Yosemite: A Photo Essay

Binh Danh


Exhibition Dates: November 7th - December 28th, 2013


Lisa Sette Gallery presents Arizona-based photographer Binh Danh, whose works explore the sublime landscapes of the American West and the individual human narratives playing out within them.


As a child, Binh Danh examined photographs of National Parks as a way of escaping the boredom of working in his father’s television repair shop. Yet he had never visited his home state’s own inaugural park until he embarked on the series of exquisite daguerreotype images that make up the photographer’s Yosemite series. Danh, who grew up in suburban California after his family fled the turmoil in Vietnam in the 1970s, has commented that until recently, “Yosemite, like the Vietnam war, only existed in my imagination because I only saw the landscape in photographs.”


Lately that dream-like landscape has been threatened by wildfires and Binh Danh’s unique daguerreotypes remind us of the precious quality of a pristine wilderness that can be lost at any moment.


Danh is well known for his rigorous photographic experimentation, having previously innovated a method of printing images on living leaves in order to create a botanical archive of victims of the atrocities in Vietnam and Cambodia. Similarly, creation of the Yosemite series involved outfitting a specialized van for the on-site creation of large-scale daguerreotypes and spending many seasons camping and working from within the park.


An in-camera exposure that is chemically etched on silver-coated copper plates, the daguerreotype is a difficult and early photographic process resulting in photographic objects with mirror-like reflective surfaces. Danh’s images of well-known sites, such as Bridalveil Fall, are both gorgeous and eerily mutable, as we see our own faces, and the faces of people around us, reflected in their sublime surfaces. In Danh’s re-envisioning, these much-photographed scenes of American splendor become unique, individual representations of the multitude of experiences of the American West, from the vistas of Yosemite to the suburban daydreams of a young immigrant artist.






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