Worth a thousand words
Open Shutter displays exquisite landscapes of Roman Loranc

“Merced River and Oak” by Roman Loranc.

by Jules Masterjohn

"A picture speaks a thousand words” is a phrase we know well. In this age of over verbalization, when even our cars talk to us, we can look to an image alone to say it all. When looking at a picture with no words to guide our viewing, we are left to our own devices to find understanding and to weave our own interpretations of what is seen. Without the introduction of another’s voice telling us what is, we are each allowed to explore our own unique “take” on things.

What if, however, the other’s utterings are so complimentary, so akin to the image portrayed, that the words are like the skin on a grape that describes its inner flesh, separate parts of the unified whole. This is the case with the book, Two-Hearted Oak: The Photography of Roman Loranc. This book is a pictorial work by Loranc with poetry and essays by Lillian Vallee. The writings are as lusciously crafted, as delicately composed, as thoughtfully expressed as the photographs themselves. Loranc and Vallee, a couple from California’s Central Valley, share with us their deep connection to the landscape surrounding Modesto, where they live. Each member of the husband-and-wife team brings his or her own well-developed gifts to this project, creating a cohesive and compelling portrait, through words and pictures, of a place they intimately know.

In the introductory essay of Two-Hearted Oak, Vallee writes, “In a world of constant and irrepressible change, stillness is a profound human need, and the lens of a skilled photographer can act like binoculars, excluding all that is extraneous, focusing on the lineaments of the beloved, on the object of desire, on mystery or beauty cleansed, for an instant, of memory, pain, or suffering.” To me, this is more than a coffee table picture book with accompanying poetry. Rather, it is an expression of love and respect between two people who share a perspective on, and purpose for, revealing the beauty of these simple and ordinary places, threatened by development. This book was born from a spirit of activism, to preserve the habitats near their home. For Loranc and Vallee, these endangered lands where they have spent time listening, seeing, smelling and touching, are sacred.

Many of Loranc’s exquisite photographs pictured in the book are currently on display at the Open Shutter Gallery. One can see the homage to Ansel Adams and Edward Weston in his work. Loranc’s technical process of using long exposures – sometimes up to five hours – allows for absolute clarity in detail and extensive depth. He chooses to shoot most of his photographs at dawn when the light possesses an unusual quality. Though he captures scenes from coastal and central California, one of his favorite subjects is the oak tree of which he has said, “For me, a grove of Valley Oaks is as sacred as any church in Europe.”

A mighty showing of delicate and forceful places, of mythic landscapes and abstract compositions, Loranc’s pictures caress one’s mind and heart with his affection for place. Sadly absent from the gallery walls is Vallee’s poetry, yet these pictures speak her thousand words. •

The photography of Roman Loranc is on display through May 3. Two-Hearted Oak is out of print but is available at the Durango Public Library, and excerpts are available on-line by going to www.romanloranc.com and clicking on “news.”s

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