Rock Moss Review by LensCulture

Rock Moss is a series of 14 images I took while visiting Glacier National Park in July 2018. It was a rainy day when I came across areas that had exposed rock with contrasting green vegetation. It reminded me of my Loveland Pass 2014 series of lichens on the continental divide and a close-up photo series of plants in my backyard. Besides the contrast between the hard rock and soft moss and vegetation, there is a wonderful mix of contrasting colours of greens and magenta. When I was photographing I composed each image with these factors in mind; composition, texture and colour.  I submitted 8 of the images to for review. Below is their very complimentary review.



I have taken some time to study James Harper’s series, Rock Moss, looking for visual clues that point to what Harper is trying to accomplish with his photography practice. Harper includes a brief statement about his photography, saying that he, “composed each image with these factors in mind; composition, texture and colour.” He moves in close to reveal fascinating visual observations! His images also show that he is aware of this intimate relationship between these natural scenes and human beings.


I see Harper’s photos as painterly and, in a way, abstract compositions of color, texture, and wetness. And I see that he is fascinated by the way the position of the camera can create painterly designs, especially when the frame isolates the subject matter from its surroundings. The organic structures and the textures in the frame define new visual structures in space. His painterly photos remind us all of the wonders the forest holds and the interdependence we have with these earthly beings. His portfolio also reminds us of their beauty!


I think Harper’s visual observations are very unique. From a practical perspective, he walks throughout the forest, study patches of lichens and moss, moves in and out of light and shadow while looking for what catches his eye. I think this is a good description of what a lot of photographers do. Out of the infinite photographic possibilities that arise around him, these meaningful compositions are most likely to catch HIS eye – the same scenes that go mostly unnoticed by others. His thoughtful attention to these subjects and the way they relate to the viewer of the photos creates images that influence the way other people see these natural environmental subjects.


On the surface these images have a type of visual complexity that concentrates on surface structure and rich colors, but I also find them to be conceptually complex! These photos create a sense of mood, atmosphere, and drama. The designs lead the eye up, down, and throughout the frame in a way that makes the viewer feel as though they may have walked by these scenes and not noticed them. To me, the photos are interesting because they blur the line between art photography, painting, and abstract design. I find that Harper’s statement perfectly aligns with the images, yet he could say even more! It would be great to hear more of his thoughts, his inspirations.


Harper’s visual observations are clearly important characters in his stories. I think he is also asking that the viewer be sensitive enough to look deeply at his images, to see the details he has included in the frame and to consider how the natural structures relate to the size and colors of the organic forms. His compositions are somewhat abstract (especially while looking at them on a computer screen). They focus on shapes with little indications of scale and orientation. If scale does exist, then it is only in the imagination of the viewer. The viewer tries to find their bearings by bringing their own experiences of mossy nooks to the photos. And while the viewer explores, he/she is confronted with bringing their own imagination to the scenes.


I definitely see that Harper captured patterns, textures, and shapes that point to isolated “places” that may be hard to locate. In all the photos there is a kind of ambience that is a kaleidoscope of color, mysterious, and full of drama. The images also function in a way that communicates his experience to the viewer. Anyone that is willing to set aside their compulsion to have to identify what they are looking at will relate to the feelings and emotions his images communicate.


The photos in the Rock Moss series talk about the way we are so closely related to the natural environment and how fragile it is. We are physically interdependent with these carpets of greenery as living beings on this earth. In addition, they are beautiful photographic subjects! Each plant, like each person, has its own personality, physical characteristics, and emotional expressiveness. I can imagine these photos printed large, to inspire feelings of awe by creating a sense of scale for the viewer. Large-scale presentation could prompt the viewer to feel small when confronted by the ideas of standing in front of these textural designs. Viewers would feel confronted with unexpected perspectives and that could inspire creative interpretations. I also imagine that the photos would be effective in a book. I think his ideas, combined with the photos will make a more cohesive presentation.  With a book, the viewer can hold the images, making the interaction more personal.


Harper’s images are very dynamic. They are full of observations and questions about life and beauty in the forest! His images prove that being observant and investigating is very exciting and who knows where it will lead. I also don’t feel like Harper needs to be married to the photography world. My advice is that he enters juried art exhibitions and/or shows his work within art communities. I think that his images would do well in an “art” environment. His photos really do cross a lot of boundaries, which is highly encouraged in the art world.

I have enjoyed looking at Harper’s photos and it is clear that photography is one of his passions! His images and his project are very thought provoking and creative. They are full of stories waiting to be discovered! I very much enjoyed looking at his photos and I appreciate the way his images are masterfully considered and carefully designed. I look forward to seeing what Harper will do next!




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