The Gallery at Pioneer Bluffs

Mark A. Fisher – Summer 2016

“The Remembered Earth”

August 6 – September 25, Opening reception on August 6, 2pm – 5pm

Once in his life a man ought to concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth, I believe.  He ought to give himself up to a particular landscape in his experience, to look upon it from as many angles as he can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon it.  He ought to imagine that he touches it with his hands at every season and listens to the sounds that are made upon it.  He ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest notions of the wind.  –N. Scott Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain

 Like many before him, Fisher was first drawn to the Flint Hills of Chase County through the best-selling book, PrairyErth, and through his friendship with the book’s author, William Least-Heat Moon.  “Today,” says Fisher, “ I find myself frequently returning to the region in response to its serenity, beauty, and the seemingly limitless photographic possibilities to be found there – a perfect environment to explore the unexpected.”

Many who have explored the subtleties of the flint hills prairie have shared Fisher’s sense of discovering the unexpected.  And many who have photographed this open landscape have gone home dissatisfied that their flattened images bear little resemblance to the deep, expansive spaces they witnessed firsthand.

Fisher does not seek out the most resplendent Flint Hills vistas.  We find here no glittering sunsets breaking through storm clouds or illumined wildflowers scattered amidst neatly spaced limestones.

“My original intent had been to present primitive imagery of the Flint Hills, the primitive landscape that Heat-Moon brought to life for me.”  Abandoning his original plan to use a wooden pinhole amera, Fisher began using a digital camera that had been converted to record infrared light .  “I then inverted the digital files to digital negatives and contact printed them on watercolor paper that had been treated with a light-sensitive Van Dyke Brown solution, resulting in a 21st-Century version of 19th-Century Van Dyke Brown Prints.”

The resulting images are surprising; the infrared light locates and amplifies (or creates?) details that the human eye has missed.  The scenes that Fisher points his camera at are “empty” places.  Fisher, himself, is an extremely warm and positive presence and he describes the little Flint Hills towns that he photographs as “quiet” and “nestled,” “just off the beaten path.”  But the viewer would be forgiven for seeing some of these images as empty, deserted, or miles away from any path that is regularly “beaten.”

In some images the solitude becomes a real presence.  The landscape turns inward such that the viewing experience is less like being transported to another place and more like reaching back into the recesses of one’s own consciousness.  In Fisher’s photographs we are invited to imagine the landscape replete with its own memory, to see it from every angle in our mind’s eye.


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