Michael Lundgren’s natural landscape photographs in his book Transfigurations published in 2008 by Radius Books is not what you might expect of this genre of photography. It is a very cerebral set of images, very unlike Ansel Adams and his landscape photographs that encompass those dynamic tonal ranges, but more like if Wynn Bullock had a son name Lee Friedlander. A philosophic direct look at the landscape.
The photographs are more in line with the New Topology, of directly recording what is seen, but seen in the desert and not within the urban landscape. His theme is not just change, but metamorphosis, and he attempts to capture that intense radiance and wide range of illuminatance of the deserts of the Southwest United States.
He captures subtle and brief changes in the landscape as well as that changes that take long durations to manifest themselves. In the desert, the essence of how we mark time becomes a gray fog, blurred by memory. His photographs provide the evidence of change with broad and varied strokes. Such as the photographic pairing within the book of the changing movements of earthly, solid rocks with the celestial heavenly bodies.
He plays with scale and tonality, and you realize that that what you are looking at is not what exactly you thought it to be. And so you find yourself reexamining each photograph to re-verify if it is what you thought it to be? You begin to have doubts and you find you need to look closer and make a more critical examination of the “facts” placed before you. A white facing page morphs into a high key desert river bottom, so your return to the previous white facing pages and reexamine them again. A black page ekes out the subtle details of a desert vista, an experience of staying the night in the desert.
The photographs are printed with full edge bleeds which provides the feeling of vastness, that the images are running off the edges, much like the endless vistas of the desert. For me in this instance, the full bleed images are not comfortable and leaves me uneasy, but I do feel that is consistent with the book’s design intent.
The pairing of images within the book provide an interesting juxtapositon and create potentially greater thematic images about change. Editing which is possible in a book, but difficult to archive in an exhibition or the examination of single, loose prints.
The pair of photographs of the bright illumination of a full moon and the facing photograph of a landscape with deep shadows that are oriented such that the source of illumination seems to emanate from the facting page. The repetition patterns of the moving and changing rock position and the planet as it moves across the reflected surface of a pond.
The book is available in a trade edition, a tad bit more for the signed version or in a limited edition with a 16 x 20″ silver gelatin photograph, your choice from any within the book. The ability to choose which print to be included with the limited edition is a nice touch.
Best regards, Douglas Stockdale