Swirls of movement, blue and gray images that evoke layers of shapes, some familiar while others look like alien worlds from a far-off galaxy. When I first look at the photograph, it is unclear what I am looking at until I realize what I see is through the lens, a close-up image of ice.
This is the magic Brian Shepp captures in his ice photography. The images of natural beauty offer a magnificent glimpse of nature beyond what the naked eye can see.
I sit across from Shepp in his office as we settle in to discuss his art. Over his shoulder is a framed photograph on the wall behind him. A face of surprise gazes back at me. The photograph makes me smile. I point it out and Shepp says, “That piece is called ‘Oh!’”
I immediately understand why. Shepp has captured joy in the ice.
As Shepp walks me around his home, we explore his art. Many are from his recent art exhibit at Truckee Tahoe Airport. The images he’s captured and created from photos of ice are stunning. It’s as if he captures layers of nature within nature.
He holds up a piece entitled, “Mother and Child,” and there, clear as day, is a mother and child embraced deep in the recesses of the ice.
“My idea is to express the beauty of a region less traditionally. I like photos that have a lot of movement — when it dances. There is a whole world hidden in plain sight.” –Brian Shepp
Shepp moved to Truckee 12 years ago from Los Angeles, where he was an artist and filmmaker. As an artist in LA, he was a painter and painted large images of faces. In Truckee, the magic of the environment captured his soul.
“When I moved up here, I started taking photographs while I was on walks. It started with the lake, sunsets, mountains and trees,” says Shepp, adding that it was ice that eventually caught his interest. “Each photo of ice has intention.”
During the winter, Shepp became curious about how molecules of ice created the images he captured with his camera when Donner Lake would freeze. Even his home on the west end of Donner Lake is like an igloo encapsulated by large icicles.
“I like exploring how the macro becomes the micro, how the infinitely small and the infinitely large create these images,” says Shepp.
He points out that when the edges of the lake or the river freeze and melt with the varying temperatures, new patterns and layers are created.
“My idea is to express the beauty of a region less traditionally. I like photos that have a lot of movement — when it dances,” Shepp says. “There is a whole world hidden in plain sight.”
His self-portraits taken through ice look as if his image is lost to the depths of a frozen world.
According to Shepp, intention is important: “When I am looking for ‘it,’ I look to see whether I can capture ‘it.’ I am seeking an intentional moment in the ice.”
The “it” is the moment when the artist knows he or she has captured something special. Shepp’s art illuminates something special. He generally goes out early in the morning to take his photos. He looks for unusual patterns in the ice. When the sky is blue, his images tend to be bluer and if it’s cloudy, his photos lend themselves to black and white. Shepp points out that he loves when the crystals dilute. They create unique icy forms or matrix-type images. He waits for the sunlight to move.
Some of Shepp’s work bears titles that make perfect sense, from “Happy Cyclops” to “Deconstructed Mikey,” “Alien Seductress” and “Squid Party.” Each tells a story and there in the ice I see it so clearly. It’s as if Shepp’s lens capture the profound shapes of nature within the ice. There in the ice is an image of a squid, images of vertebrae, human and animal figures and faces all caught in a photo of ice. He shows me a framed piece hanging on the wall — the ice portrays the moment of conception as a sperm-like image moves toward an egg. It’s truly magical.
Shepp’s photographs are available on online. Images are printed on acrylic glass or aluminum. His curated triptychs of his artwork are gorgeous. | brianshepp.com