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HSO, Hartford Library Present Unique Art Exhibit With Music

Photo Exhibit By Frans Lanting, Orchestral Work By Philip Glass


April 11, 2013

A photojournalist's goal is to catch fleeting moments happening in the present. National Geographic photographer Frans Lanting's goal is a bit different: He wants to capture moments from times gone by.

"I want to show what the world looked like 10 million years ago, 100 million years ago, 1 billion years ago," Lanting said in a phone interview from his home in California. "I want to create a window onto the past of the planet Earth."

It took Lanting seven years of world travel to complete his photo project, "Life: A Journey Through Time," a grand photographic overview of the formation of our planet and all that lives on it.

However, once it was done, Lanting realized that photos weren't enough. It needed music. "This is such an epic project, it is so cinematic, I wanted to turn it into a performance," he said. He approached composer Philip Glass with his idea. Glass, a Buddhist interested in the idea of the oneness of all life, jumped on board.

The result of their collaboration is a combined art exhibit-musical presentation taking place this month in Hartford. The exhibit "Life: A Journey Through Time," featuring 40 of Lanting's photos, opens on Friday, April 12, at Hartford Public Library's ArtWalk for a monthlong run. Glass' composition, accompanied by a projection show of Lanting's photographs, will be performed by Hartford Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, April 27, at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford. In the lobby of the Bushnell, until May 3, more of Lanting's photos will be exhibited.

The stunning photos, taken in such places as Botswana, Hawaii, Panama, Borneo, New Zealand, Finland, the Indian Ocean, Brazil, Belize, the Galapagos Islands, South Africa, are accompanied by poems composed by Lanting and Christine Eckstrom.

The 60-minute musical presentation is divided into Elements, Beginnings, Out of the Sea, On Land, Into the Air, Out of the Dark, and Planet of Life.

During the seven years he shot photos for his project, Lanting was guided by countless recommendations from scientists.

"Because of my knowledge of the natural world on all seven continents, I had a head start. But the more I wanted to go back in time the harder it became. I wanted to be a time traveler with a camera," he said. "I needed to know exactly what had not evolved yet."

Those scientists suggestions led him to organisms that have not changed since prehistoric times, places that had not evolved after a certain point in prehistory, and locales where no trace of the modern world would get in the way of his vision.

Some of those places are closer than one would imagine. "I would recommend everyone to check out the horseshoe crabs along Delaware Bay," he said. "Those crabs are really prehistoric. They haven't changed their appearance in hundreds of millions of years. In the month of May, they spawn on the tideline."

Another place he is fond of is a lagoon in western Australia, north of Perth. "There are still living there organisms called stromatelites that are among the oldest things on the planet. They originated 3 1/2 billion years ago," he said.

Lanting said humans' oneness with nature is a concept many people may not understand. "For the general public, the view hasn't changed so much. People are still holding on to this idea of nature as something romantic where you go to relax. They think 'I'm not a part of nature, I just go there on the weekend'," he said. "I want to replace these notions of nature with a more vibrant concept of life.

"The big conclusion that modern science has come to is that [humans] came into being not so long ago. If it hadn't been for all these other organisms, there woudln't have been a habitable planet to become evolved into."

Lanting said that unlike Glass, he has no spiritual goals with this project. "I don't deny the people of faith to have their own view of how the world came to be because ultimately, beyond all the science, there is this big mystery of how all this came to be," he said. "It's a miraculous story. You couldn't make it up."

Carolyn Kuan, music director of Hartford Symphony Orchestra, has conducted "Life" with nine orchestras since 2008. She got involved with the project as a result of her close association with Marin Alsop and the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in California.

"When Marin conducted the world premiere of 'Life,' I was completely inspired and knew that I had to perform it, too," Kuan wrote in an e-mail interview from Taiwan. "This piece both the photography and the music stimulate multiple senses and envelop you in the experience."

Kuan said she thinks of the message as "inner conservation." "Music can reach people in a way that no other form of communication can," she wrote. "Through creativity and expression we all can work on our inner conservation and hopefully make the world a better place."

In connection with the exhibit and concert, HSO is hosting an amateur nature photography contest and a student art contest. Details: http://www.hartfordsymphony.org/education/student-opportunities and http://www.hartfordsymphony.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/LIFE-Am-DP-Contest.pdf.

"LIFE: A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME A PHOTOGRAPHIC EXHIBITION BY FRANS LANTING" will be at ArtWalk at Hartford Public Library, 500 Main St., from Friday, April 12, to Monday, May 13. An opening reception, with music by Hartford Symphony Orchestra's Green Quartet, will be April 12 from 6 to 8 p.m. On Friday, April 26, at 6 p.m., Lanting will give a talk at the library. Gallery hours are Monday to Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and, until the end of April, Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Admission to all events is free. Details: http://www.hplct.org and http://www.lifethroughtime.com.

"LIFE: A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME" by Philip Glass will be performed by Hartford Symphony Orchestera, conducted by Carolyn Kuan, on Saturday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m. at Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, 166 Capitol Ave. in Hartford. The evening will begin with an environmental panel dscussion with Daniel C. Esty of Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, Dr. Frogard Ryan of The Nature Conservancy and National Geographic photographer Frans Lanting. Admission is $20.50 and $35, $10 for students. Details: http://visit http://www.hartfordsymphony.org.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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