Silent light: Deasy takes his time

Ed Deasy, "Cup."
Ed Deasy, "Cup."

It's strange to look at a photograph and think of sound. Specifically, it's strange to look at a photograph and notice the lack of sound. But the quietness of the eight images that constitute Ed Deasy's Angelo exhibition, "Black and White Dreams," is striking. The only noise imaginable is the patter of rain or the rustling of leaves or perhaps the hushed ticking of an unseen clock.

Why a clock? Because Deasy's specialty is experimenting with long exposures, letting his camera's shutter remain open for periods ranging from a few seconds to several hours. This method allows the film to absorb more light, which sharpens stationary objects and blurs anything in motion.

Deasy writes in his artist's statement that he likes "unpredictable" photographic techniques and says, "... it is the unexpected that is at the center of my work." Perhaps, but he carefully controls the parameters in which he allows chance to happen. In fact, Deasy's images are the opposite of snapshots; they often convey scenes of overlooked beauty, but they are carefully composed and managed.

For instance, "Office Chair" captures the way light through louvered blinds cascades across an office and creates stripes at various angles. In the bottom third of the frame, Deasy has placed a rolling wooden office chair at the center, mediating the space between a floor-to-ceiling window on the left and the edge of a desk on the lower right, as the light cuts diagonally from one to the other. The slats on the back of the chair mortar between concrete blocks lining the windows, and boxes stacked on a shelf on the left add more stripes. The result is a quiet geometric composition with a gorgeous range of tones.

This awareness of geometry and the ability to manipulate light are Deasy's strong suits as he enables his camera to capture unusual effects, such as wavering horizontal bands flowing outside a dappled car window on a rainy day or the strange lake seeming to open in the middle of a round white coffee cup (which Deasy lit by holding a flashlight above it). One of his most memorable images is "M.J. in a Chair," in which a blurred and otherworldly figure sits in an otherwise still room filled with antiques and houseplants, like a ghost revisiting its former home.

Deasy's photographs may be quiet, but they speak volumes about his skill as an artist.

Photographer Ed Deasy's exhibition, "Black and White Dreams," is on view through June 30 at Angelo, 220 E. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 971-9256.

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1 comment

What a well-written, perceptive review of Ed Deasy's photos, and his persona. Having known him for over 35 years, I couldn't have nailed it better myself. Thanks, Laura!