Tim Hall’s photographs depict both the terror and the beauty that are integral to the natural world (Escape: desertcoastmountain, Seagull Arts and Media Resource Centre, till Nov 8). The stunningly desolate landscapes serve to remind viewers of the unequal ties that bind man and nature. The majestic Alpine peaks in the Mountain Series (specially commissioned for the Aurelio hotel), the brooding ocean in the Coast Series and the sensual dunes in the Desert Series convey the drama that unfolds in these diverse landscapes. The size of some of the frames — measuring 30”x30” — further accentuates the theatrical dimension of the photographs.
Hall’s insertion of the element of drama is understandable, for he strives to reiterate the hackneyed idea that despite the progress of science and technology, man cannot hope to master nature yet. Indeed, the unequal contest is adequately represented in Red Run (picture), which shows puny skaters being dwarfed by an eerie and seemingly infinite expanse of snow.
The photographs also chronicle the changing moods of nature, and our own emotional responses to such versatility. Solent I, in which we see a storm gathering on the ocean, evokes a sense of impending doom, but we are soon calmed by the serene beauty of glistening snow under a cerulean sky in Powder Blue.
Many of the settings appear austere, almost bare, signifying the photographer’s preference for a minimalist technique. In some of the images — Zebra Mountain, for instance — one can also discern an attempt to blur the lines between painting and photography. The idea of eroticizing the undulating desert shapes and forms isn’t exactly original either.
The real challenge for landscape photography is to hold the viewer’s attention. On this occasion, as a result of the shallowness of the ideas explored, the engagement with the images is fleeting. The photographs are undoubtedly beautiful, and Hall displays crisp technique, but most of the them fail to stimulate the mind. A deeper and more complex involvement with the subject could have added to the richness and depth of the photographs.