By Louis Jacobson
© Washington City Paper
Thursday, March 3, 2005.
On most occasions, I prefer black-and-white photography to color—but in the case of Mary Lang, a Massachusetts-based landscape photographer who works in both, I have to admit to favoring color.
Lang, influenced by 30 years of practicing Buddhist meditation, photographs peaceful settings in New England and elsewhere—calm, silvery ponds; graceful waves gliding over a sandy beach; dark, rippled water rolling gently in the moonlight. Others capture underwater bubbles or light glinting off asphalt that’s been patched in a pattern that recalls Arabic calligraphy. (Street Graffiti is pictured.)
Lang’s black-and-white images don’t have the crystal-clear contrast made famous by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, or a host of imitators; instead, her images limn their subjects in grainy charcoal tones. Her color works also come infused with a subtle palette—so subtle, in fact, that the term “color” must be used loosely: In a few of them, it’s initially hard to distinguish the color tinctures that set them apart.
In one ever-so-slightly blue-toned image, arguably Lang’s finest, a line of surface footprints serves as the only guide to understanding up and down, surface and depth—though the image is still sufficiently mysterious that it’s folly to think you’ve understood it for sure. The closest analog I can think of are the late Polaroid images taken by an elderly André Kertész in the ’70s—currently on view as part of the National Gallery of Art’s Kertész retrospective—in which eccentric, bold colors seem to flow with an almost liquid consistency.
Her work is on view from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, and from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday to Wednesday, March 15, at Fraser Gallery, 1054 31st St. NW. Free. (202) 298-6450.
© Copyright 2005 Washington City Paper