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Salient. Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 6. Tuesday, June 4, 1963

Images From Nature

Images From Nature

Max Coolahan's photographs, on display at Victoria from June 3-8, seem strange at first to the eyes of most New Zealanders accustomed to looking at photography for panoramic reproductions of external reality.

This is because Coolahan's approach to photography has been to investigate the minutiae of the natural world instead of reiterating the traditional large-scale approach. What he achieves in many cases is an almost abstract representation of the phenomena of the natural world he wishes to draw to our attention. It might be anything from a magnified view of a male and female weta to patterns formed by puddles or the ends of sawn timber.

While the presentation of many of these ideas seems almost "abstract," the creative process behind Coolahan's work and that of the abstract painter is quite different: The abstract painter evokes from his own mind any image that will symbolise the feeling he wishes to convey, and expresses it on canvas. The sensitive photographer, on the other hand, is faced with the problem of reducing the many-sided reality of the natural world to the one particular aspect he wishes to emphasise. His object is to communicate using the realities he photographs with sufficient emphasis, rather than to invent symbols to do this for him.

From a varied collection of phenomena he selects a certain idea that he wishes to emphasise. Coolahan, by careful placing of the camera, judging of light and shade, juxtaposition or superimposing of objects and a skilled darkroom technique creates a finely composed piece of graphic art. Thus in a photo of a punga fern or a bank of stones we are impressed by the patterns Coolahan reveals; in the river and its gravels and sands and the graining of wood the rhythms and accents are the basis of the composition. In this way the composition is unified and the content made meaningful.—R. H.