By Brit Hammer
Mabry Campbell is an international award-winning, fine art and architecture photographer based in Houston, Texas. Fascinated by the light installations of artist James Turrell, Mabry created these images.
James Turrell is an American artist, who for more than four decades has used light and space as his medium. “Twilight Epiphany”, located on the Rice University campus in Houston, Texas is one of his largest skyspace installations.
Mabry was fascinated with this skyspace and created these images of the pyramidal structure, which is large enough to accommodate 120 people between two levels.
What's of particular interest is that the color sequence is tied to the phases of the moon. LED lights project colors in sequence onto the ceiling and through an aperture in the 72-foot square knife-edge roof, transforming the skyspace into an immersive experience. The lights run for approximately 40 minutes, both before sunrise and after sunset.
After creating this series of images, Mabry began researching other installations by James Turrel. As it turned out, he didn't have far to look. James Turrell’s “The Light Inside” (see below) is located at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (MFAH).
No images he’d seen of “The Light Inside”, located in a tunnel between buildings at the MFAH, could have prepared Mabry for the actual experience.
The light transforms the tunnel into a vessel. A raised walkway guides visitors forward and creates the sense of floating in space, as light cycles through many colors, from blue to crimson to magenta.
Mabry had no preconceived notions of how he wanted to shoot the scene, other than to have the shots appear panoramic.
“My fine art photography is rooted in a love of forms, both natural and man made, and the visual impact that can be created when forms evoke emotion. An architectural subject is silent in the literal sense of the word, as is a landscape subject. The only way they can speak beyond their inherent visual forms is to mold and shape them into the artist’s vision."
The first challenge Mabry encountered was how to define the shape of the tunnel. Without people, the images appeared abstract and could be misconstrued as an abstract painting. This led him to include people in order to give spatial context. Of course, this caused a new problem: the raised platform is the only place on which visitors are allowed to walk, so using a tripod and blocking the flow of foot traffic was out of the question. As a result, all shots were taken hand-held.
The biggest challenge was technical. The light is so bright in the tunnel that the channels on Mabry's camera were peaking hard. Also, the sensor was unable to distinguish between the subtle gradations of color at the edges that would give the appearance of shape and form. This had to be resolved in post-processing.
What resulted from his labor are these striking images of color and form.
"I aim to force the viewer to reconsider what they are seeing in my images, to have moments of confusion, and finally to appreciate and understand the essence of what they are viewing."