Temples of Nature

Macduff Everton’s Below the Equator: Recent Photographs

At Hotel Andalucía’s Ro Snell Gallery, through July 20.

Reviewed by India Allen

The world, so vast and fantastically intimidating, has been explored extensively. But even after centuries of terrestrial discoveries and conquests, Earth still holds secrets to which only a very few are privy. So, thank god for the mighty camera!

Because of photography, people who, for whatever reason, cannot travel to remote places themselves can leave the more exotic adventures up to movie personalities like Indiana Jones — or to photographers like Macduff Everton. Like the fictional Indy, Everton has made it his business and lifelong joy to reveal secret places — places so rare that most of us would believe they could only exist in fantasy and imagination.

Our self-imposed boundaries are thus stripped bare by Everton’s new photo installation, Below the Equator: Recent Photographs, now showing at S.B.’s Hotel Andalucía. As one proceeds down the spiraling stairway into the carefully tucked-away room that is the Ro Snell Gallery, the contrast between the hotel’s urbane sophistication and nature — the exhibit’s elemental subject matter — is stark.

Hanging on the wall in what appear to be miniature projection screens, Everton’s images gloriously capture the tropical, remote, and nearly uninhabited environments of Peru and Chile. There is no romanticism or exaggeration here. Everton portrays nature as it is.

For instance, “Road to Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile” shows an aging pale-yellow bridge with a lone small community of humbly built houses in the background. One can almost feel the dampness in the air as gray clouds hover above the bridge and a murky river flows beneath. Viewers may develop goose bumps, not only because of the photo’s clarity and crispness, but also because most people have witnessed how a river looks when rain is coming.

An absence of human figures is evident throughout the installation. However, with one exception, the images portray an abundance of human remnants such as houses, bridges, sheds, and fences. Somehow the cumulative effect of so many images of foggy, gray clouds reminds the viewer that all of the photos were taken below the equator. For a North American, the exhibit spurs a riot of associations, none of which can quite capture the specific sense of place evoked all by itself. Combinations work better. For instance, if you can imagine Little House on the Prairie meeting Martha’s Vineyard, then perhaps you can place Everton’s “Last Hope Sound,” which was taken in Patagonia, Chile. Overall this is an inspiring show, the photographic equivalent of an extreme adventure.

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