The following is:
Copyright (c)2010, The Virginia-Pilot. Reprinted with permission.
The original article appeared in The Daily Break December 7, 1997.
Fresh approach elevates nature photographer’s work
By Teresa Annas,
From 1992 to 1994, roughly, George Elsasser the long time photographer became Elsasser the painter.
It wasn’t exactly action painting he engaged in, but a kind of energetic Art Brut style inspired by directly expressive painters such as Jean Dubuffet, Karel Appel and Willem de Kooning. He came back to photography as inspired as ever.
In the 20-year retrospective on view at the Hermitage Foundation Museum, that hiatus from shooting provides the line of demarcation between the early work, much of it black-and-white, and his later color work, distinguished by an extremely narrow depth of field.
After his bout with painting, Elsasser immediately shifter to larger prints- canvas-scale, you could say- and began to fill the picture frame with an overall, abstract, rhythmic pattern entirely drawn from a found natural setting. Woods chiefly.
The pictures are generally close views, haiku-like, of a mindfully composed arrangement of sticks, tree limbs, tree trunks and leaves.The scene may extend far into the distance, yet only a few inches of the scene are in focus. The rest is fuzzy or distorted. Often, the background shapes and colors break down into discs of semi-transparent color overlapping one another, and reminiscent of Impressionism, at least in the shared sense of tricking the eye into blending rough bits of color.
The challenge for Elsasser, a Virginia Beach commercial photographer by trade, may be considered as: How do you make an artful image, a picture with meaning, that utilizes your well-developed technical skills without looking too slick?
Color photos of nature are as plentiful as pine straw, and many of them are boring. Since 1994, Elsasser has hit on a fresh way of seeing that emerged from his searching attitude regarding the technical aspects, and his own commitment to losing himself in his subject.
While the late color work is clearly a mature phase, the earlier black-and-white work also showed evidence of an intelligent eye schooled in the history of art photography. Even his 1977 photos- shot at age 21- are strong. One is a mysterious black-and-white image that turns out to be a surfboard reflecting nearby woods.
And there are hints of what’s to come. In 7609-D of 1981, he captured a column of light on a living room wall, above the couch. Like two wide strokes of white gouache, the semi-transparent light strokes quiver on the surface. Here, the mystical pops in on the mundane, as it would again and again.
There is a second review of the exhibition here.
I have since renamed the Colorfield Series to Particle Pool.
Info on Particle Pool is found here under Gallery-3