Renate Aller – Oceanscapes

Copyright Renate Aller 2010 courtesy photo-eye, Oceanscapes co-published by Radius Books & Kehrer Verlag Heidelberg

Renate Aller began to photograph and investigate the ocean landscape near her adopted American home, perhaps wistfully looking out towards her native home across the Atlantic Ocean. In the ensuring ten years, her studies developed into this titled work, Oceanscapes. Her spirit is similar to Edward Steichen, when he photographed the small section of hisConnecticut backyard, intrinsically being drawn to the same place, photographing as a cathartic act.

Her photographs are minimalistic and embody three simple elements, the ocean, the sky and a horizontal line between them. As to where she actually photographed her subject remains ambiguous. She states that the photographs were made from the same advantage point, but there are no artifacts in her landscape that might verify this fact, such that these photographs appear that they might be made anywhere along the Eastern coast where there is an unobstructed viewpoint.

Over ten years she has captured a wide range of the atmospheric conditions that embody a full range of moods played out in a diverse palette of hues and tonalities. She has diligently maintains a practiced eye for the atmospheric conditions that occurs both over the span of a day as well as seasonally. Her sensitivity to the moods emanating from the atmospheric light, which are played out and reflected back by the conditions of the ocean, has allowed her to orchestrate the sky and ocean into an elegant dance around the horizontal boundary. The sky and ocean has provided her with a seemingly endless palette for a minimal subject.

The ocean is real and tangible, endlessly stretching out to meet the horizon, while the sky has a minimal tactical essence and extends out to infinity, but the horizontal line is an artifact, an optical allusion, a boundary which does not occur in nature. The ocean and the sky are two relatively limitless entities. Contemplated for centuries, water is a source of physical nourishment, while the sky extends to the heavens, a source of spiritual nourishment. The horizon is where these two entities meet, a place where the physical encounters the spiritual.

Aller’s photographs are meant to extend beyond literal interpretations, as were Alfred Stieglitz’s famous “equivalent” photographs of clouds over his summer home onLake George. To attempt to focus on either the season or time of day that the photograph was created is to miss the subtle narrative about time and memory. Aller avoided the cliché of long photographic exposures to investigate the concept of time but rather utilizes the sequencing of the photographs in her book to create this narrative.  Contemplating these photographs, I also find that the solitude and emptiness elicits a darker sense of melancholy, an undercurrent in contradiction to the more apparent light and open space that is portrayed.

Aller’s Oceanscapes are sharply delineated with saturated colors, which are beautiful rendered by the fine printing of this book.

by Douglas Stockdale

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