Underwater photography has fascinated Karen Glaser ever since she received a Minolta Weathermatic camera as a birthday gift in 1983. Always using natural light, she has photographed in rivers, swamps, springs and oceans, capturing the dramatic effects of light bent by water, and bringing the viewer's attention to unique and often endangered ecosystems.
Dark Sharks/Light Rays brings together works from two complementary recent series by Glaser, at the small but ambitious Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester. Named for pioneering New England photojournalist Arthur Griffin (1903 - 2001), the gallery regularly shows work by leading international photographers, as well as giving space to emerging artists and photojournalists. Tucked down a one-way street between the railroad and Judkins Pond, the Griffin has made its mark as a vital regional hub for photographers and photography audiences throughout New England.
Glaser's Dark Sharks patrol the outer walls of the Griffin's Main Gallery, in 15 framed photographs printed with dense pigment on coarse-grained photo rag paper. The large, grainy, black and white images are stippled like mezzotint engravings, with fine gradations of tone, and a subtle interplay between surface pattern and the suggestion of infinite depth.
Consciously avoiding what she calls "the typical slicked up representation of the underwater worlds often found in scuba magazines," Glaser is after something more primitive and visceral. Dark Sharks takes us to remote and shadowy places, where the primeval fish shapes loom and recede like the forms in prehistoric cave paintings, a connection that Glaser makes explicit in Cave Painting (2007).
In contrast, the nine photographs from her Light Rays series are smaller in scale, about 6 x 9 inches, printed on slightly mottled pale Kozo paper. Resembling elegant etchings, these light-toned images show ambiguous long-tailed three-pointed shapes that could be kites, or leaves, or birds. Like the pictures of their cousins the sharks, these works lie on the borderland between representation and abstraction, in what Glaser calls "the realm where natural history gives way to the ineffable."