What makes a great photographer? There are many elements one must consider in order to establish what makes a photographer great. What kind of work do they do? Who is their inspiration? What is the message they are trying to convey and is it done successfully? Today I visited the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa to view and analyze the exhibition of “Holly King: Edging Towards the Mysterious”. I found that her work inspires and engages the viewer in a way that few are able to achieve. She looks at photography in a way that others would overlook and I believe that this is the basis of her success.
Holly King is a Montreal born Canadian who is both a photographer and an artist. Her landscapes are constructed in the studio using a combination of sculptural props and painted backdrops.  She looks at photography as a “celebration of sublime beauty in nature.” and says her work is a “search for a deep silence”. These poetic phrases are fitting for someone who creates such a whimsical and expressive world. King’s work is known both nationally and internationally with exhibits at highly renowned galleries such as the National Gallery of Canada, the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Currently, she is a teacher at the Concordia University in Montreal.
The exhibit itself was set out simply with the photos displayed in a linear fashion on the walls of a large room. Each held it’s own spotlight from the ceiling illuminating the photograph against the white walls. While most of the photos were printed on chromogenic surface some were framed while others were borderless as if on a canvas. Though King’s work is self-constructed she is not out to deceive her viewers. In the center of the room were two “look boxes” where one could peer into King’s world and view the landscape as three-dimensional adaptations before they were photographed. It was interesting to be able to see the photographs as well as the landscapes before they were shot. It gave the viewer further insight into King’s personal world without taking away from the art of the photo. One could view her photography in a way never before done, further drawing the viewer directly into the artwork.
- Almost Paradise (2012)
Almost paradise is a high contrast, black and white landscape photo displaying a variety of textures. Like much of King’s work it is incredibly sharp almost as if you can touch the content. She exhibits superb use of reflection in the water and though the sky is a mere white sheet it gives the appearance of an overcast day and a far away feeling like there is more just out of view. The flower petals are the most amazing; their texture gives you a sensual feeling, as though you can feel their softness on your fingertips. This photo captivated me. I felt that I could not look away from it for fear that something would change or I would miss the moment to view it. It was like looking through a looking glass, and not at all like any photo I had ever before seen.
- World Beyond the Water (2009) (122cmx183cm)
This chromogenic print, mounted on dibond draws the viewer directly into the photo. As with “Almost Paradise” the content is extremely sharp to the point of feeling as though you are looking through an open window at a tangible landscape. The smallest details are in sharp focus. It’s interesting how King isolated the blue of the water while keeping the rest of the photo black and white. It created a cool almost winter tone while also retaining the sophistication of a black and white image. To look upon this piece felt magical. It was like looking into another world, one that you can only see in your dreams. The twisting branches and shadows gave a feeling of mystery and nostalgia as I imagined myself amongst the woods, feeling the breeze on my skin.
- Basalt Cliff (2014)
This photographic artwork was possibly the most interesting photo of all. It contains a simplicity that is highly sensual. I could smell the sea air as I stared at it, and feel the breeze off the water. The waves provided me with a sense of movement though the image itself is of course static. Like her other works, the smallest details are sharp and the contrast is kept high, however unlike the other photos that I examined this photo is in full screaming colour. King uses a variety of textures in this image, from the waves and the water to the rocky edge of the cliff and the piece of wood on the ground. The photo gave me a sense of being in this place with her, though I have never before seen the sea. The eye is drawn around the entire image as if, once again, peering through a window into King’s world.
To conclude my review I would highly recommend the Robert McLaughlin Gallery exhibit “Holly King: Edging Towards the Mysterious” to any photographer or aspiring artist. King’s work is highly inspirational and unique. Never before have I experienced such high emotions from viewing landscapes. Though the world she has created is not real and has been made using sculptures, paintings and studio lights, King’s universe appears more real to the viewer than the one that we currently live in. After looking at her photos you will find yourself longing for the ocean, or a winter forest. You will want the feeling of petals on your skin and dream of the world beyond the photo. This exhibit is more than just a room of photographs. It enhances ones vision and understanding of what it means to be a photographer, a painter, a sculpture or artist. Holly King has successfully put several forms of art into one and the result is nothing short of beautiful.
 prints according to the descriptive wall palques