Arts, Features

REVIEW: Photographer Dan Wells shows nature’s true beauty in School of Theology photo exhibition

As the world becomes increasingly reliant on and connected to technology, the human connection to nature that has existed for nearly all of time is beginning to feel out of reach.

Nature photographer Dan Wells’ work is on display in Boston University’s School of Theology Library Community Center through Feb. 10. YINUO ZHANG/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Photographer Dan Wells is trying to fight this notion in his photo exhibit “In Wilderness is the Preservation of the World.”

“This exhibition celebrates these wild places, these sacred places, these places that are more than ourselves,” Wells wrote in his artist statement, which is featured within the exhibit.

Wells captured the stunning photographs on display while on the Pacific Crest Trail in California, Oregon and Washington in the summer of 2017.

One photograph titled “Redwood Light” is arguably the most obvious example of Wells’ outstanding capture of the beauty in his journey. The photograph features countless redwoods reaching up toward the sky with the golden sun peaking through the tops of the trees. Wells managed to capture the picture in such a way that the sunlight glows like a golden halo, giving the picture an obvious focal point the viewer can’t help but be drawn to.

It’s clear that Wells landed in the right place at the right time to capture this image. The impeccable timing plus Wells’ undeniable photography skills are a recipe for a picture that does justice to the raw beauty he saw with his own eyes.

“Diamond Peak Wilderness,” in which a creek starts in the foreground, weaving and carving its way to the background, draws the viewer’s eye into a forest of trees and a rock formation that frame out an orange patch of sunset in the distance.

The composition of “Diamond Peak Wilderness” is genius on Wells’ part. It’s clear that he has a keen eye for detail, meaning that all of his pictures are nothing shy of irreplaceable pieces of art.

The frames that hold the photographs, created by woodworker R.P. Wells, are just as much a part of the exhibition as the pictures themselves.

“The frames should enhance, not distract from Dan’s wonderful photos,” R.P. wrote in an informational paragraph that accompanied the exhibition. “With this in mind, they are deliberately simple.”

To make the frames, R.P. used redwood and fir trees that came from the region where Wells hiked, a small detail that enhances the significance of the exhibition tenfold. It felt like every single part of the picture came directly from the Pacific Crest Trail.

R.P. was right: the simple wooden frames brought out the natural beauty of Wells’ photographs without distracting the pictorial subject.

One of the few shortcomings of this exhibition is it felt like there was no greater message the exhibition sought to emanate.

Given the topic of the exhibition, there was a possibility for it to teach a lesson about conservation or human interaction with nature. With Wells’s artist statement featured in the exhibition, it seemed as if there was going to be a stronger focus on connecting with the natural world. But there was nothing within the exhibition itself to drive this idea home.

Without the artist statement at the beginning, the exhibition comes across as simply a showcase of photographs from the Pacific Crest Trail.

Nevertheless, the photographs in “In Wilderness is the Preservation of the World” are an absolute joy to look at. The exhibit adds some nice decor to the walls of the lunch room-sized community space in the basement of the School of Theology.

“In Wilderness is the Preservation of the World” will be on display in the School of Theology Community Center through Feb. 10.

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