Photographer turns fish tank into painterly landscape images


posted Tuesday, September 10, 2013 at 1:10 PM EDT


It seems that if you want to capture the look and feel of a dense atmosphere, the best way you can do it is to start playing around with a fish tank. Recently, we looked at the work of photographer and visual artist Michael G. Jackson who made arctic icescapes in an aquarium. Kim Keever does something similar, assembling wilderness tableaus in and around a fishtank, using the water to condense miles of atmosphere into a very small space.

Keever's work is bordering on fantasy, and is reminiscent of the vivid colors and laden skies of landscape paintings. By injecting paint into the water of the tank, he's able to recreating the random, beautiful nature of clouds. On his site, he explains something of how he shoots:

"What makes these dioramas unusual is that they are created in a 200 gallon tank filled with water. Though I sometimes build a scene in front of and behind the tank, most of the 'action' takes place in the tank with paint injected into the water for cloud formations. I use whatever materials I can find on the street, in stores and on the internet that might add to a perception of reality that is not quite what it seems."

Along with photography, Keever has a background in both engineering and painting, which he uses to both build his rigs, and inform his artistic choices. In an interview with Hi Fructose he talked a bit more about how he came to use water in this way:

My original photography work started in 1991 and involved tabletop models that appeared to be on a planet without an atmosphere. I was satisfied with this look and the concept changed abruptly when I realized I could get a landscape photograph with a more realistic defused light by submerging everything in a water filled aquarium. It eventually occurred to me that what defuses the light in the atmosphere is mainly water vapor. Since water vapor acts like a gas, its “liquid state” would be water. So with my 2 feet of water from the front of the aquarium to the back of the aquarium, I must be capturing miles and miles of atmosphere in a compressed scale, that is. This started to make a lot of sense to me because I had read about fractals and how they occur in many aspects of nature. I noticed that as the liquid paint (which I use for clouds) flows around in the tank it often resemble real clouds. This makes yet another suggestion of fractals, where small systems in nature or math mimic large systems or vice versa.

He has also used his experience with water in other, interesting ways, like with his abstract and dog series of images.

The concept of using water to replicate the haziness of the atmosphere is an interesting way of evoking the actual depth that you would get from a real landscape, but in a far more fantastic form. 

(via Make)