The second Artists Spotlight for our new exhibition Landscape / Soundscape explores the collaboration between Chicago-based nature photographer Eliot Porter and producer Kailyn Aurelia Smith.
Eliot Porter was born in Chicago in 1901. He developed a love for nature photography after being gifted a camera as a child. Even though he went on to begin a career in chemical engineering, he never let go of his love for photography. Porter continued to photograph the birds and landscapes of the northeast, growing his portfolio and eventually meeting leading artists like Alfred Stieglitz. In 1938, Stieglitz offered Porter the chance to exhibit his photography at the important “An American Place” gallery. This one-man black and white photography exhibition catapulted Porter’s artistic clout and led him to drop his medical career. He set himself apart through his use of color photography, a medium that was looked down on but allowed him to more accurately capture nature. During the 1940s and 1950s, his work flowed between art museums and science museums. Porter’s vivid depictions of varied landscapes and ecosystems, ranging from China to the Galapagos, set him apart as an influential color photographer. He spent his life crafting meticulous dye color transfer prints of his work and continued his passion of photographing birds until his health failed him.
Clouds Forming over Mt. Baker demonstrates Porter’s meticulous dye color transfer technique. The photograph captures the Coleman Glacier, a popular route up to Mt. Baker, crowned by noctilucent water ice clouds. It was taken in 1983 during Porter’s journey to the Pacific Northwest and has since been used to document the glacier’s dramatic retreat since the beginning of the century.
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s composition was written to accompany Clouds Forming over Mt. Baker. Smith is an American composer, producer, and performer signed to the label Western Vinyl. She grew up on Orcas Island, Washington, and therefore has a close relationship to the landscape depicted in Porter’s photograph:
“My first reaction to the photo was to compose something ominous but after a few listens, I realized that is not the Mt. Baker I know. I grew up on Orcas Island and on certain days I could see Mt. Baker from my house. I often would stare out and imagine what it would be like to hike to the top. I would allow myself to first see and feel achievability before my thoughts were filled with practicalities of that action. I wanted to compose something that would allow the viewer to luxuriate in that feeling of achievability and wanderlust before practicality seeps in.”
Smith accomplishes this feeling of wanderlust and aspiration through a composition that delicately overlays sounds from a Prophet 5 and Buchla Music Easel.