Loving the Work of >> Subhankar Banerjee

Caribou Migration I

I first saw Subhankar Banerjee's photographs at Sundaram Tagore Gallery in Chelsea back in 2007, and these images have been stuck in my head ever since.

While at first they may seem like maybe they could fit simply into a nature-photography niche suitable for calendars, they are are soo much more.  First, you should know looking at these images that these are huge.  Around 6ft x 6ft.  You truly feel like you are with him in the helicopter looking down over vast, magnificent swaths of land.

 Caribou on Sand

Originally trained as a physicist and computer engineer in India, he later got into conservation, activism, and photography.  He set out to aerially photograph the Alaskan arctic in all seasons, and he found himself caught in the middle of the Bush-era Alaskan oil-drilling debate and while his photos can be merely taken at their aesthetic face value, they do not shy away from making a statement about Alaska.

Caribou Tracks on Tundra 

While the Right was pushing for drilling saying that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was frozen wasteland anyway, Banerjee's photographs showed, in a way that was at once breathtaking but not sentimental, that this was untrue.  
His photos display the rich ecological life of the area, and the titles and accompanying literature provide gripping information, but his literal distance from his subject, allowed, as an Art in America essay noted, a sort of studied "topographical aloofness" that keeps the photos from becoming affected.

Caribou Tracks on Wetland III 

As in the photo above, his photos often show only the tracks of the animals moving through this space, merely "a documentation of documentation, a living history," but that is enough to make the viewer acutely aware of the life happening on and across these lands.

Snow Geese I

Finally, formally, they are engaging for their composition and scale.  As soon as you walked into the gallery, you could appreciate them aesthetically from afar, but then when you got closer and saw the titles and noticed the tiny animals or tracks, they became so much more intersting.  With many of them, until you got up close, you could easily believe you are looking at a large chromatic abstract painting.  

This quality of his work directs you to consider that it is necessary to take a closer look at not only at his art, but also at the world around us.  We may initially think of the Alaskan arctic and picture a vast, boring tundra, but he shows us that there is much to be seen.

Subhankar Banerjee's website here.
Art in America essay on Sundaram Tagore website.

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