Award winner and College senior Garland has keen eye

by Christopher Moore | 11/13/01 6:00am

The College becomes a photo album this fall; black and white photographs show in the Hop, quaint geography snapshots crowd the walls of second-floor Collis and administrative offices (e.g., the Dean of the College) jazz up bureaucracy with photographed action sequences.

The most visible show of photography this term is Ty Garland '02's 34 color prints in Collis. They record the adventures of a well-traveled, culturally concerned Dartmouth senior.

Except for an artsy backlit/blacklit half-cut shell above one of the compost bins and some non-sequitur macro-shots, the show divides into discrete geographies: Alaskan grizzlies, Himalayas and rural China.

Compositionally, all are good (though the reproduction, done on a lightjet printer, described by Garland as "a digital image printed with a laser on photographic paper," looks woefully pointillistic up-close); the saturated color works perfectly for the venue; the content varies in quality, and unfortunately the better ones are often more difficult to see. The busy space -- both parts of the dining area -- stresses the show's lack of coherence beyond "these are places I've been in the last four years."

Mr. Garland's best nature photograph, for which he won the BBC's Best Young Nature Photographer award in 1997, hangs above the main fireplace. A grizzly, lumbering on three legs in a roaring salmon stream swipes at a gleaming airborne fish. The frozenness of the frame -- every droplet of spray stands still -- presents to us the strangest aspect of the photograph: both animals -- the bear and the salmon -- appear completely emotionless, not mechanical but uncaring, the bear sopping and wading just to catch a fish, the fish sparkling and moving through the air just to go up stream. In the other bear photos -- encounters between fellow bears or mothers and their cubs, this lack of anthropomorphism also exists.

In this shot and the others, we find no narrative, no feeling, as if animals just think or talk silently, going about their animalian world without caring to manifest the traits we attribute to them.

In his mountain shots, the skies look wetted by deep blue, strange, ambivalently so, with our vista photographic tradition so heavily influenced by Ansel Adams' tradition of black or gray air. (We should reflect fondly on the A. A. exhibit at the Montshire Museum held last year, pre-empting celebrating of his 100th birthday this year at the major modern art museums.)

The photographs on the wall against the caf portion of Collis are of people: they are carrying baskets, smoking, looking halfway between being posed and being unaware -- clearly they are aware. Most are taken from above, looking down. The lack of authenticity, the easy classification of each image -- "the squatting guy with the pipe," for example -- devalue the rich and active background in each photograph.

Garland's most expressionist works, and maybe the most enduring, are of rice paddies and terraced gardens. Shades of light green, textured so discreetly, cover like a film the regional topography with classically man-made organic curves. People, we know, work on these slopes, but they are far from our minds. If only these photographs were not tucked away in strange Collisean nooks.

The clearest, and perhaps most worthwhile, aspect of Garland's show is, considering he's a student, its strong sense of perspective -- one in our midst has been to these places to take these pictures and brought them back to show us. It is important to remember that we, as a group and individually, go places and return. A college, like a house, is a home base from which to live a life, and those places to which we go should always be brought back.