Photographs from the series Homage to Wilson A. Bentley by Yuji Obata.
I’ve been to New York City four times in the last year, most recently last weekend. Having finally ticked off most of the major exhibition spaces, this time I visited some of the smaller Chelsea galleries, and this was the best discovery.
As Liz Danzico quoted earlier today,
Wilson Alwyn Bentley, a farmer who would live all his life in the small town of Jericho in Vermont, gave the world its first ever photograph of a snowflake.
Obata takes that as a starting point, but goes further. As the Danziger gallery’s biographical notes say,
Like Bentley, Obata was obsessed with the challenge of doing something no one had done before – in his case photographing snowflakes in freefall rather than on a flat surface without digital or any other manipulation. It took Obata five years to achieve but his breakthrough resulted in the capture of pictures that allow the snowflakes to relate to each other in space and size, creating dynamic compositions and scenes. Obata chose the location to shoot the series, in the mountains of Hokkaidō, based on its history as the place where Dr. Ukichiro Nakaya did research that led to his invention of artificial snow.
The reproductions here (taken from James Danziger’s blog) give you an idea of the beauty of the photographs, but if you’re in New York between now and the 25th of February, it’s well worth visiting the gallery to see the works in person.
(Also nearby: Weegee’s Naked City and Vivian Maier next door at the Steven Kasher Gallery; Damien Hirst’s Complete Spot Paintings at the Gagosian; and, at the Mary Boone gallery until the 4th of February, Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds. All are worth at least popping in to if you’re in the area.)