Jeff Bark works with the established genres of still life, nudes, domestic interior and landscapes in a way that is new and unique to photography. This body of work, Lucifer Falls, follows three previous series that were acclaimed for their originality, psychological density and technical mastery, Abandon (2006), Woodpecker (2007) and Flesh Rainbow (2009). The new series of photographs of waterfalls and gorges is a departure from his earlier series for which he constructed elaborate sets in the studio; the photographs in Lucifer Falls were taken in the outdoors, where he had to direct and rearrange the elements of the scene just as he did in the studio for his prior work. The color palette and the muted light of twilight are the focus while mist hovers over the landscapes of jagged wet rocks, moss and surging water.
The imagery of this series has a long and varied lineage, from allegorical Renaissance landscapes to the paintings of Thomas Cole and the Hudson River School to Courbet’s paintings of waterfalls. In the tradition of these paintings, Bark is not documenting these landscapes; rather, he creates a visually and emotionally heightened world for the viewer to experience. Scenes of eerie calm contrast with those of high drama or suggestions of danger. The timeless figures in these scenes, shrouded in white garments like ghosts or sleepwalkers, are mostly concealed from the viewer, hiding their eyes, identities and gender. They emit an emotional intensity that pulls one into the drama of the scene. Images of epic scale, such as Plate IV (above), coexist with close up figure studies of the hands, legs, and torsos, showing the photographer’s mastery and control. Bark has exhibited his three previous series at galleries in New York, London and Toronto.