Over a year in planning and after a 6,000 mile, seventeen hour flight and a six hour rough ride in a Land Rover into the desert, photographer Avery Danziger arrived at "The Gate to Hell ", the terrifying moniker given to the 230-feet wide flaming crater, situated in the vast, sparsely populated Karakum desert in northern Turkmenistan.
Danziger is one of the few photographers to extensively document this site.He finds the place compelling for both for its mystery and its uniqueness. “It is fascinating,” he comments, “it is visually stunning, and the place bowled me over with its unnatural, manmade beauty.”The works in this exhibition are drawn from more than 1,500 images Danziger made while at The Gate to Hell.The subjects range from the poetic splendor of moonlit shots that capture the crater’s golden aura, to close-up views of flaming geysers, glorious and horrific at the same time.The contrasts between dark and light, the drama of flame into ash and the hope that comes with each dawn are exquisitely captured by Danziger’s un-manipulated time exposures.
These photographs highlight broad tonal areas — the golden glow of the burning gas against the pitch black sky, the forward marching desert sands contrasting with the jewel nighttime blue sky.In this way Danziger emphasizes the expressive potential of the photograph.Danziger moves skillfully between soft focus expressionism and sharp focus abstraction.While the subject reflects contemporary environmental concerns, the images are not documentary in nature.In rising above reportage, the photographs affirm the photographer as an artist and the photograph as a thing of beauty.
Inspired since childhood to making visible what is there, but somehow hidden, Danziger successfully brings this important natural disaster to our attention in these stunning images as he reveals and bears witness for each of us.As visual records of a historically and environmentally important event, Danziger’s photographs are compelling pictures that enable us to make sense from chaos.
Cynthia Roznoy Curator, Mattatuck Museum Waterbury, CT