New York-based photographer Daniel Kukla has traveled the world for his work, but earlier this year he had the opportunity to explore the wilds of a locale that was entirely new to him--southern California. In March, he took to the terrain of Joshua Tree for the first time to complete an artist’s residency awarded by the United States National Park Service, and captured the unique contrast of two perspectives for The Edge Effect.
In order to familiarize himself with the surroundings, he set out solo, taking time to explore the craggy earth and consider what his as-yet-unplanned project would become. “Being in a completely foreign environment made me incredibly curious, and I spent hours each day hiking and poking around,” he tells Co.Design. Inspiration was everywhere, but it was surprisingly tough becoming accustomed to the solitude. “The isolation was quite a challenge at first. Adapting from a life where I am constantly around people to an existence where I was on my own took some time.”
Sussing out how to translate his findings into photographs was another matter. “I knew I wanted to work with the landscape and alter it in some fashion, but the idea of mirrors didn’t occur to me until I was driving in the park as sunset one night and the rearview mirror captured the sun and the coming night lay ahead of me,” he says. From there, it was a matter of figuring the logistics of the concept on a completely different scale. “I experimented with a set of small mirrors at first but moved on to a large mirror so that I could fully expose the contrasting landscape, and truly insert an image within an image.”
Kukla carted a single easel around with him--one which “had probably been used over and over by various painters that have done the residency before me,” he says--which ably handled the sometimes rough-and-tumble setup, but the elements claimed a couple of mirrors in the creative process. “After I broke the first one, I drove to town one day and bought an extra two knowing that the wind or my clumsiness might claim more as the project progressed,” he says. “And they did.”
He named the series after a term used in the ecological sciences, referring to the juxtaposition between ecosystems (Kukla has a background in biology). As far as unexpected visions caught in the reflection, there were two constants that he remembers most. “I spent a great deal of time cleaning the mirror because the dry desert air turned it into a dust magnet,” he says. “And seeing myself in the mirror was always unexpected in a way. Spending all that time alone and all of a sudden watching myself work was surreal.”
(H/T Triangulation Blog)