Local photographer captures ‘untold stories’ of the Earth

  • ”Frontispiece” by Rhea Banker. Contributed Photo

  •  “Beneath” by Rhea Banker. Contributed Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 7/9/2021 2:14:12 PM

Traveling across the world, Shelburne Falls photographer Rhea Banker sinks deeply into the land she photographs for inspiration, spending time learning about the culture, history and the people of the region she is interested in.

For the photos featured at the Salmon Falls Gallery, Banker dives deep into aspects of New England for a hometown exhibit. “Divergence: Shaping the Land,” will be open at the Salmon Falls Gallery, 1 Ashfield St. in Shelburne Falls, from July 2 through Aug. 29.

Banker is a photographer and award-winning book designer. After living and working in New York City for 30 years, she now makes her base in Northwestern Massachusetts. She has found inspiration for her photography in the geology of far-flung regions of the Earth, and her interests have taken her to the Svalbard Archipelago near the Arctic Circle, along the west coast of Greenland, to Scotland, Copenhagen and moving south, to Buenos Aires.

This latest exhibit grounds Banker in the place she now calls home, New England, with photographs that represent her immersion in the land right here. In her photos, Banker captures breathtaking views of natural landscapes, stone faces, glaciers, oceans and the reflections that blend where land and water meet.

“The creation of the Earth is a continuing process,” Banker said in a press release for the exhibit. “As stone, sea and sky interact with the inner energy of this planet’s deepest layers, each player in the dance changes constantly. As ice and rivers sculpt the land, as rocks transform through heat and pressure, each substance finds a new path and a new direction.”

Exploring the riverbeds of New England, where “meltwater both shapes and carries pieces of ancient mountaintops down to the sea,” Bankers says one can “witness changing shapes, changing textures and the divergence of the present from the past.”

“These images reflect my impressions of the energy released at the meeting places of rocks and rivers, where a vulnerable Earth charts every course and every next step,” Banker said in the release.

Much of her work is based on ancient movements recorded within the Earth’s crust and maps of imagined lands. Her textural abstract images are her reflections of these movements, and reveal her own attempts at understanding and sharing stories held within the landscape.

“Within the bedrock of this planet, there are untold stories of history, of continental journeys, of coasts that bear witness to it all,” Banker writes on her website, rhea-banker.com. “My work is about capturing these untold stories by focusing on the smallest details held within the Earth’s crust. I explore geological features, worn surfaces and glacial intrusions that reflect this ongoing transformation.”

Using macro-photography as the starting point for her prints, Banker said her goal is not to document the physical, but to share her intuitive response to these ancient and ongoing stories.

“I work to reveal details, evoke movement through patterns and add layers to share a sense of place, of time and of personal journey,” Banker writes.

Reception on Sunday

“Divergence: Shaping the Land,” can be seen July 2 through Aug. 29 at the Salmon Falls Gallery in Shelburne Falls. The brick-and-mortar gallery will be open five days a week, Thursday through Monday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The gallery exhibits can also be viewed virtually through the online store. A reception for the exhibit will be held Sunday, July 11, from 2 to 4 p.m. with music by saxophonist Loren Feinstein.

In addition to Banker’s photographic work, she is a professional book designer. Her designs have won multiple awards, and have been repeatedly exhibited at the New York Bookbinder’s Exhibitions in New York City.

A graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo, Banker received her BFA in Design and a bachelor’s degree in art history. She has lectured undergraduates in medieval art history as well as in the history of photography. She is currently based in Shelburne Falls.

For more information on Rhea Banker, visit rhea-banker.com.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.

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