If it hadnâ€™t been for an offer of a jar of â€śQuarantinaraâ€ť (a tomato marinara sauce he canned during the pandemic) in exchange for a donation to a non-profit organization, I might never have started following adventurer/photographer (and mini-philanthropist!) Michael Lee Jackson on Facebook. And I wouldâ€™ve missed quite possibly the single-most riveting image of the 2019 SuperBloom season, taken by Michael, alongside numerous other amazing photographs shot on the road and at home, where he is most often accompanied by his superdog companion, Shadow.
When I found out that a number of his photographs would be shown at Bergamot Art Stationâ€™s Galerie XII, I arrived early for the opening reception in June. That Superbloom photo is one of the highlights of â€śMichael Lee Jackson: Being There.â€ť Glad I got the chance to soak up the energy emanating from the walls and the breathtaking beauty of his work, plus a little time to catch up and talk.
Never heard of him? Well, I only knew him as a friend of a real-life friend, then began following his Facebook page, where he posts his most recent images. Then I decided I need to know more about him, so I dug into his website.
Talk about a renaissance man! A former lawyer, a guitarist, a touring and recorded rock musician, a published photographer with the worldâ€™s coolest dog. Irresistible combo. On top of which heâ€™s a mensch!
Carole Azuar, Bubble 2, 2022
Galerie XII has paired his Superbloom photos with his Star Circles (time lapse images of the stars over a fixed location) and theyâ€™re mesmerizing. Donâ€™t ignore the side gallery with vistas viewed from window frames. There is also a book: SUPERBLOOM: Carrizo Plain National Monument available at the gallery and at: amazon.com/gp/product/0999639838/ref=ewc_pr_img_1?smid=A3GEC2F66LUKHE&psc=1&fbclid=IwAR1RGNmitYdlHt30HL9a0bXINy8O0uln_5w4SWxUHcvvuGEaMBb_TaWY39o
The entire Gallerie XII offers a riveting visual experience. Another photographer, Carole Azuar, is a neurologist from Paris who scuba dives and shoots her images, titled â€śAbyss Blue,â€ť in deep ocean waters. I fell head over heels in love with â€śBubble 2,â€ť a single air bubble from a scuba diver suspended in the deepest, most profound blue I think I have ever seen.
Sheâ€™s been doing this for 17 years, and youâ€™ll see images of undersea flowers, bubbles, coral and more. You could argue that what we see underwater, in part mirrors what our brains look like. And she describes how each ribbon of the color spectrum drops out one by one the deeper you sink so thereâ€™s only blue, but when she adds a flash you see the vibrant colors well below the surface: yellow, deep aquamarine blue, teal, even peacock blues and greens. Itâ€™s a dreamy underwater-scape and very meditative.
And then thereâ€™s Dutch photographer and sculptor Scarlett Hooft Graafland. She creates surreal images that are NOT photoshopped (she uses an analog camera) but ARE manually manipulated â€“ in several instances, actually embroidered onto the photo paper itself. She takes her lens to such remote and inhospitable landscapes as the Bolivian salt flats, the Canadian Arctic, the islands Socotra (Yemen) and Vanuatu, staging surrealistic ruminations on nature, reality and fantasy by adding completely unexpected elements.
In one image, a woman in a pink dress, wearing a bowler hat with braids down her back, stands in a desolate landscape where two other bowler hats are mysteriously suspended in air. Very much in the vein of Magritte but utterly unique. But she leaves just the tiniest shine on the wire that suspends the hats so you know itâ€™s a human intervention. Other images feature women, often in black, sometimes in brilliantly colored billowing fabrics, juxtaposed against structural objects set in a stark landscape.