In the loop

Maui photographer featured in Honolulu Museum of Art show

Christopher Cole’s “Kathmandu” -- Photo courtesy the artist

The Honolulu Museum of Art will feature a series of photographs by Maui artist Christopher Cole as part of its Contemporary Hawai’i Artist program in the John Dominis and Patches Damon Holt Gallery. “The Global South” exhibit will open Thursday and run through July 9.

Cole searches out unusual and often hard-to-reach vantage points and records detailed images using his vintage 1951 Deardorff 8×10 Field Camera. “The Global South” is the result of his seven years of humanitarian work mostly in the urban areas of Afghanistan and Nepal.

He often spent weekends hiking the hills above Kabul and Kathmandu seeking unusual views of the built landscape.

“I find that developing countries teem with activity in a way different from the developed North,” explained Cole. “Large prints from 8-inch by 10-inch negatives unlock great detail with hundreds of people sometimes visible in the frame.”

The Maui-based artist uses a 1950s large-format 8-by-10 view camera with a specialized lens, allowing him to create photographic prints on a grand scale that capture the enormity of his subject matter as well as incredible detail within the landscape/cityscape. “The Global South” documents settlements skirting urban centers in Kabul, Afghanistan; Kathmandu, Nepal; and Mexico City, Mexico. Cole’s work exists on the border between documentary and fine art photography.

While rapid advances in digital photography have virtually eliminated the use of film-based processes for most applications, a small number of artists have continued to use large-format film cameras for the careful composition they require and the exquisite color and detail they enable.

“Working in this tradition, I use a wooden-construction 8-by-10 view camera made in 1951 and a rare German lens to make large photographic prints that address the subtle interplay between documentary and fine art photography,” explained Cole. “In The Global South, I documented squatter settlements on the margins of urban agglomerations. I encourage viewers to take a journey of the eye and challenge the assumptions they may have about lives of the urban poor in the developing world.”

Cole studied photography at The Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., and at Sarah Lawrence College in New York before pursuing graduate studies in anthropology at the London School of Economics. His photographs have been exhibited at galleries in Hawaii and New York City. He received a 2016 recognition award from the Hawai’i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts for his work entitled “Haleakala,” as well as awards from NATO and the U.S. Departments of State and Defense for his humanitarian aid work.

The Honolulu Museum of Art is located at 900 S. Beretania St. in Honolulu and is open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. Adult admission is $10; with those under 17 admitted for free.