Philadelphia Inquirer

By Edward J. Sozanski, Inquirer Art Critic, Fri, Nov. 19, 2004

Even though photographic technology has metamorphosed dramatically in recent years, manipulation of light remains the medium's fundamental tactic. Light not only delineates content, it sometimes creates it.

Lisa Tyson Ennis of West Chester uses light this way, to transform ordinary scenes in a way that creates atmosphere and mood, her ultimate subjects. In doing so, she works much like the symbolist artists of a century ago, whose target was less the eye than the imagination.

Ennis' exhibition at the Wexler Gallery consists of toned silver prints, mostly landscapes, many of those involving water views. She photographs at times of day when sunlight is relatively dim, which imparts a romantic cast to everything she shoots.

Add to that the pale sepia toning, and a sensation of stopped or blurred motion that suggests time exposures, and you get the archaic look of 19th-century photographs.

You also get a pronounced feeling of stopped time, not the clarifying instant in the present but the otherworldly sense of looking backward at the past.

Water, which flattens out to a mirror surface in slow or prolonged exposures, is the perfect instrument for generating this time-machine effect. That's apparently why Ennis so often focuses on partially submerged jetties, rowboats at anchor, and large rocks poking out of water.

This kind of photography could easily drift into cliché, but Ennis studiously avoids banality. Her images combine pleasing proportions of naturalism, poetry and mystery, finished off with the soft toning that announces a sidestep out of the real world.

Wexler Gallery, 201 N. Third St.

  

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