THE ALCHEMISTS called their images of the radiant sun that emerges from, and then assists in, their work on the transmutation of matter and of themselves ‘the sun in splendour’. A similarly alchemical process lies behind these photographs of the world in splendour, though this title is also simply an invitation to behold that splendour…
This world is not, can never be, merely mundane when seen through eyes that marvel and wonder. Every act of seeing reveals further aspects and layers of its majesty and mystery, charm and magic, beauty and strangeness.
Nothing makes this splendour of the world more apparent than the transforming touch of the sun in splendour. Light and the play of light – the rays and radiance of the sun – turn the simplest expressions of nature into cosmic miracles, and lend mystery and transcendence to the creations of humankind.
It is through light, too, that the colours of the world attain their full glory, becoming vibrant, life-affirming and an enriching spectacle in their own right, independent of the forms they make visible. And when the light-bright spectrum dances over those forms in a new and unexpected way, a fantastical, otherworldly vision is created, a splendid dream.
Worldly splendour is also about abundance, the sheer wealth of existential experience. The staggering complexity to be found in so many natural and human environments is a vivid expression of this – and a reminder of how unfathomably complex the world becomes for those who look below its already intricate surface.
These intoxicating impacts of light, colour and visual complexity form the main focus and inspiration for the pictures gathered here.
There is one significant aspect of the world around us that is conspicuously absent from this collection; very few human faces and figures appear here. There is a reason for this. It is easier perhaps to feel the cosmic, the eternal, the transcendent – the world in splendour – when we remove ourselves a little from the purely human environment of much of our daily lives, the human relationships that, for most people, give those lives all their meaning.
The welter of emotionally charged information coming from this intense and habitual focus on the human tends to create a dense fug around us, enclosing us within a narrow and limited sense of life, blinding us to our connection with the wider world. For this reason, the emphasis here is on the world beyond or beside or behind the immediate social environment – a world that is no less rich in meaning, whether we are looking at untouched nature, the effects of human interaction with the wild, or the products of human endeavour and creativity.
Whatever their apparent subject matter, the images in this collection all show the world in splendour, the world at its most exuberant and magical. They also intimate that – whether presented in its raw state, moderated only by the choice of subject, angle and composition, or transformed by subtle or more radical colour adjustments, layering and other forms of visual play – the world is forever pointing beyond itself, below its ceaselessly-changing surface, to another level of reality, and a deeper understanding of our relationship with the whole. If these photos help to awaken a greater sense of wonder in the world, of this mystery that it is, they are doing their work…splendidly.