Finding Beauty In Pollution

Andrew Sullivan —  Dec 6 2014 @ 10:34am

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Steven Hirsch photographed the famously fetid Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn:

Searching the surface of the water, he discovered a different kind of picture-esque canal. Wearing a mask to protect himself from the fumes, Hirsch creates a disorienting view of what is at once toxic and seductive. Hirsch’s psychedelic abstractions find beauty in an otherwise ugly environment. He compresses the depth of the canal into flat, two-dimensional palates of color. The complexity of colors, shapes, and textures on the water’s surface take on a galactic-like appearance, offering what might be a glimpse into another universe. In reality, these vivid palates are found in our own backyard.

Michael Greenberg elaborates:

A native Brooklynite in his mid-sixties, Hirsch emanates a dense, wrestler’s physical power. He would arrive at the canal early on Saturday mornings with a high-mega-pixel camera and a 200 millimeter telephoto lens, trespassing among the derelict factories, hoping not to be seen. He would plant his tripod over the water to get the steadiest, and therefore sharpest, image he could, and start shooting. “My lungs would throb,” he told me. “I’d break out in rashes.”

He printed the images on metallic paper and they are exactly the form of the organisms on the water. Each image is an interpretation of a digital negative. “This isn’t computer-generated art,” said Hirsch. “The highlighted colors are a natural enhancement of what is, the way polish might bring out the color of a scuffed shoe.”

See more of Hirsch’s work here. His solo exhibition, “Gowanus: Off the Water’s Surface,” opened on November 12, and has been extended to run through December 15, 2014 at the Lilac Gallery in New York.