Dean M. Chriss
Life in a Vertical Domain, Triptych

Life in a Vertical Domain, Triptych

(Click image to enlarge)

This triptych shows three incredibly steep walls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. This nearly vertical terrain is composed of crumbling nutrient poor soils yet bits of life hang on and survive there. I have always found the impossibly steep forms fascinating, especially when they seem to float weightlessly in fog or haze. These images were captured with long lenses to compress perspective and rendered in monochrome on a warm mat surfaced cotton paper.

The photograph that began this triptych project is on the far right. I liked the photo but its original interpretation did not convey the airy ethereal feeling I wanted so it was not printed. Two years later while visiting a museum I saw a scroll painting of similar terrain by the Chinese painter Fu Baoshi. It had exactly the feeling I was trying to convey. I could hardly wait to start work on a photographic print in a similar style with some adaptations of my own. Faded edges gave the images a much "lighter" feel and a fine line where the edges of the original image used to be anchored it in space without detracting from the feeling I was trying to convey. The photograph on the far right is available separately. It can be seen by itself in greater detail here.

I was completely satisfied with the result but then realized a triptych would help to convey the enormous breadth of the canyon in addition to its steep vertical aspects. It took hundreds of additional photographs made over the next two years to create two more images that worked nicely with the original.