A century ago Alfred Stieglitz turned his Graflex camera skyward, freeing images of clouds from the contextualizing anchor of land creating his “Equivalents” series,  which many cite as the first abstract photographs.

Forty years later, Wynn Bullock created his groundbreaking series, Color Light Abstractions, with sweeping patterns reminiscent of Stieglitz’s Equivalents. Bullocks’ subject matter was fractured glass arranged in his studio to reflect and refract light.

Now, only recently made possible through advances in digital photography and editing technology, Craig Blacklock has built upon these historic works, creating a fusion of the two in his Light Waves photographs. Like Stieglitz, Blacklock is photographing wind-driven patterns in nature, with his beloved Lake Superior supplanting Stieglitz’s clouds while embracing Bullock’s fascination with and mastery of color and light.

Artist Statement:

Light Waves is an artistic response to the shattering of the earth’s ecosystems at the dawn of the Anthropocene Epoch—simultaneously acknowledging changes and loss, while also revealing the beauty remaining to be discovered within the shards, providing a place of refuge.

My artistic practice is intrinsically linked to the interface of land and water in wilderness areas—most often Lake Superior. Since 1976 my artwork has evolved from large-format color landscapes depicting what these places looked like; to black and white nudes creating an emotional connection to the landscapes by expressing what it felt like to be within their environs; to increasingly non-representational imagery untethered from context—always with a mission to preserve the wild character of the places I photograph.

My most recent body of work, Light Waves, is a series of images isolating the complex mirror of Lake Superior’s surface, producing a purely abstract representation of the palette and textures lying outside of the frame. In the same way the barely recognizable melodic fragments of a jazz interpretation reference the original song, these images derive their structure from and pay homage to the landscape and the fresh water it is reflected in. 

The process of making these images is quite spontaneous. The light and wave conditions being in constant flux, I am seeing and reacting, sometimes within seconds. From my kayak I incorporate reflections of the shore, from land I use elements primarily derived from the sky.

The projects will be brought to public view through three components, each of which is capable of standing alone, but complements the others and the core photographic component: exhibitions of large framed pigment prints on matte fine art paper with torn-edged margins, videos, and a book. In the Light Waves videos I resurrect the lake’s movements by re-animating sequences of still images, producing time-warping effects impossible to achieve with direct video capture. A mixture of ambient and melodic audio elements transport the viewer into and through the moving images, creating an immersive, otherworldly experience. 

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In the book’s introduction, Daile Kaplan writes, “Water, the planet’s most elemental substance, is reimagined by Blacklock as visual metaphor. His photographs—light-infused, affecting interpretations of color and form—play with the shifting nature of perception while capturing the glorious collaboration between sun and lake in vivid color. Mono- or polychromatic photographic prints with tilde-like wavy patterns depict the lake at different times of the day and in each of the seasons. Single images and sets (diptychs and triptychs) of photographs, each untitled, present a dematerialized body of water denoting energy, fluidity, and power. Reflective image streams, with no horizon line, compositionally rely on a picture’s internal logic and the viewer’s active engagement.” 

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Pre-publication praise for LIGHT WAVES

Blacklock is an inordinately talented and disciplined photographer with a body of work in league with Ansel Adam’s. His incomparably unique Light Waves series demonstrates a metamorphosis as an artist as dramatic as Monet’s shift to exquisitely abstract water lilies while continuing to combine his quest for beauty with his lifelong concern with the human assault on the Earth’s biosphere

—John Kaul, documentary filmmaker

The beauty we experience in Craig Blacklock’s photographs now takes on new dimension in these latest abstractions featured in his remarkable LIGHT WAVES. Each image celebrates the unseen forces of nature, bold and compelling imagery immersed in light, emotes an expressionist mood, the flow of energy and spectrum of tonal and color variations rarely seen beyond Aurora’s fine palette…astonishing in scope.

—Martin DeWitt, Founding Director/Curator and Emeritus Professor of the Fine Art Museum, Western Carolina University and former Director/Curator of the Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota Duluth.  DeWitt is a practicing artist, writer and independent curator, living in Duluth, Minnesota.

One of the constants in Craig’s photographic efforts I’ve always appreciated is his ability and willingness to take risks. He shows no fear in tackling subject matter that others might shy away from. In LIGHT WAVES, he explores more than the surface of Lake Superior’s reflections. I feel motion in stills, depth in movement, as light dances with rich, fluid colors on the curves of the world’s greatest body of water with striking imagination and design.

— Layne Kennedy-Photographer

Fans of Lake Superior and Craig Blacklock have another reason to celebrate.  Craig’s photography has taken us to a new dimension, allowing us to see patterns and complexity within the water’s surface as it moves under wind power, mixing light into intricate patterns. Nature provides beauty and inspiration, and we are lucky to have an artist who can help us discover and see its wonders. Dive in without getting wet.

— Mike link, former director of the Audubon Center, together with his wife Kate Crowley, walked around Lake Superior in 2010. Mike is currently a guest speaker for American Cruise Lines.