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“Views from Cape Cod and the Massachusetts Islands” is now on exhibit through May 13th at Panopticon Gallery in Kenmore Square, Boston.
In his remarkable and arresting series of outsized color photographs entitled I’m Not On Your Vacation, Brian Kaplan set out to observe the people and places that populate Cape Cod in the “off season”. What emerged was images of the abandoned, hidden, caged, trapped, lost, stranded and forlorn: the natural and unnatural detritus of a summer paradise in the winter. Exploring a vacationland without the vacationers is a little like being dropped onto another planet. Kaplan carries the mantle of foreign observer, discovering a world at once familiar and out of place.
Paradoxically, Kaplan’s images are far from depressing. For those of us who frequent the Cape in the “off season”, Kaplan’s images are highly evocative of the dichotomous serenity and desolation that permeates the landscape. There is something both spare and beautiful about Kaplan’s image of a huge pile of old TVs thrown out by the hotel dumpsters sharing a wall with his image of a bay filled with a jumble of ice floes. The hues, the tonality, the very frigidity of these tossed objects are poignantly mirrored in one another.
A portion of Kaplan’s photographs cameo individuals who labor behind the scenes. They, too, represent a type of visitor: they arrive from all over the globe to harvest or protect the Cape’s resources, living in a symbiotic but largely non-overlapping relationship with the tourists they serve. Framed individually, Kaplan captures both their sense of belonging and unease. In my favorite of these images, an enigmatic Natalia is portrayed vacuuming a mini-golf course, hovered over by a laughably incongruous bunny sculpture. In a delicate balance, Kaplan both offers and withholds a story in each image, creating intrigue.
Peopled or not, Kaplan’s photographs are about us: individuals and landscapes alike conjure feelings of abandonment and belonging. Even the series title, I’m Not On Your Vacation, suggests an “us” versus “them” context. That he supplies a viewpoint is one of the strengths of Kaplan’s work. Whether ironic, wistful, inquiring, or funny, Kaplan’s bittersweet images are evocative and moving.
Brian Kaplan is represented by Panopticon Gallery, inside Hotel Commonwealth, Kenmore Square, Boston.