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Review: Alison Harris/Chicago Photography Center

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RECOMMENDED

Having gained access to the abandoned great theater of Camogli built in the nineteenth century on the Italian Riviera, Alison Harris entered its dark cavernous recesses dotted by ambient light, and fell into deep meditation as she followed details that caught her eye and let them lead her to expand her vision into integral compositions that she photographed in subtly shaded black and white. Although the theater is a derelict structure, Harris is not a ruins photographer; she is, instead, an emotive artist whose remarkably complex yet coherent images express the vibrant peace that she felt in the place. In Harris’ case, the picture is worth far more than a thousand words—so much is in each image and so many photographic values are exquisitely balanced, and so much is simultaneously revealed and concealed by chiaroscuro. In her most compelling image, “12H55,” tilted circles within circles, cut by a grid of windowpanes illuminated by ambient light breaking through the shadows, resolve into a hypnotic trigger. We see a dynamic, almost whirling mandala that exists in the world, but only a mystic could capture it for us. Under no conditions should Harris’ images be viewed as documents or as photographic feats; they are gently provocative incitements to enter the theater of consciousness that she has discovered. This is super-high-powered meditative photography, not to be missed if you are an adventurer of vision. (Michael Weinstein)

Through June 4 at the Chicago Photography Center, 3301 North Lincoln

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