Wonder: An Exhibit at the Center for Fine Art Photography

Wonder: An Exhibit at the Center for Fine Art Photography

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s … SUPER CONFUSING?! At least, that’s what I’ve heard from many people; they can’t figure out what this photo is of (more on that below). That’s one reason why it’s wonderful: it grabs your brain and won’t let go.

Selected for exhibit

Douglas McCulloh—the Senior Curator and Interim Executive Director of the California Museum of Photography—apparently thought so, too. He selected my photograph for inclusion in a show titled Wonder, which McCulloh juried.

Needless to say, I’m chuffed. Not only was this the first juried exhibit I entered, but only 60 works by 55 artists were selected, out of likely thousands of entries. I am grateful to both Mr. McCulloh and the Center for Fine Art Photography.

So what is it?

Some viewers have wondered if this photo is of:

  • coconuts
  • hanging balls of yarn
  • lamps
  • and even South American animals called capybaras

TWO unrelated people actually thought that last one!

But no, this photo, titled Reflecting on the Alpsee, is actually of mounds of dried wetland reeds and grasses on an alpine lake, just below Schwangau Castle in Bavaria, Germany.

With its curious appearance and trippy, colorful reflections (look closely in the dark water’s surface), this photograph draws attention, and begs further examination. It’s a world to get lost in.

Purchase it here

Reflecting on the Alpsee is available as a limited edition print in three sizes.

See the show online

Get a bigger dose of Wonder at the exhibit’s virtual showing. The show runs from January 31 to September 30, 2024.

Thanks for your time and attention, both are valuable. 🙏🏻
I invite you to view my photographs and paintings, and to learn more about me.

If you liked this post, you have options:

©Marlene Breitenstein. I welcome your inquiries about purchasing, licensing, or republishing my work. I take my intellectual property seriously. This post and its contents, unless otherwise noted, is owned by Marlene Breitenstein. It is not to be reproduced, copied, or published in derivative, without permission from the artist.

A Featured Photographer

A Featured Photographer

An announcement: I have been included as a featured photographer by Glass, in an article of curated photographs! 🥳 It was a mild and friendly form of competition, and I am thankful for the honor.

What is Glass?

Glass is an app and web site, where photographers gather to share their work, interact to offer praise and helpful feedback, and—soon—connect in person through worldwide, in-person meetups. It’s one of two social media platforms I use (the other being Mastodon), and I appreciate that it’s non-commercial. Glass also has no algorithm, other than the one you create and control by choosing which photographers you wish to follow. There is a free trial period, then a monthly subscription, which keeps it private and commercial-free. If you’re curious what I’m posting there, see my Glass account.

Featured Prompts

Every month, the makers of Glass announce a new category prompt, selected from user suggestions. Photographers get busy sharing relevant images. At month’s end, Glass publishes an article of the curated highlights by featured photographers.

June 2023’s category was “Rural,” and there were many interesting submissions selected for the curator’s favorites. If you’re eager, you can jump to the rural photos below.

Miss Flower Child, or: How I Learned to Stop City Living and Love the Country

Frankly, Rural is one of those categories that’s right up my alley. Despite spending most of my first 20 years in urban areas—Frankfurt, Bangkok, Washington D.C., we also lived for three years in the Virginia countryside, close to the Shenandoah River. I was a young person then, three to five years old, and formed my earliest memories among shady woods, rolling hills, deer, bears, lightening bugs, chipmunks, salamanders, spiders, and foxes.

As an aside, do you know that horrible song, “What Does the Fox Say?,” by the Norwegian band, Ylvis? I know what the fox says. Likewise, so does anyone who has lived around foxes during mating season. Evidently, Ylvis didn’t do their research!

This is what the fox says, in 10 seconds. [Note, this is a YouTube alternative, so you don’t have to wade through the ads on YouTube.]

Anyway, our family spent a lot of time in national parks, picnicking, camping and hiking. Similarly, I did all the usual Girl Scout activities. At about nine, I discovered the early albums of John Denver, a champion of rural. I was in love.

Perhaps I should explain the heading above. I was born in Germany, to German parents, who were among the very first hippies in Frankfurt. Fittingly, it was the Summer of Love. They’d married, but weren’t ready to be parents, or to stay together. I was eventually adopted away by a wonderful American couple, who’d been living in Germany for some years. Decades later, after my (adopted) dad died, mom told me that they would privately refer to me as their “little flower child.” (Comparatively speaking, it’s turned out that I’m a burner, rather than a hippie, but both are non-conformist.)

Cosmopolitan, with Rural Roots

People are often surprised to learn that my adopted dad was the son of sharecroppers, grew up picking cotton in Arkansas, and went on to travel to over 200 countries during his career as a diplomat. (It’s a story!) Conversely, mom grew up in Washington, DC, the daughter of a stylish divorcée, but her roots were Pennsylvania Dutch.

Naturally, we got even more rural goodness visiting relatives. I remember riding in the car on long road trips, with my nose practically pressed against the window, looking at all the scenery passing by. Soon enough, my brother and I were trampling farm fields, wading in streams, exploring woods, and poking around abandoned houses and barns. Further, there were feral cats, butterflies, horses, praying mantis eggs, owls, earthworms, newts under river rocks, and birds nests with eggs.

Ah, the joys of childhood. Be that as it may, it befuddled me that Arkansans might think me weird for wanting to draw designs on my face, with makeup pencils. Didn’t they understand artists? NO? Well, I was there to teach them … at the ripe old age of eleven.

Unsurprisingly, with all that exposure to nature, I came to deeply appreciate its sublime beauty. The wilder, the better. For that reason, my personal mantra became, “I want the world to be wild, and I want to be wild in it!” (If only that could have come true…)

Rural in Europe

Following my childhood, I have spent 22 years living in rural locations as an adult: on mountains, near rivers, and among farmlands. In fact, the last place I lived in the US was West Virginia. Almost heaven indeed, save mountaintop removal and illiberal politics.

Now that I reside in Germany, I am surrounded by about 420 kilometers of vineyards; roughly 70 km north-south and 6 km east-west. With mountains in view, I’m again in heaven. Yes, the US has more remote wilderness than Europe. Nevertheless, with houses gathered in villages, towns and cities, there is still plenty of European countryside: great forests, amazing parks, and drop-dead gorgeous vistas.

I’m lucky that my German husband loves to show me some of the beauty Europe has to offer. I take my camera virtually everywhere we go.

My Featured Photograph

For example, on a recent trip to Italy and Switzerland, I shot the photo that was included in the Glass article. This is it:

Photograph of a grassy mountain slope, seen from a distance. It is dotted with several copses of very large spruce trees. The light is mottled, some of the hillside shaded by clouds, with a bright sunny patch illuminating the central tree grouping. Beside the trees is a small reddish-brown wood hut. (You can almost imagine Rip Van Winkle snoozing somewhere nearby ... only that story takes place in the Catskills, an ocean away.)
Dappled Mountain Hut, Adelboden, Switzerland. ©Marlene Breitenstein, a Glass featured photographer.

That one won out over the others of mine, which I’d also tagged as “rural.”

Photograph near dark, of snow-streaked mountain peaks, partly obscured by a band of clouds, under a cloudy sky. The scene is a gamut of muted blues, and there is a very tiny yellow light, the illuminated peak of a house on the mountainside.
The Cusp of Night, Adelboden, Switzerland. The tiny light is from a house. ©Marlene Breitenstein.
Photograph of a semi-tended vineyard row, across from a hedge row. The path between them leads up a hill to a tree at the horizon. In the foreground, the grapevine crosses the path with big leaves and small, curling tendrils.
Unruly Vineyard, Germany. ©Marlene Breitenstein.
Photograph of a snowy, partly wooded rural scene in pale blues, with two large, old wood sheds. The trees are leafless, the branches laden with snow, and even the sky is completely overcast and a soft, pale blue that matches the snow.
Blue Snow. Taken on an historic Shepherd property, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, USA. ©Marlene Breitenstein.

More Rural Photographs, by Other Glass Photographers

I like sharing the limelight, so here are other photos from the Rural prompt, this time by fellow photographers. There is only a little bit of overlap with the Glass featured photographers, and I felt these deserve more eyes, too.

Please see the captions for the photographer’s name, and a link to more of their work. I have included these by permission.

Photograph of an unpaved rural road among brush, under muted, post-sunset clouds. Next to the road is an electric pole and a small, simple building, painted white and rust-red.
Rural One. ©Chuck Rubin, a Glass featured photographer
Photo of a man in stilts, wearing very long overalls, walking away from the viewer, down a misty country road. The man holds an American flag, rolled on its pole, over his shoulder.
After the parade. Barnstable, Massachusetts, USA. ©Barbara “Bee” Braman
Photo of a gorgeously colorful, rugged mountain landscape, bisected by a large body of water. Almost imperceptible on the shoreline, are a few tiny buildings, hinting at the enormous scale of the landscape.
Kvaløya Coastal Village, Norway. ©Dan Dill
Photo of an old European car that has sat abandoned for a long time. It is between an earthen mound and a cinder block building. The car is red, but it is largely covered with dirt, mold and large expanses of lichen.
Abandoned in rural Portugal. ©Rick Hiltbrunner
Flat-ish photo of a shaggy yellow-green hillside, strewn with many red poppies, against a medium blue sky.
The real poppy season. Markinch in Fife, Scotland. ©Trevor Greig
Black and white photo of the entrance and sign to Sweetwater Ranch, over a road leading to a wide, low mountain vista in the distance.
untitled – Utah State Route 22, USA, 2015. ©Leilani
Photograph in soft focus, of a woman in a dress, running in a field. She is seen from the back from the thigh up, her hair streaming out, and it appears she has just passed the photographer.
“WHAT […] FROM?” Photo ©Ser, a Glass featured photographer
Photo of a mountain ridgeline covered in (ailing, fairly needle-less) conifers, silhouetted, largely enveloped by clouds or mist.
Columbia River Gorge Ridgeline, USA. ©Michael Sumrell
Photo of a man wearing wire-frame glasses, under a banded, straw, Stetson-style hat, and a thin-striped button down shirt, open at the collar. His is older, with a very short, gray beard and gray eyebrows. The background, of a curving road and trees, is softly blurred.
Country Living. ©Thadd Jenkins
Photo of three sheep in a rugged mountain vista. The two seep to each side are turned away, and their forelegs and heads are obscured by a third sheep, which is closer, looking towards the camera. This sheep is bedecked with a cowbell around its neck, and a blue ID tag in each ear, like jewelry. The landscape is quite rocky, with only grasses, moss and lichen, with a mountainous ridgeline in the distance.
Hey ya, poser. ©Anna Shtraus
Long-exposure photo of a country road at dusk, surrounded by greenery and flowers, with the red tail lights from cars above the road.
End of the Road. ©Alan Marsden
Black and white photo of a man in a cowboy hat, farm clothes, a bandana, and work gloves. He is wearing a cloth mask and sitting on a tractor, looking off into the distance.
©john benson
Photo of a small, aging, blue and red boat, sitting among weeds and tall grasses. The paint is peeling, and the photo has a soft, dreamy feeling.
Just add water. ©Kevin Barrett
Photo of the window of a rural home, its frame and the siding a faded yellow, through which we see a decorative glass hanging, six glass storage bottles, small bowls and houseplants.
Just a window. ©Philippe Gariépy
Surreal aerial photo, of a large and rather strange grid of mature, leafless trees. Each is on a square of very light soil, surrounded by a larger expanse of tan soil, with lines drawn between each tree and row. There are roughly 100 trees pictured, receding into the distance. The light was strong when the photo was taken, as each tree has a distinct shadow.
Pecan Orchard, Mesilla, New Mexico, USA. ©Tim Holt, a Glass featured photographer
Photo of a flaming, smoking forest fire at night, under a starry sky with the Milky Way.
Winter sky, aflame. ©Les Mulder
Photo of a lovely peacock, standing on an outstretched branch of a tree, its colorful tail cascading downward. The softly blurred background holds dry brush, long grasses, and the trunks of a few trees, in a soft haze.
Peacock in Chitwan National Park, on the border of Nepal and India. ©Sam Hotchkiss
Photograph of a lone tree with a slanted crown illuminated by the sun, in what looks to be a remote, high-plain landscape of grasses and low shrubs, under a pale but dramatically cloudy sky.
Tree Glow. ©Bernard McMahon

I hope you enjoyed these as much as I did!

Thanks for your time and attention, both are valuable. 🙏🏻
I invite you to view my photographs and paintings, and to learn more about me.

If you liked this post, you have options:

©Marlene Breitenstein. I welcome your inquiries about purchasing, licensing, or republishing my work. I take my intellectual property seriously. This post and its contents, unless otherwise noted, is owned by Marlene Breitenstein. It is not to be reproduced, copied, or published in derivative, without permission from the artist.