Editorial: Wally Gilbert's Photographic Science - Publication: Dart - Date: January 2010

Back to Editorials

Embracing all elements of digital photography, from photorealism to the abstract, artist Wally Gilbert’s rich history has equipped him with not only artistic vision, but also technical dexterity.

Once a molecular biologist, awarded a Nobel Prize in 1980 for discovering a rapid DNA sequencing method, Gilbert has since retired from the regimen of scientific theory and its corporate rigidity, nowadays preferring his new passion - creating visual art via the medium of digital photography.
Gilbert has now had 28 solo-exhibits, including an exhibit at the Massachusetts College of Art in 2004 and a major installation in both Warsaw and Lodz in 2007.

Like his newfound career leaning work, Gilbert has an almost existentialist approach  to photography, his years of  rigid adherence to procedure and theory installing an almost  an overriding willingness to revel in the chaos of creation, preferring as he explains “ the process of creation over adherence to technique.”

He adds, “I am primarily concerned with texture color and form over artistic technique. Its the dominant force of super sharp pictures. Its more technique over subject in the current series, while the others were more about the side of classic photography  dealing with elements like  cropping and  exposure .”

Wally says he  became enthusiastic about photography some years ago. He initially  tinkered with an old school 35mm, but later made the transition to digital photography in 2002.  He says he dabbled in landscape and “studies of everyday life,” documenting everything from the cityscapes in his native Boston to  the Boston ballet,. various industrial structures and more.

Gilbert says that opting for large format work  after buying a large format printer  dramatically changed his work. “I bought  a 13 x 19 inch print large format  back in 2002 and I decided that they were rather nice. I first started producing prints of everyday documentation.”
Gilberts says he then branched out and began to experiment. with more abstract ideas “I began taking images with a  small portable digital camera though  the printer was enabling me to blow these images  up to large sizes  in excess of four by six feet. The big images have a very dramatic effect, the printer is 44 inches wide which in turn dictates hanging them as dyptichs.”

Gilbert’s new series  called “Vanishing,” seems more leveled at the abstract than anything else.” Im not so much into photographic technique but more cropping  texture and color its not the equipment but the eye and the image that are significant when it comes to my photography , “ he says whether that’s using a simple portable digital or his higher end Canon EOS 5D.

The vanishing series  saw Gilbert snap a  profile view of  a human head  and shrink it over and over again. He elaborates, “ I created a silhouette image with a digital camera and shrank it over and over again by using photoshop. I just became entranced with the textures in that image  began to work with those as black and whites  juxtaposing and superimposing the head profile to create different pieces close ups, inverse and beyond. They almost have  a painterly quality. Lewis then colored the images by using photoshop.”

He explains the process, “ The Vanishing Diptych was made by taking the silhouette of a head, converting it into an outline with a sharp outer edge and a diffuse inner edge, and then shrinking the image and superimposing it upon the original image repeatedly. I  became interested in the textures that were produced by this process and turned many smaller areas of the original image into artworks in their own right.  This practice of overlapping images and differently colored layers produced interaction and Moiré patterns as well as a large variety of colors and energy.”

While each variation and layer thereof is an electronic 'close up' of that which was in the prior image, reflecting his work as a microbiologist (and his study of genetics) has had over his artwork, asked whether his experience as a scientist is anyway linked to his work, Gilbert confides, “I  use a camera simply as a recording device not as an artistic tool. I call myself  digital photographer – while this work is more than mere photography.”

“My photography isn’t fueled by experience as a scientist . While that work was intensely visual,  within spheres of art there is more creative vision, more depth and meaning than simple documentation.”

Written by Craig Stephens

Back to Editorials