Proof comes to a close

Matches, power tools, nails, glasses, jars, and magnets. To some, these everyday objects are both interesting and inspiring. For Caleb Charland of Brewer, Maine, they are even more than that: They are the tools of science and the subjects of art. Charland was chosen as the recipient of the 2007 Fellowship Award of the Silver Eye Gallery for Photography. His 17 black-and-white images won him his own exhibit at the Silver Eye Gallery, called Proof: Photographs by Caleb Charland. Charland’s work is on display now, alongside the images from 10 other photographers who received honorable mentions.

The press release revealed that the winning images were selected by Katherine Ware, a curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Charland was chosen as this year’s recipient of the Fellowship Award from a total of 282 members of Silver Eye, drawing from 32 states and even two foreign countries.

Upon first viewing, Charland’s prints are immediately arresting. The subject matter of the photographs are the everyday objects mentioned above, but they are shown as beautiful tools in playful experimentation, demonstrating scientific principles and exploring the boundaries of the imagination. As a result, Charland’s images have a certain quietness about them; they are serene and simple visuals capturing energy, potential, and movement.

“By establishing physical parameters first, I discover each idea’s visual potential,” Charland explained in an artist’s statement on www.silvereye.org. “This allows the natural properties of the subject matter to inform my aesthetic decisions as I construct these arenas to reveal the phenomena.”

Before answering questions, Charland begins by asking them. “I utilize everyday objects and fundamental forces to illustrate my own experiences with wonder,” he added. “Each piece begins with a simple question (How would this look? Is that possible? What would happen if...) and develops through a process of experimentation.” The viewer experiences a similar wonder when interacting with his work, asking questions like, “How did he do that?” This adds another layer to the experience of seeing his images.

At first glance, the viewer is presented with an unexpected and surreal image of light, time, science, and movement. All of the photographs in the exhibit are thought-provoking and interactive; the image pushes the viewer mentally to contemplate and explore the possibilities of how such a photograph or motion can be created.

A particularly intriguing image, 300 Matches, displays the paths that ignited matches take when being dropped through a funnel. The effect highlights movement and explores the beautiful paths of light created by each match. The totality of the movements of the 300 matches is reminiscent of the soft ripples and patterns of a fluid.

Charland worked with his father remodeling homes in his youth, contributing to an interest in common household objects, according to Silver Eye’s press release for the exhibit. Fueled by this interest, the objects shown in his photographs have surpassed the mundane, becoming transformed and magical and demonstrating the simple laws of nature. The overall feeling of the exhibit is a strategic, yet playful, merging of science and art.