TEMPLES OF SAND
Fine Art Photography by Joseph Szostak
The Great Sand Dunes of Southern Colorado are nearly 2 million years in the making. The tallest dunes in North America, they stretch over 77 sq. km. Last year, Halifax photographer Joseph Szostak traveled to the Dunes on a photo expedition. What he found there was an elemental landscape made up of shifting and transforming symmetries. It was beautiful, mysterious, elegant and graceful. A new exhibit opening at the ViewPoint Gallery on August 7th attempts to convey these qualities through fine art photography.
About the Exhibit
In the fall of last year, I traveled with another Halifax photographer for a photo shoot at the Great Dunes National Park in Colorado. Although I once lived in Boulder, I had no idea back then that 5.5 hours south of Denver one could find the tallest sand dunes in North America.
The Great Sand Dunes are a fantastic environment. Behind the Dunes tower the purple Sangre de Cristo Mountains, in the other direction loom the San Juan Mountains. Between the two, the San Luis Valley stretches over an area roughly the size of Connecticut.
The Dunes appear almost alive. Their colour and even their shape seem to change with the arc of the sun and the variations of the weather. On one of our first mornings a huge storm blackened the sky, drenching us in rain. On another day, a sandstorm rose up, tearing ferociously at every exposed piece of skin.
While the Sandre de Cristo range evokes a masculine presence—rugged and monumental—the Dunes seem primordially feminine: the beauty of curves, soft folds, aeolian structures rounded and full. Some of these pictures look at the cascading patterns of the Dunes in small slices, while others try to give a sense of their vast magnitude and the open space they create.
Living in the Maritimes, I’ve naturally been attracted to photographing nature. Although I love the sea, my strongest association is with the mountains. I spent a particularly vivid part of my youth at Mt. Shasta, a majestic volcanic peak in northern California. It’s there I first learned to develop B&W prints. So it was especially thrilling to return to the mountains in this photographic expedition to Colorado. I hope this exhibit conveys some of that spirit.
About the Photographer
Joseph Szostak received a BA in art education from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and learned darkroom techniques at the College of the Siskiyous in Weed, California. He first came to Canada in the 1960s to study pottery at the Banff Centre in Alberta. He studied writing with remnants of the Beat Generation (Alan Ginsberg, William Burroughs and friends) who had gathered at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Upon moving to Canada in 1979, he worked as a journalist in Ottawa and practiced photography in conjunction with writing features. He gradually developed as a landscape photographer. In Halifax, he studied Miksang with Michael Wood. Miksang takes a contemplative approach to photography that focuses as much on the ‘art of seeing’ as it does on picture making.
“Photography has been my way of discovering elegance in the everyday world. I'm inspired by beauty, by sparse architectural lines, by the ruggedness and richness of the natural world, and by reflections, abstractions and the painterly quality of light on surfaces. These are qualities I try to convey in my photographs.”