Each of Kenneth Parker’s photographs has a story to tell. His breathtaking images of immaculate landscapes are carefully studied and expertly executed.
By Shepard Daniel
raveling to remote, pristine wilderness around the globe, Kenneth Parker captures images that reveal the disturbing beauty of some of the world’s most mysterious and untouched places. The determined artist is known to haul 75 to 85 pounds of large-format camera equipment as he seeks out the perfect site location, often backpacking five to ten days into the wild. The farther he goes, the more he becomes immersed in a profound sense of place in his relentless attempt to discover beauty.
Blue Varnish Wall; Escalante Wilderness, Utah
“For me, beauty is an argument that refuses dismissal,” says Parker. “It brings glimpses of the unrelenting ocean-love which will not release the enthralled artist. I endeavor to capture these gentle little alternatives to the fearsome insanity and insensitivity of a chaotic world.”
Emerald Waterfall, Table Mountain; Cherokee, California
With a professional background in oceanography, Parker has long been fascinated with the natural world. His early experience as a field assistant to fine art color pioneer Eliot Porter helped him to isolate and capture mysteries in nature that he struggled for decades to unravel as a Ph.D. oceanographer in global climate change. Paul Caponigro and William Giles have also been important artistic mentors to Parker since the 1970s. Following his career in natural science, today Parker fully commits his life focus to photography.
Fluted Sandstone Cascade; Escalante Wilderness, Utah
While his work has taken him to such far away places as the Cambodian temples at Angkor and the spiritual monuments of Myanmar, Parker has also uncovered some of the most mystical of places in his own country. The United States still possesses thousands of miles of undeveloped areas and pristine landscapes. With fifty-eight national parks and hundreds of other federally managed forests and wilderness areas, the United States offers much natural beauty to be explored. Some of Parker’s most arresting images have been captured in the lithified sand dunes of Utah, the canyons of Arizona, the volcanic coasts of Hawaii, and the beach cliffs of Washington. He is currently hard at work on a new portfolio from his cherished neighboring Big Sur with intimate compositions of tide pools, granitic outcrops, and powerful crashing waves.
Dead Cypress, Trentepholia Algae; Point Lobos State Reserve, CA
Critics and colleagues note the impressive way in which Parker uses the element of light in his photographs. Oftentimes he spends several days contemplating the changing light of a composition before completing a single exposure. The late photography great, Ruth Bernhard, said, “The way in which Ken works with the light is simply inspiring. It feels as if he has an arrangement with God.” It is clear that Parker’s work is produced with expert vision and an insightful patience.
Slot, Lower Antelope Canyon; Navajo Reservation, Arizona
Throughout the shooting and printing process, Parker is committed to maintaining the integrity of the original image. He executes prints of scanned 4×5 files, carefully avoiding any manipulation or alteration of his photographs. Using state-of-the-art controls that correct for color balance, contrast, and burning and dodging, Parker remains true to the original light and color captured in his work. His level of precision is so great that usually only one or two distinctive images will result from one of his long journeys.
Gambel Oaks and Wall; Escalante Wilderness, Utah
A major coffee table publication is currently underway, which presents Parker’s multi-expedition imagery from the remote kingdom of Mustang on the Tibetan Plateau. The Dalai Lama, who is contributing an introduction, has called Mustang “the best Tibetan Buddhism in the world”. Together with compelling landscapes as well as cultural and festival depictions, the book will feature the monumental 14th century monasteries lying at the heart of Mustang. The monasteries have been the site of a decade of painstaking restorations to Tantric fresco wall murals, recognized as the most magnificent of such murals ever to have been uncovered in the Tibetan world.
Sandstone Fins and Serviceberry Roots; Paria River – Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona
Parker’s work is represented by the Weston Gallery, Barry Singer Gallery, The Ralls Collection and other leading galleries and collections nationwide, and has been exhibited at museums that include the Smithsonian Institution, Oakland Museum, California Academy of Sciences, Los Angeles County and San Diego Museums of Natural History.
Four Granite Boulders, Bald Rock, Berry Creek, CA
Visit Kenneth Parker’s online gallery:http://www.kennethparker.com