Susan Derges Eden & The Observer and the Observed
Water has been the focus of my photographic work for the past 27 years. I first became aware of the fragility and preciousness of this element when I lived in Japan in the early 1980s simultaneously with seeing it’s potential to operate as a metaphor for a holistic approach to the natural world that includes our creative participation.
The Observer and the Observed series (1991) uses an early scientific experiment, demonstrating how a vibrating water jet can appear as distinct water droplets when viewed under a strobe light vibrating at the same frequency, as a metaphor for the interaction of the observer with that which is observed. Full Circle (1992–1993) and the River Taw series (1997–1998) were more directly concerned with the natural cycles of particular life forms and their relationship to specific bodies of water. Full Circle continues with the metaphor of a scientific gaze whereas the River Taw and related prints attempt a more direct and tactile relationship to water by using the landscape as a large darkroom that enables photo paper tobe immersed beneath the surface of water and exposed to a microsecond of light that prints all of the detail of river, fauna and environment at a one-to-one scale. The prints are intended be of a scale that makes a direct relationship with the body, where one is not only immersed in the image but through that experience makes connections with the materiality of water itself.
The Eden Project provided an opportunity to explore these ideas within an appropriate architectural setting – the Education Resource Centre was built on the growth principals of the forest canopy. Large scale photograms of the transformation of water within the hydrological cycle were printed into the laminate of architectural glass and became 37 panels that formed the solar terrace within the roof structure of the building, which people could walk around both in the open air and in the interior rooms of the top floor of the building. The metamorphosis of water as it recycles itselfthroughout the environment became a visual narrative that also operated as a metaphor for wider cycles of life, death and renewal.
About the author
1966, London, United Kingdom
Devon, United Kingdom
Susan Derges is an internationally recognized art photographer based in Devon. She has exhibited widely in the UK and internationally at such venues as The Photographers Gallery, London, New World Art Center, Houston and Tokyo Design Centre. She also stages regular solo exhibitions at Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, Purdy Hicks Gallery, London, Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, Nichido Contemporary Art, Tokyo and Joh Yun Gallery, Seoul/Busan. Her work is held in many collections, including those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
Derges has completed numerous public commissions within the UK, Europe, US, Japan and Korea, the most recent of which has been a major public commission for The Eden Project, Cornwall.
Benoit Aquin, The Chinese 'Dust Bowl', 2006-2007
Edward Burtynsky, Selected works, 1996-2007
Jesus Abad Colorado, Landscapes and Battles: Two wings wait for the end of the tragedy, 1995-2002
Thomas Joshua Cooper, The World's Edge - The Atlantic Basin Project, 1998-2006
Sebastian Copeland, Antarctica - The Global Warning, 2006
Christian Cravo, Waters of Hope, Rivers of Tears, 1995-2008
Lynn Davis, Ice, 1988-2007
Carl De Keyzer, Moments before the Flood, 2006-2007
Reza Deghati, War and Peace, 1994-2006
Susan Derges, Eden & The Observer and the Observed, 1991-2008
Malcolm Hutcheson, Lahore's Waste Water Problem, 2008
Chris Jordan, In Katrina's Wake: Portraits of Loss from an Unnatural Disaster, 2005
David Maisel, Terminal Mirage & The Lake Project, 2001-2004
Mary Mattingly, Second Nature and Time Has Fallen Asleep, 2004-2008
Robert Polidori, After The Flood, 2005-2006
Roman Signer, Body of Work, 1976-2000
Jules Spinatsch, Snow Management, 2004-2008
Munem Wasif, Water Tragedy: Climate Refugee of Bangladesh, 2007