What if what you see isn’t necessarily what you get? In fact, you get a lot more in Andrew Child’s new book, “Light Beyond Vision,” aptly titled, as his photographs help us see in a new light. Child focuses exclusively on the Cape and Islands — a place of many vacations for him and his family. His scenes in this coffee table book are predominantly land or seascapes, although there are also those of backyards, houses, and even one of a small, sleek airplane. And while Child draws his subjects from the area’s side roads, trails, and beaches, they sit somewhere between the familiar and the far different from what we see in reality.
Child is an infrared photographer, taking what we normally see and ratcheting up the imagery by using a digital camera that captures the light our naked eye literally cannot see. His results are otherworldly, so even familiar places such as our Island’s gingerbread cottages, Campground, Tabernacle, Mytoi Gardens, Lucy Vincent Beach, and Menemsha Village look totally different than anything we’ve ever seen. Infrared particularly plays with greenery, whether fields, trees, or moss, turning them into a brilliant light green that glows and populates so many of his photographs.
“I am drawn to the dreamlike feel of the imagery,” the photographer says about infrared. “It is almost painterly. I love that it is sunlight that is invisible to our eyes and that the photos I take are, arguably, just as ‘realistic’ as a visible-light photograph. Human eyes just lack the ability to perceive the light I photograph.”
Child uses multiple steps to produce his distinct style. He photographs a subject twice: first in infrared and then in visible light (which is what we see). Back in the studio he processes the infrared photograph as a black-and-white image, and only then colorizes it by using the colors from the visible light photograph. Distinct to Child’s style is his supersaturated colors, perhaps most notably in the blues of some of the skies, making them the most intense you’ve never seen in real life.
Child shoots panoramas, which further distort his image, giving us a picture of more than what we can normally see in a single glance. Child shares, “I love the geometry of panoramic perspective. The way it creates sensual, organic curves from flat planes fascinates me in a nerdy way.” The book offers the luxury of spreading each image over two pages so they sprawl out from one edge of the book to the other, giving us room to find details we might have overlooked if they were compressed into a single page.
Most of Child’s images are unpopulated, and when he includes a few people, infrared does funky things to the way they look. The figures appear ghostlike, translucent. “It’s mostly a result of the multiple-exposure process I use, and the fact that people are often moving in my photos (and also happens to clouds, cars, and anything else in motion) … I think of [the people] as temporal artifacts, and made the decision a long time ago that they should be left in the photos as a matter of process,” Child explains.
One figure in the book is opaque, and is a self-portrait next to his tripod, although distorted in perspective. Child stands so that his shadow is at the foot of a long, deeply receding wooden boardwalk in a wide-open landscape, thus creating an exceedingly tall silhouette of himself.
“These images are meant to challenge what we think of as real in a photograph,” Child writes about his art. “They are less about documenting places as we know them to be than they are about capturing them as we dream them and wish them to be.” And page after page of his book invites us to enter into this dream that is both familiar and foreign at the same time, creating a romantic ambiance that Child thoroughly embraces.
Andrew Child, “Light Beyond Vision.” Self-published, 166 pages. Both Child’s book and prints of the images can be purchased at andrewchild.com.