Peter Vanderwarker at MIT

Surface Tension
On View Nov 07 2017 – Oct 15 2018
Center for Theoretical Physics Building 6, 3rd Floor

I had two favorite courses in architecture school:  One was titled Materials and Methods:  it covered the details of what architects build with:  glass, steel, concrete, brick.  The other course, Shades and Shadows, required us to render these materials in pencil, ink, and watercolor.

I spend a lot of time looking at how light works to make a surface read well:  concrete must have texture,  steel must look robust, and glass must be clear.  The way light strikes these materials is critical, and it can make or break a photograph.I chose a set of photographs that fit well at MIT:  they are studies of the physics of surfaces:  distortion, reflection, opacity and invisibility.  Water is especially magic:  wave patterns on the ocean in Maine become lines of force, the surface of a pond in the rain is insanely complex, while a tide pool with seaweed has a stillness that is profound.My favorite image is from Paris.  While wandering past a  bookshop window, I noticed the out-of-focus reflection of a classical statue at St. Sulpice:  it seemed that art, literature, and architecture all collapsed into one picture.

A word about cameras:  today’s 50MB digital cameras are all  dumb acuity:  they see everything but solve nothing.  I have two pieces of advice for photographers:  One:  move around a lot and watch carefully what happens to your subject.  Two:  Buy really really good lenses.  Mine are made by Nikon and Zeiss.

All the prints in this show were made by Mark Doyle at Autumn Color, a very fine printer.

Peter Vanderwarker is a photographer trained as an architect.  His prints are in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Addison Gallery of American Art, and the Houston Museum of Art.  He is the author of four books about Boston, including The Big Dig, Reshaping an American City and Beacon Hill, A Living Portrait.  He is represented by Gallery NAGA Boston; a price list for these prints is available there.