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  • Writer's pictureStephen Della Casa

Gregory Halpern Review

East of the Sun, West of the Moon by Gregory Halpern and Ahndraya Parlato

Photo narrative comments and analysis ,

by Stephen Della Casa

Cobourg, 1 March 2022

East of The Sun, West of the Moon SEE GALLERY

East of the Sun West of the Moon contains a series of nine images. The title references the Diana Krall song of the same name. That song, written in an American songbook, Johnny Merceresque style makes one think of the genteel comfortable class and their effortless formality of gracious southern living. In the Krall song, there is an abstraction of lyrics and the themes of happiness and dreams that young people hold on to. Halpern’s piece too holds the promise of the future. A commentary about the American dream, its aspirations and realizations of the circumstances that define us.

Image 1.

At first, this image seems obscure, with hazy with out-of-focus elements, it may be a double exposure. Themes of optimism and enlightenment are blocked or rejected by the imposition of vertical banding, black trees? Still, snow represents purity and a starts or innocence but includes constraints to upward trajectories.

Image 2.

A framed photograph showing spectators at the mouth of a cave looking towards light emitting from a tunnel. They do not look like speluncean explorers, so we can only imagine that they are at the edge of the cave but do not want to venture any further inside of it. The picture frame sits on a window ledge and the rest of the image outside of the frame is cast in doubt as there is a shadow element that taints the scene. Does the photo within the scene represents our fears and dreams or the journey that we must take in life?.

Image 3.

An overflowing river tests the limit of the falls. Its violent force is somehow contained by the long exposure, the mist acts as a focal point and this light or energy implied by the mist dominates over the dullness of the sky. The lightness of the mist relates to the illumination at the end of the tunnel in the previous frame. Life is dangerous, full of currents beyond our control, are you ready to take the plunge?

Image 4.

Graffiti style markings cover a glass pane. Its Graffiti-stylefactory adhesive is still attached to it. The glass panels are meant to be looked through and meant to reveal, these black panels do not, they are covered, and we are contained by them, excluded, and shut out, they are a barrier to our understanding. The setting is tired, it represents a past that shows no future, the asphalt is crumbling the building needs repair, and the sense of holding you back is reinforced by the shadow rendered fence. Still, the path that leads you out of the frame to the left brings options, there is a sense of movement shown by the linear perspective and the left motioning diagonals of the sidewalk edge and windows a way to leave this space, so, we may take this as a sign of hope.

Image 5.

Bluegrass and fireflies at dusk speak of youth, nature the illumination of fireflies or stars makes you think of hopes, new discoveries, and escape. The physical gesture of the cold, one-dimensional, graffiti-laden windowpane in the previous photo is repeated in the texturally rich, dense, and interesting, grass blade expressions. Perhaps the grass blades are people, and the fireflies are the hopes and dreams of those people. We also see that there are far more blades of grass than there are fireflies.

Image 6.

A child gazes out at an innocent puppy held up by an adult so that the puppies’ eyes and the boys’ eyes meet. In this “meeting” the spiritual, gesturally reaching for the sky, verticality, as expressed by the adult arm, shows positivity and a force for good.

The pyramidal construction connects the elements and stabilizes the scene. The father and the boy occupy the base of the pyramid the puppy representing goodness, godliness? is at the top. There is a relationship among the elements not unlike religious imagery such as the father, son and the Holy Ghost. Themes of kindness, giving, trust and character-building values are messaged in this scene. These unmistakable moments will most certainly be imprinted in memory.

Image 7.

This image shows a shaping time, wanting to slow down or control something that is unstoppable, a hose and water pipe deliver water to a pond. the mist in colour refraction's a rendered in the lens with this double exposure, or this intentional camera movement- long exposure. Images of lush green water life-sustaining water in the pond the green algae and organic material surrounds water which looks dull and dark. We are given life but what are we going to do with it?

Image 8.

A tenant in a multi-unit dwelling stands in front of her home. A married woman in her late 30s but looking much older where is a smart clean yellow dress. Her look is unsure unhappy, the setting is devoid of any plant greenery or organic matter, the yellow of her dress symbolizes a life force and the green cast of the scene is the new organic nature that has replaced the pond in her life. The periphery shows dark obscure possibilities there still exists a dimly lit path expressed by the left-leaning perspective offered by the sidewalk. There seems to be a state of unsatisfied acceptance in this piece.

Image 9.

The theme of yellow expressed by the candle shows a life near the end. It's flickering the candle which has bodily looking gestures looks as if it is attempting to depart from the original form, maybe a last attempt to make things right, the flame representing stars and dreams and hopes are flickering and they're about to go out. The hazy distance looks light looks lush and inviting but is it attainable, is it heaven??

From Mr. Halpen's website:

Gregory Halpern was born in Buffalo, New York and has published six books of photographs. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and is an Associate Member of Magnum Photos. He teaches photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology. For editorial and commercial inquires, please contact Christopher Peregrin at Magnum Photos /

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