Brian Oglesbee

Figure/Foliage 152

Figure/Foliage 152

Figure/Foliage 150

Figure/Foliage 150


In a fundamental way photography translates the four dimensions we experience of the world into two. The photographer directs this transformation and can influence it in ways that the viewer might not be aware of. The photographer can influence perception to signify, emphasize or change the meaning of things, places and events. To me one of photography's most potent virtues is its unparalleled power to render in such exact detail what is in front of the camera. Nothing convinces the eye like a photograph. I have been working in the studio for years with large format cameras learning to control the dynamics of photographic image-making in order to test that unique power and present the viewer with believable evidence of unbelievable things.

People often assume there must be some sort of manipulation like double-exposing, digital processing or darkroom tricks in my work but all of it is done in front of the camera which simply records what the camera was "looking" at. I work to make my pictures reveal themselves slowly, as they possess different levels. Some layers are revealed only upon re-viewing or when studying large prints. Some layers become apparent only after time has passed.

I'm interested in how we perceive things visually, and I strive to make pictures that may have some perceptual puzzlement to them. Perhaps the viewer is not even aware that a trick of perspective or the strange optical properties of water might be at work in an image. Hopefully a degree of wonder sets a dialog in motion between the viewer and the picture. I think art reflects on the undefinable nature of life and our place in nature. I hope viewers would be moved to feel something of that mystery.

—Brian Oglesbee

Water Series #58 (2000)

Water Series #58

Water Series #65 (2001)

Water Series #65

Water Series #74 (2001)

Water Series #74

Water Series #48 (1999)

Water Series #48

Water Series

Optically dynamic, water is transparent, reflective and refractive. It "mirrors" and "lenses." In a sense we don't actually "see" water.  We see what water does to what is in it, under it or reflected by it. In nature liquid water is always moving and its motion relative to the viewer and the light dictates what it does visually.

An initial concern was to evoke natural settings convincingly in the studio. Along the way it was learned that the geometry, or shape of the surface of the water was the most critical aspect visually.  This led to sets and devices which allow the creation of entirely other-worldly visual environments with wave forms, splashes and fields of lensing bubbles. 

All images are created in the studio on large-format film. There is no manipulation, digital or otherwise, after the initial exposure: what is seen in the print is what was presented to the camera.

You can read more about the Water Series and see additional images in Volume 5 of INSIGHT magazine.