Scott Mathews – Grass Island, Owens River

Grass Island, Owens River copyright 2021 Scott Mathews

I find many natural landscape photographs to be very meditative in nature, especially those which are rendered in black & white.  The more abstract qualities of black & white for me allows these images to appear more poetic, which I feel is evident as in my recent discussions of Roger Bennett’s natural landscape, the rural farming landscape of Kyrsia Lukkakson, the more abstract urban landscape photograph by Anat Icar Shoham and even the very abstract photograph by Stan Kuran. Perhaps no wonder I still really enjoy black & white photography.

I think that these poetic qualities are inherent in Scott Mathews’ Grass Island, Owens River, a natural landscape rendered in black and white, which engages me in a similar manner as well. It is a photographic print that Mathews exhibited briefly at the last Photographers Exchange meeting at the Irvine Fine Arts Center in November, probably shortly after creating this photograph in the Central Valley region of California.

This photograph is majestic, if not truly sublime, that encompasses the broader Sierra mountain range in the background to provide a wonderful environmental background context for his subject, a patch of grass growing in the middle of the Owens River. The winter conditions further lend itself to a graphic composition; the grass becoming lighter in the fall, surrounded by the darker moving water of the river with the distant snowcap mountains that is very visually striking as well as beautiful.

The sky and clouds appear to add to the visual drama to his narrative with the wind-swept clouds on the top edge that appear to be redirecting the viewers attention back into the composition towards the grass island. The circular pattern of the eye’s movement subtly creates a dynamic element that is another key element of his photograph.

I think of this photograph as having the classic compositional elements found in Henri Cartier-Bresson’s narrative photographs, the main subject is located in the foreground, while the supporting environmental context establishes a dramatic back-drop. Okay, maybe Ansel Adams and some other west coast photographers may have used this compositional rule as well.

All in all, I find that Mathews landscape photograph is wonderfully meditative and a really poetic image, providing me with a location that I could imagine myself standing and enjoying this inspiring viewpoint while listening to the sounds of the passing river.

Mathews has a web-site (https://www.scottmathewsphotography.com), is on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/scott.mathews.370) and Instagram (@scottmathewsphototography), but does not have gallery representation at this time.

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by Douglas Stockdale

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