A Review of Michael Keye Schuler's Gallery Exhibit
of "On the Waters of Revillagigedo"
By Sharon Allen
March 27, 2006
If you doubt those words, you should stop in at The Mainstay Gallery before the end of the month to see his latest exhibit. Entitled "On the Waters of Revillagigedo," it is what it advertises itself to be - it consists of a series of color photographs that catch moments of life spent beside and on the waters of Revillagigedo. You'll find it all there: from the serene panoramic waters of Misty Fjords to the focused frenzy of the elbowing boats along the waterfront. And although Schuler does indeed capture the fleetingly familiar, his work has a unique crispness to it - a cleanness, a focus, an appreciation for life that gives you pause and makes you come away with a new respect and a new perspective of the beloved land, water and people of Ketchikan.
Most of the images are taken from a distance or from a bird's eye view, but are more than just a bunch of photographs from different locations. Schuler's work applies light, line, composition and form to the everyday aesthetics of life in Southeast Alaska. Few are abstracts, metaphors or social commentaries, but all convey a positive mood that is more than welcome in this sometimes depressing world we find ourselves in.
The 35M photograph which bears the same name as the exhibit, "On the Waters of Revillagigedo" is a good example. Taken on Tongass Narrows in June of 2005, it focuses on two sailboats, one white with a white sail, and the other with a bright orange one. The calmness of water fills the rest of the space.
Looking at it, one is at once struck by its sense of fullness regardless of the simplicity of only two main objects The sails on the sailboats are full, the people on board are smiling. Bright, warm light spills over from the captured moment onto the white mat that frames it. One can almost feel the sunshine, hear the laughter and taste the salt of the sea air. More than any other in the collection, it represents the richness of life found here in Ketchikan, especially during those days of sun, fun, family and friends when we head for the water and forget all else.
"Spring Tide in Very Inlet" and "Reflections of Nooya Lake" reflect the same richness of life, but in a much different way. Both are Medium Format Photography and were photographed in Misty Fjords National Monument ("Spring Tide" in September 2005 and "Reflections" in May 2005). Taken from a distance, they are stunning panoramic images of the grandeur that is Misty.
Green abounds in these photos. It holds up the sky and cradles the water as if it were a child, holding it close within the sheltering strength of its tall spruce covered mountains. It is a picture that gives silence and peace to those who gaze at it even while suggesting man's insignificance.
Likewise, the photograph entitled "Squires to the Princess" gives one a sense of inconsequence, at least at first. Taken at the beginning of last year's tourist season, (May 2005), here Schuler catches two workers cleaning the massive white sides of one of the Princess cruise ships in Medium Format Photography. The enormity of the ship's breadth being scrubbed by the two small figures is a sharp contrast and one can easily understand why Schuler gave "Squires" its title. Yet, if you stand longer than a moment in viewing it, the incongruity of the image begins to emerge; that of man caring for, and perhaps even worshiping, what he has himself built. It is an interesting and thought-provoking piece and very well done.
But if "Squires," "Spring Tide" and "Reflections" give feelings of inconsequentiality, "Southeast Melange" does the opposite. A Medium Format Photography taken in April of 2005, it fills its framed space with a chaotic jumble of boats at a Ketchikan dock. There are past memories caught here, as well as memories yet to come. Story fragments are seen in lines of rope and boat and foggy skyline, all caught by flash and lens, defining narratives and giving importance to the common.
All together, Schuler offers over twenty images for both reflection and sale. In truth, the exhibit begs attention. Some of the photos bring forth gasps of awe and some sighs of longing, but all are unique in their ability to stop time on the waters of Revillagigedo and show us the familiar through a different lens.
On the Web:
Contact Sharon at sharon(AT)sitnews.us
contact Dick Kauffman at email@example.com
Publish A Letter on SitNews Read Letters/Opinions