About Figure / Foliage
BRIAN OGLESBEE, Pictures Beyond Words
When asked about his work, Brian Oglesbee likes to say, “If I could explain what I do in words, I wouldn’t have to make the pictures.”
He carefully steers his imagination around and past such verbal concepts as “narrative,” “interventions,” or “political/racial/gender theory” to find a vision that is startling, mysterious, beautiful, and free from words.
When you look at Brian’s pictures, you may sense the ghost of a myth, even a “narrative;” but the work will confound attempts at classification. If it provokes more questions than answers, you will understand something about the photographer and how his photographs come to be.
Alfred, New York
BRIAN OGLESBEE, Photographs
A Generative Systems artist is an artist, who searches for means of revealing the true nature of a system, not by copying the past, but by embedding the past as part of history, yet knowing that as Science and Society advance so do the Arts. As our perceptions of nature change, so do our tools, thus providing us with new possibilities for revealing with our tools new frontiers of vision.
Oglesbee’s immediately previous photos dealt with the nature of water, how it moves, and how the camera, as it has evolved, can produce a living, breathing image. Oglebee’s work is thus about life. His is a sense, mind system, a generative system that evolves with science and society, and as such he reinforces the Art of Photography and gives it new life. In that process he gives us great beauty, for in his human-layered-with-plants images, he takes us into Time and Space, showing how the camera, his tool, can provide visual answers not really generally seen before.
Those who understand this are usually the great artists of their field. Such was the case when film director Julie Taymor saw Brian Oglesbee’s Water Series book, AQUATIQUE, and asked him if he would collaborate with her for the watery scenes on her feature film, Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST.
I have known Brian Oglesbee since his youth, I know that he has followed the path to learning and discovery in a way that will continue well after I, at 93 years of age, will not be able to follow. Yet I know from long experience that he will flow along with science and society, as a student of mine, far into the future. I have been fortunate for my association with such unique people as Brian Oglesbee.
–Sonia Landy Sheridan
Professor Emerita, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Founder of Generative Systems in 1970
About The Water Series
"My first viewing of Brian Oglesbee's photography, the Water Series, was as engaging as it was challenging. Was I being tricked by some clever post-magic or did he achieve, in camera, a focus that is present but seldom seen? While the constructed digital image lives in the former, it was clear to me, without an understanding of how, that I was seeing a rare syntax of the lensed eye - an encounter with magic in a pure photographic form. Closer viewing revealed a large world of small details suspended in a layered and altered plane of focus. I was impressed. Brian's photography is about what we see, a focused meditation on a world that is hidden in plain sight. His modus operandi is to capture a complexity that only photographic simplicity can reveal."
–Godfrey Reggio, acclaimed director of art films (with composer Philip Glass and director/editor John Kane): KOYAANISQATSI, POWAQQATSI, NAQOYQATSI, ANIMA MUNDI, EVIDENCE and VISITORS.
"Brian's Water Series (Aquatique) was a tremendous inspiration in the conception of my film of THE TEMPEST.His surreal play with nature and the human form is not only visually exquisite but quite mysterious and moving.Amazingly, it is shot without any digital or visual effects enhancement, and thus it has a true visceral feelwhile the play of lighting on the figures and the elements is magical."
–Julie Taymor, highly regarded for her creative productions such as THE LION KING on Broadway,and the movies TITUS, FRIDA and ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, asked Brian to collaborate with her on scenes for her feature film, Shakespeare's "THE TEMPEST".
"I've known Brian and his work in photography for over 35 years. We were in school together in Chicago studying art. While Brian was busy taking and making photographs, I was becoming more interested in art history especially as it applied to photography and filmmaking.From that early time, Brian was not caught up in the prevailing wind of pseudo documentary photography. His work was about the magical and mystical qualities inherent in the medium. As was the case then, as it is today, his prints always made people ask 'how did you do that?' To me it never mattered what Brian did with his imagination, his equipment or any kinds of darkroom experiments. His photographs challenged me to think about the very nature of why photography was an art, and why it took so long for so many to come to this realization. Had Brian been working during the first half of the last century, I'm sure that Alfred Stieglitz would have also been a fan."
–Miles Barth, Founding Curator, Permanent Collection, International Center of Photography, New York. Currently an author, independent curator and advisor to numerous public and private photography collections.