Simen Johan's "Until the Kingdom Comes"

Simen Johan has published a large format book containing twenty-eight photographs featured in his 2013 exhibition Until the Kingdom Comes. Simen combines highly accomplished technique and inventive artifice to produce mysterious and evocative images, which invite the viewer to look at nature anew.

Whether it’s the flock of yellow-headed blackbirds alit among a blackened, evil-looking, landscape, or the greedy Cotton Headed Tamarins joined by a scattering of snails, attacking the overripe fruit on a pomegranate tree, or the foundering rhinoceros in a desolate expanse of desert, these are unsettling images suggesting an out-of-sync world. The matte finish adds to the dreamlike, nostalgic quality, and, in the case of the rhino, augments the sere heat suggested by the photograph.

The images are made more powerful through judicious manipulation, which Simen generally uses in some fashion. This allows for the unlikely pairing of species and backgrounds, and the emphasizing/downplaying of hues, as well as light and shadow for dramatic import.

Simen’s interest goes beyond the appearance of things. He’s after getting at what the world feels like: “Some of my work emulates traditional nature photography, and there's some intended irony in that. But there's also sincerity, because I really do enjoy making beautiful images of nature. Beauty alone, though, doesn't echo my experience of the world, which is more complex and multilayered, so in my versions of nature photography I also incorporate darker qualities. I like to create more than I like to observe.”

Simen’s title has an obvious biblical association referring both to Eden and intimating at an apocalyptic end with climate change and pollution hastening species and habitat collapse. Though it’s ominous and elegiac, there is such beauty and reverence for nature in his work it gives us hope that, like the blackbirds whose bright feathers offer beacons of light among the desecration, there is hope for the planet and our futures.


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