexico with memorable stops in the American West. Images of the road feature prominently and represent the excitement of the unknowing and the will to explore. Fehrmann makes us want to leap out of our daily lives and go on an adventure in the vast and magnificent American landscape.
A human element is important in the work of Nancy McEntee, who features her daughter in the Ireland countryside in a series of both color and black and white photographs. Her daughter’s presence in each photograph evokes a mystical quality when coupled with the seemingly solitary landscape. She exists as if conjured by the land itself. The effect is not only magical, but playful as we watch our muse take a nap in one photograph only to wake up and shield her face, as if playing a game, in the next.
Michael Weil leads us on an aerial journey from seat 9A, providing us with striking views of the American landscape, right down to the yellow stripes on the tarmac. From rocky topography to the clean, green squares of planted fields, Weil reminds any (in)frequent flyer that the view from 30,000 miles truly is awe-inspiring. The views from just feet above land have a crispness to them that evokes the lines and forms from miles above, and Weil makes even a tarmac exciting.
With five photographers each with unique perspectives into the natural world and approaches to the medium, TOPHOGRAPHY rewarded those who caught it.
Gretchen Ferber is an artist and writer based in Cleveland, Ohio. View more articles by Gretchen Ferber.