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Matinee: Laura McPhee Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

16 February 2019

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 189th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Laura McPhee on Her Photographs in the 'Ansel Adams In Our Time' Exhibition.

Ansel Adams in Our Time, on exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston through Feb. 24, pairs some of Adams' best known prints with the work of several of 19th-century government survey photographers who influenced him, as well contemporary artists whose modern-day concerns point back directly to Adams.

Laura McPhee, who photographed three canyons in the White Cloud Mountains of central Idaho in 2008 for her series Guardians of Solitude, is among the contemporary artists whose work appears alongside Adams' prints in the exhibit.

On a windy September day, an Idaho man burning a cardboard box in a burn barrel watched his sparks escape and ignite nearby dry brush. Over the next two weeks, 40,838 acres of forest burned in a wildfire that was finally extinguished only by snowfall.

McPhee arrived with her 8x10 Deardorff three years later, capturing not only the devastation of burned tree trunks but new growth on the floor of the forest that had come alive in their shadows.

She had seen a 1935 print by Adams titled Grass and Burned Stump when she was a student of Emmett Gowin, who himself was particularly fond of that image. It made a profound impression on her as she studied its meaning.

The clip is just a bit over three minutes long but it shows both McPhee's images and Adams' images as she talks about her work. The images aren't captioned but there are credits at the end of the clip so you can find out whose work you were looking at.

But you know what you're looking at.

You're looking at two very creative people approaching similar subjects in their own way to create art from the world they found themselves in.

And it is, without question, beautiful stuff whose meaning is worth study.

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