Nightfall in the North Woods, 2017; Golden Morning at Middle Rae Lake, 2014
Materials and dimensions: Photographic print on metal, 28 " x 84" and 30" x 60"
Location at Summa: Barberton Hospital, Lobby Classroom
About the art and the artist:
These two panoramic digital photos capture the qualities of expansiveness and drama that the American West affords to inhabitants, vacationers, and photographers, like Matt Hammerstein. Matt grew up in the Akron area and graduated from the University of Akron, then moved to Montana in 2019 to take a position as a civil engineer and to pursue both his passion for the outdoors and his serious advocation as a photographer.
The two strongly horizontal photographs might almost be interpreted as bookends: We know from its title that the view of the cloudy lake with steam rising from its waters was captured at nightfall, while the other lake, identified in the title as Middle Rae Lake, captures the sun's early rays as they hit the nearby mountaintops and are then reflected in the mirror-like surface.
Compositionally, too, these images balance one another: In the photo of Middle Rae Lake, Hammerstein has centered the nearest mountain peak as a solid, triangular shape on a pronounced vertical axis that runs through the print and is completed by the mountain's reflection. The symmetry of peaks and reflections here also set up a horizontal axis that is just about centered in the composition, giving the photo a strong sense of equilibrium about those two axes. Such a composition imposes a stillness that the photographer says is one of the things that he most appreciates about being out in nature early in the morning.
Hammerstein's image of the second lake, taken on a road trip up to the North Country near Lake Superior with college friends, also has a strong horizontal, established by the line of trees at the water's edge. But these recede into the distance, following a chain of mountains deep in the right background, so that vertically, and a little more to the left than center of the scene, they almost come to a vanishing point. This point is filled not by a single imposing mountain, as in the other photograph, but with almost-invisible atmosphere: Piled-up clouds above and below, steam rising from the warmer waters into the chilled evening air. Very subtly, the photographer makes the night lake into a v-like convergence by the trees on the left edge, which begin near to us and recede sharply as they join the dark line of trees opposite.
Photography of the American West became a genre -- that is, a type of image with its own characteristic qualities -- with photographers such as Carleton Watkins, who began to work just as the states entered the Civil War, and then, following that war, with a series of intrepid men-with-a-camera. Some of these later photographers had scientific aims (documenting the West and Native Americans), while others travelled more or less independently, exploring and recording the landscape. The best known of these is perhaps Ansel Adams (1902-1984), whose work has inspired generations of photographers in the twentieth- and now twenty-first centuries. Matthew Hammerstein is certainly one of these, and his work aims to express the breadth and scale of the natural world, as well as his own sense of wonder in the face of it.
Where you can find more work by this artist:
Matt Hammerstein outlines the life experiences that brought him to landscape photography and particularly that of the American West on his personal website, where you will find a full inventory of works for sale. Other works may be found at this website. His photographs are on view throughout the offices of Woith Engineering in Missoula, Montana, as well as in another office building nearby.
Where you can find more work like this:
At Summa, nature's landscapes have inspired artists in many media, especially photography - Ian Adams, Walter Grossman, Wayne Mazorow, Rob Blair, and Lori Kella, among others -- and also many of its painters (Gloria Plevin, Michael Greenwald, Christine Ries, James Rehmus, Mary Deutschman, Eileen Dorsey, Hilary Gent, Marc Moon, Avery Mags Duff , and Joe Culley) -- and those fluent in other media, such as assemblage (Meaghan Reed), sculpture (Diana al-Hadid), and enamel (Gretchen Goss). Scale and intention vary, but the landscape genre offers artists full scope for expression and interpretation in a wide range of media and materials.